I wonder what Dr Sun Yat-sen (who figures prominently
on this mural found on a Hong Kong side street) would make of
what's happening to Hong Kong, including his alma mater
University of Hong Kong (HKU) student leader Anthony Yung was granted bail ahead of his national security trial earlier today after the High Court rejected a prosecution challenge to his admission to bail by a lower court last week. Before people hail this decision by judge Esther Toh as something to celebrate though, consider that the 19-year-old student's bail conditions include his not being allowed to leave Hong Kong, give any media interviews, take up executive roles on student bodies, contact foreign officials or organize activities against the Hong Kong or Chinese governments. He also has to report to the police four days a week and observe a curfew -- and the bail posted for him was a hardly measly HK$150,000.
In addition, three of Anthony Yung's fellow accused HKU student leaders -- Kinson Cheung King-sang (also 19 years of age), Charles Kwok Wing-ho (20) and Chris Todorovski (18) -- continue to be behind bars as they have been denied bail after the quartet's arrest two Wednesdays ago for allegedly advocating terrorism in a motion they passed as members of the HKU Students' Union Council which expresses deep sadness at the death of Leung Kin-fai, who stabbed a police officer this past July 1st and subsequently committed suicide, offered sympathy and condolences to the deceased's family and friends and spoke of "his sacrifice to Hong Kong". And separately from the issue of whether the mourning of the death of a man (whose only life taken was his own) can be seriously considered terrorism, it's worth noting that the HKU Student Council had actually withdrawn that statement, apologized for it and resigned over it back on July 9th in the wake of the strong criticism it had received from the Hong Kong government and the university authorities.
Even before their arrests, I thought that Yung, Cheung, Kwok and Todorovski were being penalized pretty harshly for what could be seen as merely youthful indiscretions. For example, the quartet and a number of their fellow HKU students were barred by the university from entering the campus and prohibited from using any university facilities and services (even while officially still students of HKU!). Also, their union's office had been raided by national security police and the university stated that it was cutting ties with the student union; with the latter action and the barring of the students from campus causing law lecturer Eric Cheung to resign from the HKU Governing Council in protest.
In a statement after his resignation, the legal scholar expressed that "I feel very sad when a university doesn't nurture students and help them correct their mistakes". On a similar note, social activist Mak Hoi-wah was moved to state that "an educational institution shouldn't be attacking its own students, who are young".
What makes the actions of those in charge of HKU even more upsetting is that this is the University of Hong Kong we're talking about: Hong Kong's first institution of higher learning and the one still considered by many people to be its premier one (as well as among the top in Asia and even the world). And the university that happens to be the alma mater of "the father of the Chinese revolutions of the last century", Dr Sun Yat-sen: who, on a 1923 visit to it, delivered a speech that contained the following assertion: "the answer to the question, where did I get my revolutionary ideas: it is entirely in Hong Kong".
A former HKU professor who recently moved to the University of Toronto, Chris Fraser, recently Tweeted that "HK today has been overrun by vandals who are tearing down civil society." This was before the national security arrests of four undergraduate students at the Hong Kong university he used to teach but after the bringing down of the Hong Kong Professional Teachers' Union (HKPTU) whose club (i.e., supermarket) had its last day today. Galileo Cheng was there to witness its closing after 48 years of service and the photos he took there communicate well the sadness as its closure.
With regards to other civil organizations now under threat: the authorities most definitely are gunning for the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China best known for organizing the June 4th candlelight vigils in Victoria Park and setting up the June 4th Museum to continue mourning and remembering those who died at Tiananmen Square and related locales back on June 4th, 1989. The crime they're being accused of? Collusion with foreign forces!
Here's the thing: while previously it could be argued that all the authorities wanted was to shut the organization down, the examples of Apple Daily and Next Media show that the powers that be now want more than that. Also witness what's happening with the 612 Humanitarian Fund, with Secretary for Security Chris Tang accusing it today of profiteering by asserting that "I have noticed that this organisation has announced that it will soon disband, but they also told people to donate a huge sum before they disband, do they really have to profit just before disbanding?"
On a surely unrelated note: One of the 612 Humanitarian Fund's trustees, singer-activist Denise Ho, is coming under scrutiny as an "anti-China activist". It definitely is not a good sign that Chinese state media have trained their sights on the long-time democracy proponent. And while it is hoped that, like her friend Anthony Wong Yiu-ming, she will be able to successfully battle the system, I do worry that she will fare less well than he (thus far) has done.
Also, small comfort, I know, with Hong Kong's legal and security institutions becoming more and more Mainlandized by the day, but at least she's here rather than in Mainland China -- where the latest celebrity target appears to be (Vicki) Zhao Wei (along with fellow actress Zheng Shuang), mention of whom appears to have been scrubbed from multiple Mainland Chinese video platforms and sections of Weibo! And for the record: Denise Ho is still on Twitter; unlike the likes of Claudia Mo and Ray Chan (whose Twitter accounts disappeared in the wake of their late February arrests and incarceration).