Wed, Jul 25, 2018 - Page 8 News List

Hong Kong National Party ban a mistake

By Joseph Tse-Hei Lee 李榭熙

The Hong Kong government has suspended the Hong Kong National Party after its call for the territory’s independence was perceived by China as a severe threat to national security.

This cruel and unjust ban on the freedom of association and speech in Hong Kong has sent dangerous signals to the world.

Founded by Andy Hon-tin Chan (陳浩天) on March 28, 2016, the Hong Kong National Party was composed of many student leaders and activists who were frustrated with the disappointing outcomes of the “Umbrella movement” in late 2014.

Striving to replace Chinese dictatorial rule with a democratically elected republic and empowering Hong Kongers against the marginalization of their territory, this new party intensified debate over the terms of constitutional citizenship in post-colonial Hong Kong.

Chinese officials in charge of Hong Kong affairs have condemned any talk of independence as treasonous, and urged the Hong Kong authorities to prosecute and punish the activists. The local ruling elites have agreed with Beijing and called for harsh actions against pro-independence activists.

Today, simple talk of Hong Kong’s independence is prohibited in universities, schools and the media. Evidently, Beijing and its local handpicked agents have demonized pro-independence sentiment, thereby creating a public panic and imposing draconian control over the territory.

This has severely jeopardized the public’s right to freedom of expression and association, which was supposed to be protected by the rule of law.

Now the trade war between China and the US is escalating, a great sense of crisis has prompted the Chinese Communist Party to silence internal dissent and suppress civil rights.

Beijing, worried that pro-independence voices might develop into an uncontrollable force against the Hong Kong government and even China, is keen to repress Hong Kong’s civil society into quiescence, replacing the promise of administrative autonomy with total submission to the dictatorship.

Whatever Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam (林鄭月娥) feels about the territory’s future, she senses that the political wind is blowing to her advantage. She has carefully positioned herself as a Chinese patriot, emphasizing nationalism and conservative values.

She appears to be more skillful than the hopelessly divided pro-democracy camp.

Authoritarian leaders worldwide seek to delegitimize universal values, human rights and civic liberties. Ruling with an anti-US platform and going after the Hong Kong National Party have not only made Lam look tough and loyal in the eyes of Beijing, it has also weakened the credibility of local opposition parties.

With authoritarianism on the rise, many Hong Kongers have doubts about the wisdom and cost of embracing Western liberal values.

During the darkest moments of the Chinese Communist Revolution in January 1930, Mao Zedong (毛澤東) said: “A single spark can start a prairie fire.”

This remark implied a hope that small groups would give rise to a powerful revolutionary force, and a warning that minor mistakes could lead to disaster.

At that time, Mao held on to the hope that a tiny group of dedicated communists would eventually defeat the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) regime, take over the nation and achieve a socialist revolution.

Only time will tell if history will repeat itself in Hong Kong. Yet, the systematic demonization, suppression and prosecution of Hong Kong’s pro-independence activists does nothing more than erode a system of good governance and reduce the number of genuine actors in the political domain.

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