US Calls Out Chinese Regime’s ‘Orwellian Censorship’ on Hong Kong

July 7, 2020 Updated: July 7, 2020

The U.S. Department of State late Monday issued a statement strongly condemning the Chinese Communist Party’s crackdown on free speech in Hong Kong, following reports that pro-democracy books have been pulled from libraries in the city.

“The Chinese Communist Party’s destruction of free Hong Kong continues,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement. “With the ink barely dry on the repressive National Security Law, local authorities—in an Orwellian move—have now established a central government national security office, started removing books critical of the CCP from library shelves, banned political slogans, and are now requiring schools to enforce censorship.”

“Until now, Hong Kong flourished because it allowed free thinking and free speech, under an independent rule of law.  No more.

“The United States condemns Beijing’s repeated failure to live up to its obligations under the Sino-British Joint Declaration, and these latest assaults on the rights and freedoms of the people of Hong Kong.”

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Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks during a news conference at the State Department, in Washington, on July 1, 2020. (Manuel Balce/Pool/AFP via Getty Images)

Hong Kong was handed back from British colonial rule to Chinese sovereignty in 1997 with the express guarantee under the Sino-British Joint Declaration that the city’s high degree of autonomy and essential freedoms would be preserved under the principle of “one country, two systems” until 2047.

However, after a national security law on Hong Kong became effective late on June 30, a growing number of Hongkongers are considering fleeing the city due to fears that the freedoms that had distinguished Hong Kong from China—including freedom of speech—are now no more.

The draconian national security law became effective late on June 30 after ceremonial votes by China’s rubber-stamp legislature. The legislation was written and passed behind closed doors without the consultation of Hong Kong’s legislature or local government.

The law gives Beijing sweeping power to target individuals for any acts of secession, subversion, terrorism, and collusion with foreign forces with maximum penalties of life imprisonment.

Under the new law, expressed political views that advocate for Hong Kong’s independence or liberation are illegal.

On July 1, the morning after the law was enacted, Hong Kong police arrested 10 people under provisions of the new law. In some cases, they were arrested for holding flags, banners, and flyers that had slogans supportive of Hong Kong independence.

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Protesters chant slogans during a rally against a new national security law in Hong Kong on July 1, 2020, on the 23rd anniversary of the city’s handover from Britain to China. (Dale de la Rey/AFP via Getty Images)

On July 2, the Hong Kong government declared that the popular protest slogan “Liberate Hong Kong! Revolution of our times” is illegal because it “connotes” a pro-independent, separatist, and subversive message.

Public libraries have started to review books written by pro-democracy activists to see whether they violate the new law, and according to multiple reports, pro-democracy books have begun to disappear from libraries in Hong Kong.

The national security law also mandates that a new security bureau be established in the city. On July 3, Beijing appointed Zheng Yanxiong, known for his role in suppressing on 2011 anti-corruption protests in the southern village of Wukan, to head the new security bureau—which directly answers to the central government.

“We used to think of ‘secret police’ as something abstract. Now, it is a very real fear,” activist Nathan Law had said at a U.S. congressional hearing on July 1. Law fled Hong Kong to an unidentified location, saying that if he stayed, his “speech and appearance would put my own safety in serious jeopardy, given the circumstances.”

On July 4, Hong Kong police confiscated an American flag from a protester during a local demonstration celebrating July Fourth, citing breach of the new law.

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Police remove a woman holding a US flag from outside the US consulate during a march to celebrate US Independence Day in Hong Kong on July 4, 2020. (Isaac Lawrence/AFP via Getty Images)

Hongkongers have been getting creative in voicing dissent in the wake of the new law. Examples include using CCP slogans in a satirical manner, relying on wordplay to communicate messages against the CCP, using Mao quotes for new Lennon walls, or simply holding blank pieces of paper.

The U.S. Congress on July 2 unanimously approved legislation that would impose sanctions on Chinese officials who violate Hong Kong’s autonomy, as well as banks that do business with those officials.

Eva Fu and Reuters contributed to this report

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