Thursday, September 30, 2021

So many red flags in Hong Kong in the days leading up to China's National Day this year!

There can't be enough flags over at Lee Tung Avenue,
Hong Kong's opposition-free Legislative Council passed a bill yesterday that outlaws the desecration of the Chinese national flag and national emblem on the internet.  The Amendments to the National Flag and National Emblem Ordinance "aims to ensure the proper use of, and “preserve the dignity” of, the national flag and national emblem, as well as boosting a sense of national identity among Hongkongers and promoting patriotism".
Also, "Under the new law, a national flag or a national emblem must not be displayed upside down, or used in any way that the authorities deem as “undermining the dignity” of the flag and emblem."  But to judge from the incorporation of the Chinese national flag in many an ornamental display in various parts of Hong Kong in recent days, it seems okay for it to be displayed in a way that might be said to be aesthetically dubious or problematic -- just so long as it's bigger and flies higher than the Hong Kong flag that it sometimes (but not always) gets displayed along.    

You'd think that all that red that can be seen pretty much all around town in the days leading up to China's National Day would spark joy (since red is traditionally considered to be an auspicious color by the Chinese).  But the likelihood is that it will cause an angry red mist to descend over certain people; at least that seems to be the thinking behind the government's decision to deploy 8,000 police officers to keep the peace tomorrow.  

All jokes aside, there's of course plenty to make people angry and upset in Hong Kong (besides literally red flags).  Just look at Hong Kong Free Press chief editor's Tom Grundy's list of just some of the developments in Hong Kong in one recent 24 hour period -- which, by the way, doesn't include Hong Kong’s Lingnan University's announcement today that they fired two pro-democracy professors (and respected scholars), Hui Po-keung and Law Wing-sang, earlier this month and further film censorship details disclosed in a New York Times piece yesterday that saw such as short film director Mok Kwan-ling having been asked to make 14 cuts to her 25-minute-long Far From Home, a dramatic work about a family caught in the tumult of the 2019 antigovernment protests in Hong Kong that had originally been set to be screened at a local film festival in June (but ended up not being so).

Among the "developments" on Tom Grundy's list though was that which saw seven people -- including five teenagers, the youngest of whom is 15 years of age -- having been charged yesterday under the national security law with conspiring to incite subversion and denied bail.  Among the reaction to the news was this Tweet: "If a 15-year-old teenager can endanger national security, then the problem is not the teenager, but the country".  And for the record: yes, I see much truth in it.  Underlying their youth, "The [case's] first defendant... appeared in the defendants’ dock in a school uniform — clothes he was wearing when he was taken into custody — while two others wore t-shirts printed with cartoon characters." 

If all this isn't already enough to make you dizzy, let's return to the topic ot t-shirts and slogans on them: More specifically, the trial of the second person to be tried under the national security law in Hong Kong began earlier this week; and five black t-shirts printed with the words “I’d rather die speaking than live in silence” in Chinese and “Give me liberty or give me death” in English owned by the defendant, Ma Chun-man, were submitted as evidence by the prosecution of his "inciting secession".  Other apparently incriminatory evidence against the pro-democracy protestor: a notebook with the words “Captain America’s diary of resistance” -- and no, I'm not making this up!
Once more, I can't help but conclude that things have become so farcical that one would want to laugh if not for the fact that the developments have such serious consequences for people (including at least one individual as young as 15) and Hong Kong in general.  Also, that if you live here and aren't feeling upset by what's happening in Hong Kong these days, you really don't care much for this city and its people.       
Amidst it all though, it's not like we've given up on Hong Kong, etc.  She may not be a Hong Konger but Megan Ranney MD MPH's outlook is one that many of us here can relate to:
Someone asked me today how I stay positive.
Answer: I don’t.
But: I refuse to give up.
And I refuse to let others give up.
Which means that, together, slowly, persistently, we can create hope

Over & over again.
And ditto re what the woman who goes by Dr Stephanie on Twitter stated while referencing the above comments: i.e., "This is honestly my philosophy in a nutshell. Everything is often crap and we may not be able to make it not-crap, but dammit, we owe it to ourselves, to each other, and to the future to keep. trying."

