Hong Kong’s rapid slide into authoritarianism took another turn for the worse this week. On Tuesday afternoon, four Hong Kong pro-democracy activists made a dramatic bid for asylum at the US consulate in the territory. According to local media reports, the four activists, having made it past security and inside the consulate, re-emerged shortly after their asylum applications were denied.
It appears to have been a desperate attempt to obtain protection after Beijing’s imposition of a National Security Law on Hong Kong, and occurred just hours after a reporter from Hong Kong’s South China Morning Post witnessed pro-independence activist Tony Chung (鍾翰林), 19, being led away from a coffee shop opposite the consulate by unidentified individuals.
UK-based Hong Kong advocacy group Friends of Hong Kong later confirmed that Chung was intending to apply for political asylum, but messaged the group at about 8:10am to say he was being tailed. Minutes later, all contact with Chung was lost.
Chung was the convener of the now disbanded pro-independence group Studentlocalism. The group suspended its operations in Hong Kong hours before Beijing enacted the draconian national security legislation on June 30.
Despite the group’s disbandment, Chung and two other former members of Studentlocalism — William Chan (陳渭賢) and Yanni Ho (何忻諾) — were arrested in late July for allegedly “inciting secession,” but were released on bail.
Yesterday, prosecutors formerly charged Chung with secession during a court hearing. Other prominent members of Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement have also been arrested in the past few months, including Joshua Wong (黃之鋒), Agnes Chow (周庭) and Jimmy Lai (黎智英).
The retroactive application of the national security legislation is shocking — but predictable. The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) not only does not understand the concept of the rule of law, it despises it. Formed along Leninist lines, the assimilation and retention of absolute power are deeply ingrained in the party’s DNA.
Having comprehensively infiltrated Hong Kong’s police force, the next step was to impose the mainland’s national security legislation to crush the territory’s once-independent judiciary. Now, it is carrying out waves of arrests to terrorize the Hong Kong populace into silence and submission.
The language used by Chinese officials to describe Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement is telling. Words such as “virus,” “contagion,” “infection” and “poison” repeatedly trip off the tongues of party apparatchiks. It demonstrates that the party is genuinely fearful of the spread of ideas and independence of thought, and explains why, from Beijing’s perspective, the budding democracy movement in Hong Kong had to be crushed sooner rather than later.
At the same time, Beijing is attempting to spin a narrative to the mainland Chinese public that Hong Kong’s democracy movement is a hotchpotch grouping of separatist agitators and nihilistic anarchists, egged on by malign foreign forces.
News anchors at state broadcaster China Central Television have even begun using derogatory language, referring to the often black-clad Hong Kong activists as “heiren” (黑人, gangsters). These are the depths to which the CCP is prepared to plumb to sow a hatred of Hong Kongers among mainland Chinese. It is a classic divide-and-rule strategy to prevent the formation of a united opposition.
Under intense pressure from the authorities and unable to leave the territory, keeping the flame of resistance alive will be increasingly difficult in the months and years ahead for Hong Kongers.
Taiwan’s fate is more closely linked to Hong Kong than many realize. The easier it is for Beijing to subdue Hong Kong, the more appealing a military annexation of Taiwan will look to China’s leaders.
Taiwan’s government, the nation’s civic groups and media must do everything in their power to help keep the flame of resistance burning in Hong Kong.
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