LONDON, Jun 09 (IPS) – Nothing was extra predictable than repression. Merely for holding candles and flowers, folks have been taken away by Hong Kong’s police.
The event was the anniversary of the Tiananmen Square Massacre, 4 June 1989. Hong Kong was till lately house to mass annual vigils the place hundreds gathered to maintain alive the reminiscence of that day. But that’s all gone now within the crackdown that adopted large-scale protests for democracy that erupted in 2019.
Hong Kong’s authorities are evidently decided to erase any type of acknowledgement that the bloodbath ever occurred. Memorials and artworks commemorating it have been eliminated. Books that point out the tragedy have disappeared from libraries. Shops promoting the LED candles generally used to mark the event have been visited by the authorities within the run as much as this 12 months’s anniversary.
The organisation behind the vigil, the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Movements in China, closed itself down in 2021 following a police investigation. Several of its leaders have been jailed in March.
Instead of internet hosting the standard vigil, this 12 months Hong Kong’s Victoria Park was house to a carnival celebrating Chinese rule. People desirous to mark the event had to take action in non-public.
This is just the tip of the iceberg. People are mourning not solely the various who died on 4 June 1989 but in addition the Hong Kong vanishing earlier than their eyes.
Further than ever away from democracy
When Hong Kong was handed over to China by the UK in 1997, China agreed to keep up the nation’s distinct political and financial constructions for the following 50 years, below the banner of ‘one country, two systems’.
Hong Kong’s Basic Law assured civic rights, together with freedoms of affiliation, peaceable meeting and expression. China dedicated to maneuver in the direction of common suffrage for the election of Hong Kong’s Chief Executive, the pinnacle of authorities.
But following the democracy protests that burst out in 2019, China has unilaterally torn up that settlement. Three years in the past, the federal government handed the National Security Law, a sweeping piece of laws that criminalises criticism of the authorities. It’s been used alongside present legal guidelines, such because the regulation on sedition, to jail leaders of the democracy motion.
China by no means made good on its promise of common suffrage. It’s gone in the other way. Current Chief Executive John Lee – who as safety chief led the violent crackdown on democracy protests – was chosen final 12 months by a hand-picked 1,500-member Election Committee, which duly endorsed him as the only candidate.
The Legislative Council, Hong Kong’s parliament, had already been neutered. The quantity of instantly elected seats has been slashed and individuals are disqualified from standing in the event that they query China’s sovereignty over Hong Kong.
Now the District Councils are within the firing line. When the final elections for the municipal our bodies have been held, within the thick of democracy protests in November 2019, pro-democracy events triumphed.
Such a result’s now unattainable. In 2021, a regulation was handed requiring all district councillors to swear an oath of allegiance affirming their ‘patriotism’ for China. Most of the pro-democracy candidates elected in 2019 have been disqualified or resigned.
Now when new district councillors are chosen in November, solely 20 per cent of seats will likely be instantly elected. The authorities will fill the remaining with their supporters, all vetted to make sure their ‘patriotism’. Little marvel that the Civic Party, one of Hong Kong’s main pro-democracy events, lately introduced it was closing down.
A hollowed-out Hong Kong
Hong Kong was as soon as a rustic the place folks felt secure to protest. It had a flourishing media and publishing business. Now journalists are criminalised and key impartial media have shut down.
Civil society organisations and commerce unions have achieved the identical. The remaining organisations are scattered, practising self-censorship. Protests proceed to be closely restricted: this 12 months a deliberate International Women’s Day march was cancelled after police threats.
People proceed to attempt to discover methods to specific dissent, however any small gesture can entice the state’s ire. The loss of life of Queen Elizabeth II gave folks a chance to make use of public mourning to specific at with the regression since handover. But when a vigil was held throughout the Queen’s funeral, a harmonica participant was arrested for daring to play the tune Glory to Hong Kong, related to the democracy protests.
Last 12 months 5 speech therapists have been convicted of producing ‘seditious publications’. Their crime was to provide kids’s books through which sheep defend their villages from wolves. This was taken to be an allegory of China’s management of Hong Kong.
Everyday repression is making Hong Kong a hollowed-out nation, its inhabitants falling. Some colleges face closure resulting from falling pupil numbers. Many have fled, not wanting their kids to develop up in a rustic the place schooling is indoctrination. The curriculum has been reworked to show college students loyalty quite than impartial thought. Many academics are leaving the nation or taking early retirement.
With the authorized system dealing with growing interference and political strain, attorneys are additionally amongst these fleeing.
A key check would be the trial of Jimmy Lai, former media proprietor and democracy campaigner. He’s already been discovered responsible on quite a few counts. His newspaper, Apple Daily, as soon as Hong Kong’s most generally learn pro-democracy paper, shut down in 2021. He faces trial below the National Security Law, which may imply a life sentence.
The judges who will attempt Lai have been handpicked by John Lee. Meanwhile the authorities have tried to forestall Lai’s defence lawyer, UK barrister Tim Owen, representing him in courtroom. In March they handed a regulation giving Lee the ability to ban international attorneys engaged on nationwide safety circumstances. It isn’t wanting promising.
Lai is one of Hong Kong’s 1,508 political prisoners. Even because the inhabitants shrinks, the imprisoned inhabitants simply retains getting greater. The candles that commemorate the Tiananmen Square Massacre and the craving for democracy will proceed to flare all over the world in exile – however these lights are being extinguished in Hong Kong.
Andrew Firmin is CIVICUS Editor-in-Chief, co-director and author for CIVICUS Lens and co-author of the State of Civil Society Report.
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© Inter Press Service (2023) — All Rights ReservedOriginal supply: Inter Press Service