Inside an airport that Ugyhur folks would do well to steer clear of
Back in October 2021, Amnesty International announced that it would leave Hong Kong, where it had hitherto had its Asia-Pacific headquarters, citing concerns about the national security law that China had imposed on the city in June 2020. One wonders how much of a negative effect this move has had on the human rights organisation's investigative abilities; this particularly after Amnesty International walked back its allegations that Ughyur scholar Abuduwaili Abudureheman had been "disappeared" in Hong Kong.
In a statement issued earlier today, the international NGO revealed that "Abuduwaili Abudureheman spoke with Amnesty International and told us he did not travel to Hong Kong, contrary to previous information received". Amnesty International also stated that: "We are pleased that Abuduwaili Abudureheman is accounted for. We will continue to strive to offer support to people who reach out to us when they believe they or their loved ones are at risk of human rights violations."
As Hong Kong Free Press chief editor Tom Grundy Tweeted though: Amnesty International "admits they got it wrong but no apology to we media, nor the local [government]. Could be ruinous for their reputation, [and] it's unhelpful for the press who are under major scrunity. Let alone the 1000s of Uyghurs who've been actually detained & are uncontactable by loved ones."
It's worth noting that the NGO's international reputation already has taken a major knock in the past year with the stance they've taken on Ukraine. And with regards to Hong Kong: what this Abuduwaili Abudureheman incident has done is provide a stick for the authorities to attack the credibility of the news outlets that carried the disappearance story, and to be able to say "See? We were telling the truth" and have proof to show for it -- something which I'm sure they'll make a big deal of for some time to come!
Something that I'm not so sure that the Hong Kong government would like the world to take note of is the trial that began yesterday of 13 individuals accused of "rioting" when they broke into the Legislative Council on July 1st, 2019. Among them are actor Gregory Wong (who plead not guilty along with five others), and former University of Hong Kong Student Union president Althea Suen and pro-democracy activist-politician Ventus Lau -- both of whom are not even 30 years old yet.
The latter two have pleaded guilty; with Suen explaining her decision in a Facebook post which ended as follows: "I have never regretted fighting for freedom, justice & democracy… I am in Hong Kong, in prison, but my mind is still free.” A brave young woman who clearly loves Hong Kong and tried to do what she thought was best and good for it.
Another brave Hong Konger who has tried to do what he thought was best and good for Hong Kong, at his own peril is former Apple Daily boss Jimmy Lai. He too was in the news again yesterday; thanks to a Hong Kong court's denial of his "request to terminate his national security trial, pressing ahead with a landmark case seen as part of Beijing’s crackdown on the city’s pro-democracy movement."
As an Associated Press piece noted, Jimmy Lai's "lawyers [had] filed an application to halt the trial, raising concerns that his case was being heard by three judges approved by the city’s leader, instead of a jury. When Hong Kong returned to China in 1997, it was promised that trials by jury, previously practiced in the former British colony, would be maintained under the city’s constitution. But in a departure from the city’s common law tradition, the security law allows no-jury trials for national security cases.
But: "On Monday, Judges Esther Toh, Susana D’Almada Remedios and Alex Lee unanimously rejected Lai’s request, saying there was no reason to believe they “would be biased, actually or apparently, against” Lai." Many people are less sure about that. After all, Jimmy Lai has long been a thorn in the flesh of their bosses, the Hong Kong government, and their bosses' bosses, the Chinese government over in Beijing.
Also, more than by the way, thus far, the jury-less national security law trials have had a 100% conviction rate -- something very different from the conviction rate of jury trials in Hong Kong. So even if the judges aren't necessarily specifically biased against Jimmy Lai, the evidence would seem to point to their having a predisposition to find all defendants of national security law trials guilty as charged.
For the record: Jimmy Lai's national security law case is the first one where the accused has been charged with "collusion against foreign forces". Also, for the record, that's one of three national security law crimes that he has been charged with. And, again, let the record show: this is the case for which he has been denied his choice of lawyer: Timothy Owen, King's Counsel. When it finally gets going on September 3rd, I do hope that the world will not have forgotten this brave man and his beloved Hong Kong.