A Chain Reaction Caused by National Security Law; CCP Penetrated Hong Kong Civil Groups, Education, Press and Publishing

Scholar: Hong Kong has stepped into white terror
By Nie Law
Nie Law
Nie Law
and Ying Cheung
Ying Cheung
Ying Cheung
July 29, 2022 Updated: July 29, 2022

Chan Po-ying, the chairperson of the League of Social Democrats (LSD), posted on the party’s Facebook on July 17, saying that under intense pressure, it was forced to delete online posts accused of violating the “Hong Kong National Security Law (NSL),” and specifically pointed out that “the details cannot be disclosed.” In the article, she emphasized: “The LSD will continue to speak out, speech is innocent, and long live democracy.” Similar incidents involving the deletion of content required by the NSL also occurred in May.

The Hong Kong Public Opinion Research Institute (HKPORI) and the “Hongkongers’ Book Fair” have also been under similar pressure. Some scholars criticized the government for abusing its power. Coupled with the fact that there is no more monitoring force in society, the government can do whatever it wants. The situation in Hong Kong could well be worse than in mainland China.

The Epoch Times called Ms. Chan on July 17, but she did not disclose what exactly was the pressure she was under. When asked if she would face more significant pressure by continuing to speak out, she said that it would depend on the actual situation at that particular time, reiterating that “even under the current situation of fairly limited leeway, we should continue to speak up.”

After Chan posted the message, many netizens left comments supporting LSD and completely understood their decision. One said, “Even in such a difficult situation, you are still willing to speak up. The voice might be weak, but it is still a voice anyway, and we appreciate that very much. As long as everyone is still together and safe, that’s already the greatest consolation!”

More netizens criticized the authorities: “Evil suppression, even though it might make people feel helpless, has also made Hong Kong people understand the true face of totalitarianism,” “Speech could be stopped but never the thought inside!” They also left the following message, “Is this the true story that the Hong Kong government wants to tell the outside world!?”

Avery Ng Man-yuen, the former chairperson of the LSD, also shared Chan’s post on his Facebook page and typed “#Apologise to Hongkongers” in the comment column.

Scholar: It May be Worse Than Mainland China

Chung Kim-wah, former assistant professor of the Department of Applied Social Sciences at Polytechnic University (PolyU), pointed out that the government is abusing its power in such a way. While there is no more monitoring power from the society at large, “the administration has a virtual free hand to manipulate, there is a likelihood that Hong Kong could become worse than mainland China one day.”

He also criticized the current government’s actions as “completely irrational and putting all rights of interpretation into its hand.” He criticized their way of practicing censorship of speech for censorship’s sake, as they never tried to disclose the what and why of something being censored. This is never by universal human rights protocols and violates the Basic Law. With all this evidence, he described that Hong Kong had been under such “white terror” for a long time.

LSD Members Interviewed by NS Police on the eve of July 1

The League of Social Democrats (LSD) stated on June 28 that the National Security Police interviewed some volunteers and associates. After assessing the situation, they decided to drop their planned protest on July 1 for the first time due to pressure from relevant parties. As well as notifying the public there would be no demonstrations; they also apologized, saying, “the situation being extremely difficult, please do forgive us.”

On June 29, six members of the LSD, Raphael Wong Ho-ming, Chan Po-ying, Avery Ng Man-yuen, Tsang Kin-shing, Dickson Chau Ka-fat, and Yu Wai-pan, had their homes searched by the National Security Police. After that, they were taken to different police stations for interviews and were reminded that there would be no demonstrations on July 1.

Members of the LSD used to organize annual protests on July 1. Until July 1, 2021, when the police refused their march application, many pro-democracy activists still launched the march. In its aftermath, eight persons were arrested, including four members of the LSD. The four persons from LSD were sentenced to 6 to 12 months imprisonment.

Civil Society Under Severe Pressure from NSL

Under the NSL, the LSD is among the many civil organizations under pressure, and it was lucky not to have been dissolved to date. On the polling day of the chief executive election in May 2022, it even formed a three-person parade that met the COVID-19 pandemic prevention requirements to stage a protest against the said election within small circles of selected electorates.

Like the LSD, the Hong Kong Public Opinion Research Institute (HKPORI) was another one under similar pressure on the eve of July 1. The HKPORI announced on June 28 that “in response to the recommendations of relevant government departments after risk assessment,” it decided to postpone the publication of the survey involving government popularity and five core social indicators, which was initially scheduled to be released on July 1, until July 5.

The survey that HKPORI wanted to delay was the “Latest Results and Wrap Up on Popularities of SAR Government, PSI, Five Core Social Indicators and HKSAR Anniversary Survey” as one part of the “Wrap Up on Trust and Confidence Indicators under “One Country, Two Systems 25-year Mid-term Review” series. Anyway, the survey results and relevant data would still be published online.

The survey results showed that the five core social indicators, namely “stability,” “freedom,” “prosperity,” “rule of law,” and “democracy,” were all below the 25-year average. Among them, the “stability” index had the highest score at 5.15, which was lower than the previous average of 6.44, while the “freedom” index, which used to have the highest score in 25 years with an average of 7, dropped to 5.13 this time.

Pressure of NSL Upon the Publishing Industry

In addition, Hillway Culture, an organizer for the “Hongkongers’ Book Fair” originally scheduled to open on July 14, pointed out that the organizer received a written notice from the real estate agent of the proper owner one day before the opening, claiming that it violated the lease agreement and requested its immediate withdrawal.

Raymond Yeung Tsz-chun, the person in charge of Hillway Culture, pointed out that the pro-Communist group “Politihk Social Strategic” had called on its supporters to come to the scene to check whether there were any illegal books on display. He believed the site owner might have been under political pressure and decided it was better to terminate the cooperation. There did not seem to have anything to do with Hong Kong law. It said that the owner refused to come and inspect the venue and asked for an immediate withdrawal, contrary to normal commercial practice.

Yeung emphasized that, in principle, Hong Kong still has freedom of publication. He has indeed checked the laws and regulations and tried his best to ensure the books exhibited will not break the law. He pointed out that the incident reflects the pressure brought by the NSL that has penetrated the publishing industry and brought fear to it. He believed it would become increasingly difficult to publish books in the future.

Wong Yeung-tat, the founder of “Civic Passion,” which was disbanded in May, also had his residence and company visited by the National Security Department, demanding that “sensitive content” be removed. At the time, he said, “I am in Hong Kong today, and I continue to work in the media, but the risk of doing so is getting higher and higher every day.”

US Consul: NSL has a “Chilling Effect”

Hanscom Smith, the departing U.S. consul general in Hong Kong, said during his farewell speech last week that the CCP’s implementation of the “Hong Kong National Security Law” has significantly weakened Hong Kong’s autonomy.

He believed that implementing the National Security Law is the most obvious sign of the Chinese government’s fundamental self-doubt, creating an atmosphere of fear and coercion by vaguely defining “national security,” and through its broad application and brutality, creates a chilling effect. “The 2020 National Security Law was thrust onto the city by Beijing,” he said.

 

Nie Law
Ying Cheung