Silence for Hong Kong

Silence for Hong Kong
Pro-democracy activist Joshua Wong walks to a prison van to head to court with other activists, over a national security law charge, in Hong Kong, China, on March 4, 2021. (Tyrone Siu/Reuters)
Alexander Liao

On Jan. 7 in the early morning, Hong Kong National Security Department dispatched more than 1,000 police to raid multiple homes and offices, and arrested 53 Hong Kong pan-democratic political activists. In March, the Hong Kong Department of Justice prosecuted 47 of them, accusing them of subverting state power, a charge based on the latest Hong Kong National Security Law.

Among those indicted are Martin Lee Chu-ming, Hong Kong’s retired senior counsel, the founder of the United Democrats of Hong Kong, a former member of the Hong Kong Legislative Council (LegCo), and a member of the Hong Kong Basic Law Drafting Committee; Jimmy Lai Chee-ying, the owner of the Hong Kong liberal media Apple Daily; Lee Cheuk-yan, a famous Hong Kong trade union organizer, former Legislative Council member, and one of the Hong Kong Labour Party founders; Benny Tai Yiu-ting, former associate professor of law at the University of Hong Kong; and young political activist Joshua Wong Chi-fung who emerged from the Umbrella Movement. Joshua was already detained in prison for another case; he was arrested again in prison.

It all started before 2014, but let’s start with 2014.

The Basic Law of Hong Kong stipulates that the Legislative Council and chief executive of Hong Kong will eventually be elected by universal suffrage. From 1997 to 2014, 17 years after China reclaimed Hong Kong, there was no progress in universal suffrage. Half of the 70-member Legislative Council was elected by universal suffrage, while the chief executive was elected by a so-called election committee with 1,200 people. The Hong Kong Democrats laid out a political reform timetable for Beijing to confirm when Hong Kong could implement dual universal suffrage.

In 2014, the Standing Committee of the Chinese People’s Congress in Beijing (the permanent body of the highest legislative body of communist China) passed a so-called political reform plan, insisting that candidates for chief executive must be confirmed by an election committee of 1,200 before they can stand. The citizen nomination plan proposed by the Democrats is a clause in universal suffrage in all countries, or an option of “other” in the ballot for the public. However, the committee rejected all suggestions. In other words, Beijing will put forward bad guy A and bad guy B through the Hong Kong Election Commission under its control, and Hong Kong people choose one of them.

This is the reason why the 2014 Umbrella Movement broke out in Hong Kong.

In 2019, Carrie Lam, the Hong Kong chief executive, proposed amending the extradition law to allow any alleged criminals accused by China to be sent to mainland China for trial and imprisonment without going through the Hong Kong courts. This ignited the Hong Kong resistance movement in 2019.

In November that year, in the election of Hong Kong District Councils, the pan-democrats won more than 80 percent of the seats. In the past, the pro-communist groups controlled the district councils, having invested and developed in grassroots communities for years. But this time they were defeated by a landslide, and Beijing was shocked.

On June 30, 2020, the committee passed the Hong Kong National Security Law, which was incorporated into the Basic Law as a subsidiary document. The provisions of this law are completely different from the previous Anglo-American laws. The law stipulates that Beijing can establish a state security agency in Hong Kong. Cases under its jurisdiction are directly prosecuted and tried by courts in mainland China. At the same time, the law also stipulates that the Hong Kong police establishes a national security department, and cases under its jurisdiction will be tried by “designated special judges.”

Hong Kong was originally scheduled to hold the seventh LegCo election in September 2020. The Democrats held a pan-democratic primary election in July, hoping that citizens would decide who will run for seats in the relevant LegCo. This kind of primary election is somewhat similar to the inner-party primary election of American political parties and is not legally binding. On that day, the number of votes for the primary election reached 610,000.

The Hong Kong government subsequently announced that it would cancel the LegCo elections originally scheduled for September because of the “severe epidemic.”

After September, Beijing appointed the original LegCo to extend its term by one year. Several Democratic members who opposed the Hong Kong government’s cancellation of the LegCo election resigned in protest, but most of the pan-democratic members stayed.

By November, Beijing bypassed the Hong Kong court, and the committee directly announced the disqualification of four opposition legislators. This approach overrode the Department of Justice to file an arbitration application of the qualification of the legislator, and made the judgment on behalf of the court. This bypasses Hong Kong’s Basic Law. Under the Basic Law, the Standing Committee of the People’s Congress of China cannot legislate for Hong Kong, but can only interpret the Basic Law.

Subsequently, the remaining 15 pan-democratic parliamentarians expressed their protest by collective resignation. Hong Kong’s LegCo is left with completely pro-Beijing members. According to the law, the remaining LegCo isn’t qualified to pass any resolutions, because there are less than two-thirds of its members left out of the total number of 70 members.

Then there was a mass arrest on Jan. 6 this year.

Of course, it’s not finished yet.

At the March 5 meeting, the National People’s Congress of China reviewed the draft decision that will change the Hong Kong electoral system. The National People’s Congress is going to carry out direct legislation for Hong Kong’s political system.

Wang Chen, vice chairman of the committee said at the meeting that the key is to ensure that Hong Kong is governed by “patriots,” that is, Hong Kong is governed by those who love the Chinese Communist Party. Beijing wants to restructure the Hong Kong Election Commission, change its size and composition and its method of formation. Not only will the Election Commission continue to elect the chief executive, it will also entitle 1,200 members of the commission to elect a “larger percentage” of LegCo members.

In addition, the Election Commission will have the new function of directly participating in and nominating all candidates for the LegCo, as well as their qualification review.

To put it simply, Hong Kong has been deprived of the legislative power of local elections. Fundamentally speaking, Hong Kong is now deprived of its independent legislative power, because in the future, according to the CCP, LegCo members will be generated in “a large percentage” by the 1,200 members of the Election Commission instead of in a one-person-one-vote election.

When things have reached this point, we can conclude that Hong Kong, known as the Pearl of the Orient, the largest free port in East Asia, and which topped the world in the World Economic Freedom Index for many years, has officially died. The future of Hong Kong will not be much different from Shenzhen and Shanghai.

Hong Kong is dead. I really like this city where I lived for many years, but she is dead.

During the Great Leap Forward and the Great Famine in China in the 1960s, how many lives did Hong Kong people save by mailing large quantities of food to the mainland? When China began to reform and open up in the 1980s, how much money did Hong Kong people bring in? How many companies were built? How many products from mainland China were brought to the international market? Hong Kong was the most important facilitator of economic growth in the early stage of reform and opening up in mainland China, and was once vital to the Chinese economy.

In the past, many people in Hong Kong believed Deng Xiaoping’s internal instruction which claimed, “well water does not offend river water” (meaning that the two sides do not interfere with each other’s internal affairs). Now they are fully awake.

For the past 20 years, Hong Kong people have been at war, but few people realize that their enemy is not the Hong Kong government, not the so-called establishment, but the CCP. On the other hand, as long as the CCP’s one-party dictatorship exists, there’s no peace for the surrounding regions and countries. The same goes for the United States.

Alexander Liao is a journalist who covers international affairs, focused on the United States, China, and Southeast Asia. His work has been published in newspapers and financial magazines in the United States and Hong Kong.
Views expressed in this article are opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.
Alexander Liao is a journalist who covers international affairs, focused on the United States, China, and Southeast Asia. His work has been published in newspapers and financial magazines in the United States and Hong Kong.
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