Tuesday, September 28, 2021

Pandemic (regulation) woes on the 7th anniversary of the start of the Umbrella Movement

What the graphics indicated would be the case if people 
in Hong Kong got vaccinated against the Wuhan coronavirus!

With regards to the latter: David Webb Tweeted the following: "Bernard Chan, #HK ExCo Convener, goes off piste and nails it. Full points for being candid. He has no idea what it will take to get the mainland border open, and as for opening the international border and resuming financial hub status, forget it." So much for Hong Kong's being Asia's World City and all that.

Adding to Hong Kong's pandemic woes as well as the derailment of its attempts to be taken seriously as a world class city: there are rulings being put in place in Hong Kong that don't make much sense at all (unless you consider that they're being effected by a kakistocracy).  To be sure, many of the new regulations being imposed on the city are being done in the name of public health.  But people are suspecting that something else -- very nefarious -- is behind this.

The point that many Hong Kongers don't trust the government, including with information about the Wuhan coronavirus (including vaccines against it), is well known.  So it's amazing to find that, as of this past weekend, a larger proportion of Hong Kong has been fully vaccinated against the Wuhan coronavirus than the U.S.A.!  

More than incidentally, all but two of my friends have gone and got their coronavirus vaccines (and, should there be any doubt: all of them opted for the BionTech/Pfizer over Sinovac).  And since the majority of my friends are indeed "yellow", I think that I do feel safe to state that one can indeed be "yellow" and vaccinated here in Hong Kong! :) 

Sunday, September 26, 2021

The arrests continue and it's 49 and counting with regards to the number of Hong Kong civil societies disbanding in the face of China's sweeping clampdown on dissent in the city

Be water, and/but also keep the flame alive
This has been one hell of a week -- and I don't just think this because it's also my birthday week.  Even on a public holiday (specifically, the day after the Mid-Autumn Festival), something bad happened: specifically, the arrest of a fourth individual associated with Student PoliticismThe next day saw 19-year-old Alice Wong Yuen-lam being denied bail after she was accused of conspiring to incite subversion under the Beijing-imposed national security law. 
So, really, if Hong Kong still had rule of law and its judges some semblance of sanity, you'd think many of the cases being brought to court would be laughed out of it.  At the same time, we're supposed to be happy when handed out decisions in favor of those who have ended up behind bars for their political beliefs and actions rather than any actual criminality.   
To be sure, we still are handed out some kernels of justice from time to time -- but often, its way overdue as well as incomplete.  For example, on Friday, three University of Hong Kong student leaders accused of a terrorism offence under the national security law over expressions of sympathy for a man who stabbed a police officer were granted bail.  Charles Kwok, Chris Todorovski and Kinson Cheung had been in custody since their arrest on August 18th -- in other words, they have already spent more than a month behind bars even before their trial began.  But with their co-defendant, Anthony Yung, having been released on bail last month, this court decision was being celebrated -- since it made the quartet's case the first one where all of the defendants in a national security law case have been granted bail.   
Here's the thing though: Not so long ago, the bail decision would have been considered the norm -- "innocent until proven guilty", after all.  Also, not so long ago, it'd sound excessive, if not outright nuts, to accuse students of threatening national security for doing such as expressing sympathy for a man who stabbed a police officer and then killed himself; this especially as they then apologized for doing so two days a later. But, well, we are now in a very different Hong Kong from before with China imposing a National Security Law on Hong Kongon June 30th, 2020
Speaking of Hong Kong being very different from what it was just a few years ago: Back in 2014, Louisa Lim wrote in her The People's Republic of Amnesia: Tiananmen Revisited that "The only place on Chinese soil where the events of June 4th [1989] are publicly commemorated is Hong Kong".  Not anymore -- at least not enmasse communally at Victoria Park on the anniversary of the Tiananmen Square Massacre.   
Helping make that reality concrete is the announcement yesterday by the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China, the group that was founded in May 1989 to support students holding democracy and anti-corruption rallies in Beijing, and which has, over the years since, organized the annual candlelight vigils at Victoria Park each June 4th, that it will be disbanding "in the face of China's sweeping clampdown on dissent in the city."  Lest it not be clear: "The Hong Kong Alliance was one of the most prominent symbols of the city's former political plurality and its dissolution is the latest illustration of how quickly China is remoulding the business hub in its own authoritarian image."  

