Committee for Freedom in Hong Kong Weekly Newsletter
12 November 2021
12 November 2021
Welcome to the Committee for Freedom in Hong Kong (CFHK) weekly newsletter.
Prisoners of Conscience
- CFHK presses for political and economic consequences for China's failure to keep its promises to respect Hong Kong's freedoms; supports the rule of law, freedom of expression, and the release of political prisoners.
- It urges the business and political community to stand against China's assault on freedom, which also imperils Hong Kong's status as an international financial centre.
- Hong Kong's fate is linked to the preservation of freedom, democracy, and international law in the region and around the world.
Prisoners of Conscience
- The week started with news of further attacks on personal freedoms with Hong Kong Justice Secretary Teresa Cheng continuing to push for a harsh legislative framework for the National Security Law. The latest news sees Hong Kong courts adopting a broad interpretation of rioting, meaning people may be found guilty of “taking part” in a riot if they are found to have encouraged others through words or gestures, reported the Hong Kong Free Press. Broadening the interpretation of rioting will inevitably result in more people being charged for simply speaking what they think, a cynical and transparent move by those seeking to destroy personal liberty in Hong Kong once and for all. The absurdity of such an interpretation leaves many questions but despairingly, we must ask what now isn’t covered by this draconian law?
- Former Apple Daily CEO, Cheung Kim-hung, has been denied bail this week not due to his actions but due to messages of unsolicited support from international politicians including Dominic Raab. Raab said when the Apple Daily was closed that it was a “tool to curtail freedoms and punish dissent- rather than keep public order”, reported The Guardian. By refusing the former CEO bail, the judge is effectively showing that international support assumes guilt and ensures imprisonment - it will have serious implications if the same reasoning is used in future cases. While international governments cannot be cowed from standing up for human rights, there can be no illusions as to how devious those seeking to hurt Hong Kong truly are.
- A comprehensive piece was published this week by Kong Tsung-gan which detailed the destruction of civil society in Hong Kong and compared political prisoners in Hong Kong with the situation in other authoritarian regimes including Iran, Cuba, and Russia. According to the article, there are currently 657 political prisoners in Hong Kong while 10,551 have been arrested since the beginning of the crackdown on the city. Added to this, the largest-circulation newspaper Apple Daily was forced to close alongside many prominent civil society organisations such as the Civil Human Rights Front, as part of an undeniable crackdown on political freedoms and freedom of speech in a once very free city.
- Free speech is now officially illegal in Hong Kong: In the second conviction under the National Security Law, a demonstrator was found guilty simply for chanting political slogans. Activist Ma Chun-man, known as Captain America 2.0 for the costumes he wore while protesting, was sentenced to 5 years and 9 months in prison for chanting political slogans under the National Security Law. Prosecutors argued the chants advocated independence from China, reported Nikkei Asia this week. The Hong Kong government will apply the law in any situation they see ‘fit’. Another blow to the rule of law.
- Further insight this week into the reach of anti-democratic forces in Hong Kong as Chung Pui-kuen stepped down as editor-in-chief of pro-democracy outlet Stand News Hong Kong, citing family reasons. This decision signals a further sign of the brazen crackdown on independent media outlets, as the “survival room” for anti-government media outlets like Stand News and Apple Daily got smaller once the patriotic outlets moved in, reported the Global Times. Added to this, Chung’s wife Chan Pui-man a former Apple Daily senior journalist is currently in custody for allegedly colluding with foreign forces in endangering national security- the power couple of defending press freedoms. Stand News is known to the world for its coverage of the social unrest in the city, for which it was recognised this week as Reporters Without Borders nominated the outlet for the 2021 Press Freedom Prize for Independence. That same reputation has subsequently made it a target in Beijing’s eyes, including its employees and their families.
- Hong Kong police have this week closed an investigation into a baseball bat attack in May on a reporter, with no one facing charges. The reporter works for a newspaper linked to the spiritual group Falun Gong which is banned in China. The Hong Kong Free Press reported that it was the sixth time that staff or premises had been attacked since the paper began printing in Hong Kong in 2005, with no one being brought to justice. By failing to prosecute those responsible, the police continue to protect those who shamelessly attack journalists and in essence attacking freedom of press at the same time.
- Reporters Without Borders has this week recognised the lack of press freedom taking place in China’s oppressive system, by nominating journalist Zhang Zhan for a courage award. The nomination is in acknowledgment of her work at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Guardian reported that she has been on hunger strike for months and, according to her family, is now close to death as she is severely underweight. The family’s statement along with the nomination for the award has increased global calls for her immediate release.
- EU Today this week reported that as the opening ceremony of the 2022 Winter Olympics approaches, calls for a boycott from human rights organisations are expected to grow louder, and instead of being the propaganda coup President Xi Jinping is expecting, the calls will raise awareness of the destruction of human rights in the name of Communism. CFHK strongly urges governments around the world to prevent Beijing from ‘sportwashing’ the implementation of such an oppressive and authoritarian regime in Hong Kong.
- The Beijing’s Winter Olympics organising committee has this week rejected accusations that journalists have been blocked in their attempts to cover preparations for the Games. The Beijing Organising Committee for the Olympic Games said it “guaranteed the freedom of reporting” by international media on the Games, in accordance with “relevant Chinese policies” and on the proviso journalists abided by “relevant Chinese laws, regulations and anti-epidemic policies”, reported The Guardian.
- Dennis Kwok, a former member of the Hong Kong Legislative Council, delivered an insightful and prescient speech at Georgetown University recently. Dennis spoke on the rise of China, the continued erosion of critical democratic freedoms in Hong Kong, and the current implications for Taiwan. His full speech ran for an hour and is well worth a little bit of your time this weekend.
- The pre-election crackdown has continued as three people were arrested in Hong Kong on Tuesday for urging voters to cast blank ballots in the upcoming Legislative Council election polls. The International Business Times reported that the government has warned that boycotting the legislative poll could violate the National Security Law because the government is sensitive to any move that might cause doubt on the new “patriots only” political model. The Hong Kong government are doing everything in their power to ensure a smooth election free of protesters or those who disagree with what is currently happening in the city.
- Last week, Sara Cheng and Jessie Pang of Reuters published an exclusive story on the thousands of Hong Kong university students who have been the first to take compulsory courses on the National Security Law. The courses are said to set out the dangers of breaking the law, in a move that echoes a warning rather than an education. Once again, the National Security Law is being used to suppress the voices of the Hong Kong people.
- A number of British MPs, including Tom Tugendhat and Damian Green, have this week forwarded an amendment to the Nationality and Borders Bill. The amendment aims to enable people from Hong Kong with at least one parent who is a British national to apply for a British National Overseas visa and will be extended to those born after 1997, reported Politics.co.uk. It is great to see UK parliamentarians supporting Hong Kong nationals and welcoming them to the country. We urge the UK Government and other MPs to take note of these efforts and consider what more can be done to support the people of Hong Kong.
- An adjournment debate is due to take place on Monday 15th November in the House of Commons on the ‘Closure of Amnesty International offices in Hong Kong’.