Twenty-five years after its return to China, Hong Kong is now under more grim governance than it was during the British colonial era. A former Canadian politician said patriotism had turned everything more absurd in Hong Kong.
Chiu encouraged the young generation of Hong Kong to get themselves well-equipped for a “battle without end” so that when the time comes, they could contribute to the city.
Kenny Chiu, a Hong-Kong-born Canadian politician, who emigrated to Canada a long time ago, was a Conservative Party member and former member of the House of Commons in Canada.
Chiu pointed out that Canadians should be concerned with what’s happening in Hong Kong, because Canada, once supported the implementation of the Basic Law when lobbying China and Britain years ago.
Chiu, having grown up in the colonial city, reflected on how people used to enjoy “absolute freedom,” including freedom of speech. Sadly, the freedom once known had disappeared gradually with the introduction of the National Security Law.
Chiu said, “For Hongkongers who used to enjoy freedom of speech, thinking and freedom of the press, they are certainly ill-adjusted to the loss of their freedom after the National Security Law was imposed, becoming increasingly distraught.”
Canadians Should Be Concerned for Hong Kong
After the signing of the Joint Declaration in the 1980s, China and Britain lobbied worldwide, seeking support for a smooth transition of Hong Kong. Canada helped promote the Basic Law, guaranteeing the “one country, two systems” principle, Hong Kong’s self-governance, a high degree of autonomy, and the way of life in the city to remain unchanged for 50 years.
However, the reality was not so: Hong Kong has undergone major changes in the past 40 years. “It was astounding when the Chinese Communist Party dismissed the Sino-British Joint Declaration as a ‘historical document’ and said it has no binding power. Canada should be very concerned, because it once was a lobbyist, a supporter of the Basic Law.”
“It is estimated that 300,000 Canadian passport holders reside in Hong Kong, which makes up the largest group of overseas Canadians. Canadians have also invested a lot financially in Hong Kong. Canada is like an old friend of Hong Kong’s. Therefore Hong Kong’s stability, safety, and harmony should be a priority to Canada,” said Chiu.
Kenny Chiu described Hong Kong as a “global city” in close contact with the world, as it is also a gateway to China for investors.
In June 2008, the Public Opinion Research Institute at the University of Hong Kong studied identity recognition in Hong Kong citizens, and recorded 38.6 percent of the interviewees identified themselves as Chinese, which was the highest rate since the poll first took place in 1997.
Only 18.1 percent identified themselves as Hongkongers, which made it a record low.
However, in the survey in June 2022, the numbers indicated that among the young people aged 18 to 29, only two percent identified themselves as “Chinese.”
CCP’s Policy Change Against Hong Kong
In Chiu’s opinion, the changes set in motion starting in 2012, when the Hong Kong government planned to push moral education and national education in both primary and secondary schools. “Since then, not only have political rights and freedom shrunk. Hongkongers, once accustomed to living in freedom, suddenly were expected to have their children brainwashed,” Chiu said.
Chiu believed that the 2019 Anti-Extradition Movement, caused by the Extradition Law Amendment Bill, was a continuance of the Hongkongers’ freedom campaign against introducing national education in 2012, and the Occupy Central campaign in 2014 was for universal suffrage.
Hongkongers’ Pro-Democracy Ideology Aligns with the West
In the 1970s and 1980s, according to Chiu’s analysis, Hong Kong’s economy surged and there was core confidence that was rooted in the system, embracing rule of law, freedom, and openness.
Chiu described the democratic politics in Hong Kong then as being aligned very much with the west, particularly on the rights of freedom. Chiu set examples, “June 4, Tiananmen Square Massacre is still vivid in Hongkongers’ minds and in the subsequent three decades, it became their habit to gather every year on June 4 to memorialize and immerse themselves in the past, developing an overwhelming democratic movement.
“As a British colony, Hongkongers used protests to express their demands. After 1997, they continued the fight under what was promised by the Basic Law,” Chiu stated.
However, it has become a different story now. candles, June 4, are no longer allowed in Hong Kong. We then witnessed the disbandment of pro-democracy news outlets such as Stand News, Apple Daily, and many others, under the National Security Law (NSL).
Senior journalist and news editor Kevin Lau, said, “since the implementation of NSL it is even harder to help detainees to get bailed before trial.”
Demanding Patriotism in Hong Kong is Extremely Absurd
Chiu had been a politician in the Canadian parliament and local governments for years.
Whenever he spoke of enjoying freedom and exercising the rights of democracy, Chiu very often thought of the former Hong Kong legislators who are currently locked up.
Many have been in jail since 2021 for inciting subversion of state power, all because they participated in the democrats-run primary. Before that, some of them were already disqualified from running for reelection in the Legislative Council, and were accused of endangering national security and not upholding the Basic Law.
Chiu was still a secondary student in the 1970s. He and many Hongkongers woke up because of the June 4 incident in 1989. China’s premier leader Deng Xiaoping ordered the national army to disperse the massive demonstration in Tiananmen Square. “This showed us the true color of totalitarianism.”
Advice to Hong Kong Youth: Be Ready for a Long-running Battle
A lot of Hongkongers are now scattered in different parts of the world. Chiu encouraged the young Hongkongers overseas to equip themselves, for when potential changes in Hong Kong take place in five to ten years’ time.
Then it will be up to Hongkongers abroad to rebuild the city.
“It takes experience and strength to fight a long-running battle. To the Hongkongers who fled and are living in the air of freedom, you should equip yourselves now, and think about what you can do for Hong Kong’s future,” Chiu advised.
As to the young people staying in Hong Kong, Chiu shared words of encouragement, “Living under pressure helps build strong perseverance.”
Canada Can Do More for Hong Kong
From Chiu’s point of view, Canada definitely can do more for Hongkongers, such as re-considering immigration applications of those with criminal records due to their fight for freedom. Communities and local media can also help welcome and provide care for new immigrants.
Since the Anti-extradition movement in 2019 and the forceful implementation of the National Security Law, there have been lots of lifeboat schemes from different countries, especially the UK.
Britain opened the BNO visa scheme to all BNO passport holders and their relatives, allowing them to live, work and study in Britain, as well as getting citizenship and settling down. In June 2022, 123,400 applications had been filed since the lifeboat scheme was initiated, and 113,442 people had been approved.
Among the Western countries, Britain has been more proactive in helping Hongkongers: it introduced the BNO Visa Scheme for Hongkongers with or without BNOs. The outgoing UK Prime Minister, Boris Johnson and his office, also offered other lifeboat routes. “Other countries should learn from the UK as a reference guide on how to save Hongkongers,” Chiu said.
Vivian Yu contributed to the report.