Altogether, 49 different civil societal organizations have folded in the wake of government pressure -- often in the form of accusations of their having violated the Beijing-imposed national security law (NSL) -- thus far this year in Hong Kong. A reminder: Carrie Lam had told the United Nations on the day the NSL came into effect that it would affect only "an extremely small minority of people".  When you consider the tens of thousands that the June 4th vigils regularly attracted, not to mention the million plus marches that the Civil Human Rights Front organized in 2019, you know that Lam's guilty of under-counting, if not outright lying.

Wednesday, September 22, 2021

The Mid-Autumn Festival lantern display returned to Victoria Park in 2021! (Photo-essay)

It's the day after the Mid-Autumn Festival and a public holiday in Hong Kong (as opposed to Mainland China, where the day of the Mid-Autumn Festival itself is a public holiday -- and also its eve -- but not the day after).  I guess the Hong Kong thinking is that the main festive events take place at night, so people need a rest the day after more so than on the day itself! 

The general idea for those with people (families mainly, but these days also friends) to gather and eat (mooncakes and so much more), drink and be merry on the night of the Mid-Autumn Festival.  In normal non-pandemic years, this time of the year also is a chance to catch sightings of the Tai Hang fire dragon (and its lesser known cousin over in Pok Fu Lam).  But, for the second year in a row, the pandemic has robbed us of that opportunity.

On the other hand, the seasonal festive lantern display returned this year to Victoria Park (yes, the same Victoria Park where June 4th vigils have been banned since 2019), and I went over to take a look at it last night.  If truth be told, some of the decorations looked like retreads from the last pre-pandemic year(s). Still, the main displays did look like they were making their Victoria Park display -- with the six-metre high merry-go-round, crated by local paper craft master, Hui Ka-Hung, being the undisputed highlight:-
There was quite the crowd out strolling about on Victoria Park's
football pitches out last night 
The "social distancing enforcers" were present too but, for the
most part, the crowd tended to ignore them and police themselves

Despite there being many other people milling about, 
I managed to get an unimpeded shot of the "Full Moon Carousel"! :)
However, I found this impossible to do with other installations,
including that entitled "Lovely Birds Chirping in the Moonlight"
"The Auspicious Elephant Family" -- there appeared 
to be an animal theme going on
Does this look like "Flamingo Couples in the Lake" to you?
(Yeah, you have to use your imagination to figure things out at times!)
This particularly so with the rather disappointing
"Twin Rabbits Welcome the Moon" installation, I reckon!
Indeed, I actually preferred some of the elementary school 
student-made lanterns on display to it (and yes, I was indeed happy 
to see that the color yellow present at Victoria Park last night)

Monday, September 20, 2021

The day baby powder and wet wipes joined chocolates, hair pins and illustrated children's book by speech therapists as threats to national security in Hong Kong

