Seen in Hong Kong back in November 2019
I went to Yuen Long for the first time in more than two years yesterday. It used to be that this northwestern New Territories town was a place I liked to go post-hike (because of the good eats to be had there). But after what happened on the night of July 21st, 2019, there, I've come to associate it with tragedy, violence and police-Triad collusion rather than good things.
Happily, I had a pleasant time yesterday. I even discovered that there are a good number of yellow shops in the town -- and that many of them have no or few qualms displaying their colors. In addition, my observation was that the yellow shops are -- like is the case in many neighborhoods, including mine -- better patronized than those which are not. Indeed, the first yellow eatery I tried to have dinner didn't have a table available and its yellow neighbor only had a place for me because a couple had just paid the bill seconds before I went inside it!
So I'm sure that there are many residents in Yuen Long as disappointed as I am -- or maybe more so -- upon learning today that ex-legislative councillor Lam Cheuk-ting and eight other victims of the Yuen Long mob attack of July 21st, 2019, have decided to drop their civil suit against Police Commissioner Chris Tang. Lest it be thought otherwise, it's not because they've now decided that he's not in the wrong. Rather, Lam Cheuk-ting explained that the case has become “too expensive” to fight and that resources could be better utilised to help other pro-democracy activists facing prosecution.
In the words of his lawyer, Albert Ho: "“It seems that it would take a very long time for the case to end… we think it is time to stop, in order to save further costs.. The opponent on the other side [i.e., Chris Tang] is not only formidable, but they [the Department of Justice, which is backing him] have unlimited resources. And they are crazy! They would use every method, every possible avenue to try to delay the matter, try to complicate the matter, and to exhaust all our financial resources.”
And I'm sure plenty of Yuen Long residents would have applauded journalist Bao Choy's announcement today that she has filed an appeal against a magistrate’s decision to convict her after she accessed public records to investigate police behaviour during the “7.21” mob attack. No doubt she will face a costly and lengthy process like that which Lam Cheuk-ting had imagined for the case he had sought to pursue. But, for now, she has decided to try and fight. As she explained in a statement: "I have struggled with whether I should be more selfish and let the case and myself go... But, after much reflection, I know that if I give up the pursuit of justice now, I will lose sleep and regret it for the rest of my life."
From time to time, I get asked by friends living abroad whether the Hong Kong protests are over. I tell them that Hong Kong has not seen protests on the streets for some time but this does not mean that the protests are over. And while, if truth be told, Hong Kongers think the chances of the pro-democracy movement having any success these days are low to non-existent, people still protest to support one another and, also, because they sincerely believe that it is the right thing to do.
Take, as an example, what is currently being done to former Democratic Party chairman Wu Chi-wai -- whose courageous actions on June 12th, 2019, few Hong Kongers are going to ever forget. Currently in detention despite not having been found guilty of any charges (including the sedition that has seen him and dozens of others who took part in the democratic primaries last July been put behind bars ahead of their trial scheduled for later this month), he had sought to attend the funeral of his father that's scheduled for later this week, only to see his request rejected by the government's Correctional Services Department.
In a statement issued today, the authorities maintained that it's "too risky" for the long-time moderate politician to be allowed to do so; this not least because "the date, time and location of the funeral have been extensively reported on social media platforms recently, and there were calls on the Internet for showing support at the scene on the day of the funeral." In other words: Wu Chi-wai has supporters who had wanted to be with him to pay their respects to him and his late father -- and this is something which threatens the authorities.
As journalist Lok Sum-kei observed in a Tweet: "Wu Chi-wai is being held before trial. He has not yet been convicted of a crime. As the only son in his family, he was not allowed to attend his father's funeral. Instead, the govt offers to livestream the funeral via zoom - something Wu said was disrespectful and rejected." And yes, I can see some people thinking: witnessing the funeral via zoom is better than nothing. But I, for one, support Wu in rejecting that lame offer and continuing to object to his unjust treatment by the authorities -- because, like in so many other instances, what is offered is unacceptable and makes a mockery of the actual request and situation.
Speaking of pushback against what's unacceptable: The European Union (EU) yesterday suspended efforts to ratify a controversial investment deal with China because of tensions between Brussels and Beijing. It didn't use the language that Philippines foreign affairs secretary, Teddy Locsin Jr., employed in a Tweet asking China to steer clear off its waters but its message still was clear enough. And if not, check out this speech by MEP Hannah Neumann about how human rights, and the EU's “solidarity with the Uyghurs and the democratic movement in Hong Kong has to be more important than any potential… economic benefit market access could have.” (Hear that, New Zealand, and those delusional Hong Kong-based expat business executives who think the press threatens their freedom more than the Hong Kong government, among others?)