On Sunday last week, more than 1 million Hong Kongers took to the streets. They wore white shirts symbolizing justice and mourning, and carried signs reading “No extradition to China” and “Scrap the China extradition bill.”
Hong Kong’s population is about 7.5 million, so about one in seven Hong Kongers took part in the protest march. There were solidarity protests in 29 cities around the world, including Taipei, Washington, New York, Vancouver, Tokyo, Berlin, Prague and Sydney, with overseas Hong Kongers and locals voicing their support.
It is believed to be the biggest protest action in Hong Kong since the UK handed the territory over to China in 1997.
The angry backlash to the proposed amendments to two Hong Kong laws — the Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters Ordinance and the Fugitive Offenders Ordinance — arises from Hong Kongers’ fear of losing the territory’s most valuable assets — judicial independence and personal freedoms.
Hong Kongers are worried the amendments could be used by the Chinese authorities to target dissidents and that Hong Kong would sink into China’s opaque judicial system, in which detainees are tortured and human rights are violated.
Foreign businesses and diplomats have also warned that the amended extradition laws are sure to threaten the legal basis for Hong Kong’s status as a global financial center.
As “father of Hong Kong’s democracy” Martin Lee (柱李銘) has said, this is Hong Kong’s last battle and the most serious threat to Hong Kongers’ freedom since the territory’s handover in 1997.
People in Hong Kong and the international community have good reason to be concerned. China’s communist rulers do not allow Chinese citizens to enjoy freedom and human rights.
Since Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) came to power, the Chinese government’s anti-democratic practices and repression of civil society have gone from bad to worse.
Notably, the Beijing regime seeks to spread the “Chinese model,” with Hong Kong the first to suffer, despite the promise of “one country, two systems.”
Its judicial transparency and independence faces serious challenges. In the past few years, Chinese tycoon Xiao Jianhua (肖建華) and Causeway Bay Books manager Lam Wing-kei (林榮基) disappeared in Hong Kong, from where they were taken to China and locked up. These and other incidents prove that the long and secretive arm of China’s judicial system extends into Hong Kong.
It is precisely for this reason that the University of Hong Kong revealed a public opinion poll on June 6 showing that 66 percent of respondents objected to the extradition bill, which was more than the 55 percent of Hong Kongers who opposed the enactment of Article 23 of Hong Kong’s Basic Law regarding national security in 2003.
At the time, more than 500,000 people took to the streets to protest against the use of treason, subversion and other offenses against the central government to clamp down on Hong Kong’s culture of free thought.
They eventually succeeded in forcing the Hong Kong government to end legislative proceedings.
This time around even more people have taken to the streets than during the “Umbrella movement” in 2014, showing that the Hong Kong public is even angrier.
As expected, the Chinese authorities’ view is the polar opposite to that of the people of Hong Kong.
The Global Times newspaper accused the organizers of the demonstration of exaggerating the number of participants and said that collusion with the West would not affect the overall situation.
Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam (林鄭月娥) has stressed the necessity of the extradition bill and pledged to improve communication.
It is obvious that Xi is losing patience with a free and open Hong Kong governed by the rule of law.
It is also clear that he is determined to break former Chinese vice premier Deng Xiaoping’s (鄧小平) promise that Hong Kong should enjoy a high level of autonomy and remain unchanged for 50 years, just as he abandoned Deng’s foreign policy according to which China would “conceal its capabilities and bide its time.”
Following Tibet and Xinjiang, Hong Kong is also falling under Beijing’s iron-fisted rule. It is unlikely to enjoy the “glory” of a “mighty big power,” while it struggles to maintain its shine under China’s Orwellian dictatorship.
Before even half of the 50 years promised by Deng have passed, Hong Kong, no longer the “pearl of the Orient,” has become a mediocre, lackluster Chinese harbor city in a tragic tale of what happens to a free and open territory when it falls under the rule of a totalitarian dictatorship.
“One country, two systems” is a deception, while “one country, one system” is a true description of what Chinese dictatorship is all about.
As Taiwanese watch the events in Hong Kong with alarm, they must give their loud and clear support to the people of Hong Kong, who do not accept oppression, choose not to obey and are standing up to be counted.
Taiwanese must also recognize their own situation and rid themselves of any illusions about China.
When Deng talked about “one country, two systems,” he talked about using Hong Kong as a model to bait Taiwan into accepting unification.
However, the true face of the “one country, two systems” model has been exposed, and as Taiwanese see through the deceit, it becomes impossible to accept.
The extradition bill shines a light on Taiwan’s politicians and media outlets. One politician commented on the protests against the bill by saying: “I did not know” and “I was not aware of that.”
Of course the same politician did not dare say anything against China.
There were also media outlets that followed the lead of state-run Chinese media, ignoring the protests altogether, and media pundits that followed the Global Times’ lead and criticized the protest organizers, the pan-democracy camp, for relying on the help of foreign forces.
This goes to show that China’s efforts to cultivate “fellow travelers” in Taiwan are working and that they are prepared to repeat anything China says when a major issue is at stake.
This is more evidence that the enemy is already here.
Translated by Julian Clegg and Perry Svensson
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