Safeguarding national security -- including against students 
who have stockpiled chocolate and other items -- 
is a major priority in Hong Kong these days
Amazingly, despite the vast majority of the seats in Sunday’s vote being one-horse races, with just 364 contested, it took over 10 hours for the votes to be tallied!  Maybe the vote counters could have done with the help of extra pairs of hands -- like those belonging to the up to 6,000 police officers deployed around the city yesterday to ensure the safety of these "elections".  But, then it really would be too absurd to call upon the police to count votes, right?
The thing is, though, that the police often seem to be carrying out so many bizarre acts these days that one doesn't quite know what they're capable of doing next.  Take, as an example, what happened earlier today to three student activists.  The headline of the 24MatinsUK article really sums up the absurdity of their case: Speeches and prison snacks spark Hong Kong security arrests
To elaborate: the national security police have arrested three members of pro-democracy group Student Politicism.  The group’s convenor Wong Yat-chin, permanent secretary Chan Chi-sum and former spokesperson Jessica Chu Wai-ying -- none of whom are more than 20 years old -- are accused of inciting subversion of the state through their social media platforms and street booths.  Among the "subversive acts" that the Hong Kong police has alleged that Student Politicism has carried out are the following: encouraging people not to use the government's voluntary LeaveHomeSafe pandemic app -- something which I had hitherto not heard was an unlawful act! -- and urging people to prepare themselves for the next "revolution" (cultural or actual?) by taking up martial arts training!!
In all honesty, I thought things had already gotten pretty ludicrous when Secretary for Security Chris Tang alleged earlier this month that China's national security could be threatened by inmates in Hong Kong's prisons having too many chocolates and hair clips in their possession.  But the police really do appear to be taking all this very seriously -- which begs the question: what kind of government feels threatened by chocolate, hair clips, baby powder and wet wipes/tissues?!
One answer: the kind of government that considers Tong Ying-kit to be a terrorist for what, in a different era, would merely be seen as a dangerous driver.  In an article by Holmes Chan that came out just today, a Hong Kong judge -- speaking under the cloak of anonymity -- described the 24-year-old Tong as "the most benevolent terrorist in the world", pointing out that the erstwhile volunteer medic "didn’t do much of anything—he didn’t commit murder or arson”, after all.  
A recap: On July 1st, 2020, "Tong drove his motorcycle across the city while flying a flag with the slogan “Liberate Hong Kong, revolution of our times"... At around 3:30 PM, his vehicle sped past a few police checkpoints and eventually collided with officers, injuring three of them. The officers were briefly hospitalised, with the most serious injury being a thumb dislocation" (my emphasis). 
For that, he was charged with terrorism (as a result of his crashing into the police officers) and inciting secession (because he flew the flag that he did), and found guilty (by three hand-picked judges, as opposed to a jury of his peers) on July 27th of this year.  Already behind bars for almost a year before his trial commenced, Tong was slapped with a nine year prison sentence for his "crimes".  
As Holmes Chan's article reminded us: "Tong’s legal team filed an appeal against both conviction and sentence. The legal battle is far from over."  And there are people who believe that justice can and will be served in Hong Kong still.  I get the distinct feeling though that they are increasingly in the minority these days; this not least because the majority are seeing with their own eyes how much of an Absurdistan Hong Kong has become.

Saturday, September 18, 2021

Hope fades for the Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions, and Hong Kong itself

Spotted at Victoria Park two years ago
I hope many people continue to believe this two years on

There was so much hope then and I wish that could have continued to be the case.  But the fact of the matter is that, especially since the announcement and then coming into being of China's national security law for Hong Kong, the territory's pro-democracy movement has been largely on the back foot. And while there are some individuals and organizations trying to hold the line (or, at the very least, to their principles), many more appear to be folding -- with yesterday seeing confirmation that the Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions (HKCTU), a worker's rights organization that represents 145,000 members from 93 different groups covering a broad spectrum including aviation, construction, catering, retail and social welfare, is in the process of disbanding
On its website, the words "solidarity", "dignity", "justice" and "democracy" feature prominently, and the HKCTU lists its mission as "To strive [for] decent work and dignity for workers through the consolidation of collective strength and promotion of independent trade union movement and societal change.  Hong Kong's largest pro-democracy trade union, it was founded in 1990 by Lee Cheuk-yan, who remains its General Secretary despite currently being behind bars.   

First they came for the protesters 
Then the legislators
Then the media
Then the lawyers and speech therapists
Then the trade unionists

Make no mistake about it: Hong Kong's civil society groups are crumbling. The HKCTU's impending disbandment comes amid growing pressure from Chinese-backed media on the city’s unions and mounting national security probes on pro-democracy civil society groups.  And earlier this evening came news that the HKCTU's Chief Executive, Mung Siu-tat, has left Hong Kong for the United Kingdom after, in his words, "A strong power forced me to make a painful choice between being a chief executive and being a father".  

As was noted in the Hong Kong Free Press's piece about the HKCTU disbanding: "Pressure on pro-democracy groups which have long been part of the city’s social fabric has prompted critics to accuse Hong Kong authorities of using the security law to dismantle civil society [but] Carrie Lam has denied such an intention."  This is in keeping with the line she's taken that that there's been no dismantling of civil society in Hong Kong taking place since the implementation of the national security law, which she told the United Nations back on June 30th, 2019, would affect only an "extremely small minority of people".  But when the HKCTU's membership alone numbers some 145,000, I think it should be plenty clear that this is not the case at all.    

Thursday, September 16, 2021

Attempts by the authorities to induce amnesia in Hong Kong

They want to turn this into a blur, if that
A few minutes before I started writing this blog post, the deadline mandated by the Hong Kong police came and went for the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China to  remove its website, Facebook page, Instagram page, Twitter account, and YouTube channel.  The data removal "request" was based of Article 43 of China's national security law for Hong Kong, so the Alliance felt that it had no choice but to comply with it.  
A sense of how much data has been wiped out in one fell swoop can be seen by the Alliance's Youtube channel containing videos of the June 4th vigil at Victoria Park dating back over a decade.  (At the same time, it's worth noting that the online June 4th Museum (which currently only is in Chinese but is planned to add English information in the future) remains because, the Alliance stressed, it is not owned nor operated by it.
Speaking of museums: I can't help but remember that the Imperial War Museum over in London has as its motto "That the past may serve".  I also can't help but recall the Sara Shephard quote (often attributed to George Santayana) that "Those who forget the past are doomed to repeat it."
The occurence of another Tiananmen Square Massacre is something that Hong Kongers have long sought to avert.  Sadly, it seems that the authorities over in Beijing, and now also in Hong Kong, actually wouldn't mind too much it happening again.  Or, at the very least, wiping it off the memories of people in Hong Kong as well as Mainland China.
Something else the authorities want to get people to forget -- or, at least, not think about and discuss so much -- are the extradition bill protests that took place just a couple of years ago but in what can seem like a very different Hong Kong from now.  And the censorship of Hong Kong films is one way that they are going about doing so.   

Consider the thoughts of filmmaker Kiwi Chow, whose Revolution of Our Times will, in all probability, never ever be legally screened in Hong Kong, and who was in the audience when the police raided a screening of his Beyond the Dream at a district councillor's office last monthA Los Angeles Times article on Hong Kong filmmakers under threat contains the following paragraphs: 
Police raids on movie screenings — unimaginable in Hong Kong a few years ago — are the latest reality in Beijing’s relentless suppression of the territory’s civil liberties. For filmmakers like Chow, 42, they are a sign of how China’s grip on Hong Kong is not only about asserting political control but also suffocating the cultural spaces where art can reflect truth and build solidarity in a society.   
“They are afraid of art, of people making connections, of organizations and groups — because essentially, they are afraid of the people,” Chow said. “We were having a conversation about art and humanity, sharing our lives, building a relationship. They are tearing it down.”

Another Hong Kong filmmaker (and former dean of film and television at the Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts), Shu Kei, also was interviewed for, and features in, the article.  It's not just what he is recorded as saying that's noteworthy but also what his comments imply:

“Films serve as a social record, or even a record of a nation,” said Shu. He loves watching Cantonese films from the 1940s and ’50s, he said, because they capture how Hong Kong was — and who its people were — at a moment in time.
“It reminds me of my childhood. It also depicts a collective memory,” Shu said. The suppression of films about the last few years, when millions of Hong Kongers rose up in a massive protest movement that was then brutally crushed, is also an attempt to suppress that collective memory and identity.

In her The People's Republic of Amnesia, Louisa Lim wrote that: "Memory is dangerous in a country that was built to function on national amnesia.  A single act of public remembrance might expose the frailty of the state's carefully constructed edifice of accepted history, scaffolded into place over a generation and kept aloft by a brittle structure of censorship, blatant falsehood, and wilful forgetting" (2014:105).  I guess that's why Hong Kongers' memories and memorialization of the Tiananmen Square Massacre is so threatening to Beijing.  Hence the Communist Chinese government taking such pains to wipe them away; with the wonder being that it's taken them so long to finally go about doing so. 
On the subject of wondering what took them so long: Raymond "Soft Beat" Chan was granted bail this afternoon, six and half months after being put behind bars with 46 other men and women involved in the July 2020 democratic primaries for the still postponed Legislative Council elections, all of whom now face national security law charges.  Chan is the 14th of the 47 to be granted bail; meaning that 33 people still remain in custody while awaiting their trial to actually begin.  

I'm not sure how many times he had appealed to be released on bail before he finally was granted it but my sense is that today's was by no means the first time that he had sought to be bailed.  And while there's a part of me saying I should be happy that Chan is now out, I also can't be disoncerted and discontented by how the wheels of justice sure do seem to move very slowly in Hong Kong these days and, increasingly, often seemingly in the wrong direction.

Tuesday, September 14, 2021

Struggles behind prison walls and in the de facto prison that Hong Kong looks to be fast becoming

No where to go but down?
The blows to Hong Kong's civil society have been coming thick and fast; so much so that it's well nigh impossible to keep track of everything that's going on anymore.  And if anything, it feels like the pace of Hong Kong's descent into an open prison has increased these past two days.  To see what I mean, bear in mind that this post is not an exhaustive recap of what's happened over the past 48 hours in Hong Kong.
The first piece of news that caught my eye on Monday (yesterday) morning was a Washington Post piece about an American man jailed in Hong Kong for being a good Samaritan.  Currently out on bail and appealing the verdict, Samuel Bickett's "fate has come to embody fears about a diminished rule of law in the Chinese territory and the unchecked power of the police force, after he was convicted and jailed for assaulting an officer who identified himself as such only after arresting Bickett".  And, notes the article's author, Shibani Mahtani, "As China remakes Hong Kong in its authoritarian image after anti-government protests in 2019, Bickett’s experience offers a glimpse into a prison system filling with political detainees."
The article contains quotes by Bickett, a trained lawyer who was working for the Bank of America at the time of his arrest.  Those interested in learning more about his experiences and thoughts can do so straight from the horse's mouth -- in that Bickett is now active on Twitter.  Among his Tweets yesterday was this one -- "My prison experience was survivable thanks to the immense moral support I received from both other prisoners and people outside. The Police realize that, and seem to be moving to cut off any support for political prisoners to increase our suffering inside" -- made in response to one by Mahtani's discussion of the repression of political activists and politicians within prison walls rather than just outside of it   
Within 24 hours of Bickett Tweeting this, news broke that prisoner rights support group Wall-fare is disbanding, prompting him to Tweet the following: "When I was in prison, encouraging letters from supporters were just as critical as food and water to my survival. Wallfare was the organization through which most of them were sent—which is why the police are forcing them to shut down"; "I want people to understand how utterly cruel it is for the Police to now be targeting Wallfare. This is an organization that simply tries to provide prisoners with their basic needs—letters, shampoo, m&ms—all of which they are legally entitled to"; and "We all know the police who rule this city do not care about the law or fundamental rights. But the raw cruelty here is extraordinary, even for them. Denying letters & shampoo to already-suffering prisoners: this is the face of these brutes that the world must see."   
A former political prisoner himself as well as ex-legislative councillor, Wall-fare founder Shui Ka-on must have been under terrible pressure to disband the group.  Otherwise, he surely would not have made the decision that he did -- and issue the following statement when announcing his decision: "It’s more important than anything else for Hongkongers to stay alive- be safe and sound, that’s the most important thing."
Someone else who appears to have buckled to some extent under the strain is Albert Ho.  Yesterday, the veteran democrat announced his resignation from his leadership positions – and halted his membership – of the embattled Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China, the China Human Rights Lawyers Concern Group, and the New School for Democracy.  In view of his having been a founding member of all three groups, his decision surely was not taken lightly and had to be effected under great pressure.
For now though, the also embattled Hong Kong Journalists Association (HKJA) appears determined to not roll over and die.  Its chairman, Ronson Chan, announced today that Hong Kong's main journalist union will do its best to remain in operation as long as possible, and also directly refuted claims by security minister Chris Tang that it has has been "infiltrating schools" to recruit students as journalists.  
A note on Hong Kong student journalists: Not only does Hong Kong have a number of universities that offer journalism degrees but student journalists also have done sterling work here.  Some extradition bill protest examples: a team of Hong Kong University of Science and Technology student journalists captured footage of riot police pinning a young girl to the ground after she tried to flee during a demonstration in Mongkok on September 6th, 2020; Hong Kong Baptist University student journalists captured the moment when a protester stabbed a police officer in the arm on July 1st, 2020; and it was student journalists from the University of Hong Kong who recorded graphic footage of police shooting an 18-year-old protester with a live round in Tsuen Wan on October 1st, 2019.       
So there shouldn't be anything amiss if the HKJA had student members -- which it has but, not that many: just some 60, or around 13 percent of its total membership.  And should there be any doubt re the respect that the HKJA has internationally: Consider the following statement of support from Reporters sans frontières  (AKA Reporters Without Borders (RSF) which points out that the HKJA is "an independent Hong Kong association [that] has been advocating for #pressfreedom since 1968, whose role has never been so essential in this period of constant attacks against independent journalism."      
Not that its detractors, among them Chris Tang, will care.  Speaking of Hong Kong's security minister: another announcement he made today was that Hong Kong will create a host of new national security offences.  It seems that it's not enough to be able to accuse people of subversion, secession, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces -- and put them behind bars for months on end before they are even brought to trial.  Rather, the powers that be also want to be able to accuse people of treason, sedition and theft of state secrets, and have "new measures to stop "foreign political organisations" operating in Hong Kong -- or Hong Kongers contacting them".
Remember when Carrie Lam told the United Nations that the national security law would affect only an "extremely small minority of people"?  Check out the still growing thread by the Hong Kong resident who goes by the handle Poohsticks over on Twitter to see how much of a lie this has proven to be even prior to the stated creation of the additional national security offences; this not least since the national security law is so vaguely worded that it can seem like pretty much anything (think illustrated children's books about brave sheep and nasty wolves by speech therapists!) could be a national security offence in Hong Kong!   

Saturday, September 11, 2021

Hong Kong entertainers, and some perspective(s) on how bad things have become in Hong Kong

I like to think that Anita Mui passed on the torch...
Today is Leslie Cheung's birthday.  If he had lived, he'd have been 65 today.  I sometimes wonder what he'd have made of Hong Kong's present situation.  I wonder that too, actually more, about another Hong Kong luminary who passed away in 2003: Anita Mui Yim-fong; this not least because she was far more openly political -- and would regularly sing the anthem most commonly associated with Tiananmen Square Massacre commemorations, Blood-Stained Glory, at her concerts.
While Leslie and Anita are no longer with us, Anita Mui's chief protege, Denise Ho, is.  And this evening, she staged a concert -- online because the Hong Kong Arts Centre cancelled her booking days before her concert series there was scheduled to take place.  It represented the latest act of defiance and resistance from a professional entertainer who has become more well known as a pro-democracy activist in recent years, and who has been resolute in stating that she does not intend to leave Hong Kong; this despite there being obvious attractions for someone who likes to express herself freely to do so.      
On the subject of such folks: yesterday, Ng Ka-leung, one of the co-directors of the dystopian but (all too) prescient Ten Years, became the latest prominent Hong Konger to announce that he had left his home city.  I think it's particularly telling, even worrying, that Ng has decided to joined the likes of his fellow Ten Years co-director, Jevons Au, who left in July of last year, in exile -- because while Au has become the better known filmmaker in recent years (with post-Ten Years film successes Trivisa and Distinction), Ng's Local Egg was the segment of Ten Years with the most optimistic outlook and message!     

Not that I blame him, of course.  It's hard to deny that the current situation in Hong Kong is not great and its (immediate) future looks plenty bleak.  And while there's been a pause in the onslaught of bad news (that left many of us reeling earlier this week) this weekend, it just only really means that we've had time to take a breath and get some perspective with regards to how bad things here really have become, including by reading pieces like Kent Ewing's over at the Hong Kong Free Press, a few choice excerpts of which I reckong are worth sharing:

Hongkongers—from opposition politicians to teachers to civic activists and students—all made the mistake of choosing to believe in the 1984 Sino-British Joint Declaration. That agreement paved the way for the city’s 1997 handover from British to Chinese sovereignty under a “one country, two systems” arrangement that for at least 50 years was supposed to guarantee Hong Kong “a high degree of autonomy” as well as personal freedoms for its citizens that are simply nonexistent on the mainland.

These freedoms—of speech, press and assembly—were then enshrined in the Basic Law, Hong Kong’s mini-constitution, which also promised a gradual progress toward democracy that, like those guarantees of personal freedom, now seems dead in the water...

[O]vert demonstrations of freedom of expression and tolerance for dissent were part of what made post-handover Hong Kong such a special city in China. They were not unpatriotic. To the contrary, for many Hongkongers, they represented the highest form of patriotism—the kind that strives to build a better city and better country and, yes, squawks and agitates when that does not happen...

The crackdown on Hong Kong freedoms... —now putatively justified by a sweeping national security law that seems to mean anything authorities want it to mean—has been a gross overreaction to a peril that never really existed. It betrays the deep-seated, abiding insecurity of Chinese officialdom, which sees destabilising foreign forces hiding in every nook and cranny of Hong Kong.

Rather than foreign forces, the authorities themselves may well be most responsible for the coming into being of considerable opposition to the Hong Kong government and also Beijing's.  As law professor Michael Davis pointed out in his "Testimony before the US-China Economic and Security Review Commission Hearing on “US China Relations in 2021: Emerging Risks""Growing public awareness that Hong Kong’s capacity to guard its autonomy would depend on the promised democratic reform, led to equally large protests for democracy in 2004. This demand would become a constant theme in Hong Kong politics, in the 2012 protests against the government’s proposed patriotic education, in the 2014 “umbrella movement” protesting government foot-dragging over the promised democratic reform, and in the 2019 protests against the government’s proposed extradition bill."

At the same time, it is worth noting and emphasizing that: "Hong Kong protesters have not sought a local government constantly at odds with Beijing, but they have clearly hoped for a government that would find its voice to guard autonomy and protect the city’s core values. Long ignoring popular demands to fulfill Basic Law commitments, the Beijing and Hong Kong governments only have themselves to blame for the growing opposition. The 2020 National Security Law (NSL), imposed directly by Beijing, represents a refusal to take responsibility for this failure and profoundly undermines the “one country, two systems” model."
For, lest it not be clear, the NSL: "represents a comprehensive threat to Hong Kong’s autonomy, rule of law and basic freedoms. One would be hard-pressed to devise a more comprehensive plan to shut down an open society and inhibit the free-wheeling debate that has long characterized Hong Kong", and made Hong Kong Hong Kong as well as attractive for many people.