Hong Kong authorities banned the June 4 candlelight vigil for the second consecutive year in 2021, citing the epidemic as the reason. On the first anniversary of the implementation of Hong Kong’s version of the National Security Law, Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China (HKASPDMC) Vice Chairman and Vice-Chairman Zou Xingtong publicly expressed his intention to enter Victoria Park to mourn the tragedy on the eve of the June 4 anniversary, a move seen as a symbol of guarding dignity under totalitarianism. Over the past year, Zou has been a barrister defending National Security Law defendants and speaking out on political cases. These actions stem from her long experience in defending human rights in mainland China. Although the Alliance, with its platform of “ending one-party dictatorship,” faces unprecedented risks, Zou stresses that it will not change its platform due to pressure from all sides. The intimidation tactics used by the authorities have also taught Hong Kong people how to fight under fear.
Exposure to the pro-democracy movement from overseas studies
The Hong Kong-born and bred Zou Xingtong, a high school student who studied at the prestigious Cambridge University in the U.K., told VOA that during her studies, she came into contact with many pro-democracy activists in exile in the U.K., which changed the course of her life.
In 2010, Zou gave up her doctoral studies and returned to Hong Kong, where she became involved with the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China (HKASPD), and was subsequently introduced to the Hong Kong NGO China Labor Perspectives by a friend she met in the HKASPD. Since that year, she has traveled back and forth between mainland China and Hong Kong to participate in labor rights campaigns.
Zou Xingtong said, “The main purpose of this piece of labor rights is to deal with industrial and commercial or occupational diseases, and the situation of injured workers. The logic of the whole Chinese society, that is to say, with the bottom, the spirit of the oppressed people walking.
In 2015, she decided to return to Hong Kong to take care of labor rights and the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China (HKASPDMC) when she felt the intensified crackdown on civil society on the mainland. At that time, the Umbrella Movement in Hong Kong had just ended and the localists were on the rise. The orientation of the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China (HKASPDMC) towards the mainland was questioned, and some even criticized that the annual June Fourth candlelight vigil was a mere formality.
The Alliance was questioned by the local faction
Zou Xingtong said, “It’s a good thing that there is criticism. The only thing that should not be changed or cannot be changed is the issue of purpose and pursuit, another argument is that Hong Kong people should not care about China (mainland), or this is none of our business, this kind of criticism we can not accept and will not accept. During that time, there were many friends who were involved in the social movement, and they were interested in what was happening directly around them, and that was very natural and natural. You can do your Hong Kong issues, I can do my China issues, there is no right or wrong. Our goals are actually the same, we want to fight for democracy. Then we should be more tolerant of each other.”
She believes that the focus of past social movements in Hong Kong has been off.
Zou Xingtong said, “The focus of the social movement in Hong Kong is on the fact that the Hong Kong government is wrong, and that the person who is in charge, who makes the decision, is not actually in the Hong Kong government, but in Beijing. How the Beijing government thinks and how it controls the society, these things should be learned and understood in order to really deal with the strategies and suppression from Beijing. Therefore, I think it is very important to understand Chinese society, politics, and the experience of the civil society in playing games with the government. In fact, there are not many groups in Hong Kong that can do this, and the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China is one of them, so at least the whole society in Hong Kong is more prepares (prepared) for the inevitable suppression by the Chinese Communist Party.”
The Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China and the local faction have differences in principle, but the implementation of the National Security Law in Hong Kong has prompted both sides to seek common ground while preserving differences.
Zou Xingtong said, “The localists are probably motivated by a genuine concern for what’s going on around them, that is, you love this place and you want to do something for this place, and I don’t think that’s a problem at all, just to say that even if you are concerned about local issues, it doesn’t mean you can’t be friends with people like me who are concerned about Chinese issues, because on that basis it’s actually possible to live together peacefully. I don’t think there is a fundamental contradiction, and I think it is more obvious this year, after the implementation of the national security law in Hong Kong, we have seen more cases where localists and people like us who are doing China things can make friends. In previous years, people would simply feel that China (mainland) is our enemy, so the Chinese (mainland) people are our enemies, in fact, the Chinese government is your enemy, the Chinese people actually you have to fight for them to become your allies.”
12 Hong Kong people case links China and Hong Kong
In August 2020, 12 Hong Kong youths were intercepted at sea by Chinese marine police and sent to Shenzhen for detention. On the one hand, human rights lawyers from mainland China traveled to Shenzhen from all over the world, demanding to meet with their clients, while social activists in Hong Kong organized their families to speak out to the media.
Zou Xingtong said that during the rescue operation of the 12 Hong Kong people, the local faction had the first real access to mainland human rights lawyers. In the aftermath, some localists said publicly that Chinese human rights lawyers could be companions of the Hong Kong democracy movement.
Zou Xingtong said, “This case really changed the mindset of many Hong Kong people, and for the first time, they saw so directly that the two places can actually support each other’s resistance, and need each other’s help, for example, if there is a movement in China, you can show solidarity at the Liaison Office of the Central People’s Government in Hong Kong, and if there is a movement in Hong Kong, friends in China (mainland China) will raise signs to support Hong Kong. Hong Kong people actually need the help of that group of people. Through this case, we can actually see that China (mainland) is not only your enemy, but actually has your colleagues in it.”
The “12 Hong Kong people case” also let Zou Xingtong learned that in the face of power can not be submissive.
The case is usually very ugly in the end if you just listen to it one way, to avoid its red line, it told you not to see the media, you do not see the media, told you not to expose the torture inside, you do not expose it. Public attention is a power, media attention is also a power, even the international attention is also a power, you have this power, it will not dare too messy. The ’12 Hong Kong people case’ is not too badly handled in terms of Chinese justice. The government has basically complied with all the relevant time limits of the criminal procedure law, the notice and circular will at least be published, and will not be unknown even after the secret trial. Why is that? Because they know a lot of people are watching. You have to show an attitude that I’m not at your mercy so that you can have a better outcome.”
Hong Kong justice reduced to a tool of suppression
Separately, 47 Hong Kong people were charged with conspiracy to subvert state power in March this year for organizing or participating in the pro-democracy primaries. The prosecution argued that the defendants conspired to plan and commit the crime, and persisted in the plan even after the implementation of the state security law.
As the defense lawyer for one of the defendants, Zou Jiacheng, she witnessed four consecutive days of bail hearings in the case and confirmed that Hong Kong’s courts have become a tool of political repression.
You don’t need to go through those four days of hearings to know that the ’47ers’ case is essentially a political prosecution,” said Zou Xingtong. Anyone with a discerning eye can see that participating in primary elections, promoting a policy platform, using your Basic Law (given) the right to make some changes, why would this become illegal? I admire those on the prosecution side who can package this as a legal issue. The whole thing is clearly about getting the political leaders of the democratic camp in.”
She said that the “47 people case” and the “Lai Chi-ying case” epitomize the precariousness of Hong Kong’s judicial independence under the National Security Law.
Zou Xingtong said, “The National Security Law is a clear intervention. It gives the executive branch the power to appoint certain kinds of judges. The public gets the impression that they will pick pro-Beijing judges or judges with more conservative positions to be national security judges. The public is not likely to believe that you have a fully independent court. The various pressures and whistles from the government also constitute a threat to the judges. How can you be independent when your regime threatens in this way? Therefore, the judicial independence of Hong Kong is really under great threat.”
The Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China (HKASPDMC) has for years insisted on “ending one-party dictatorship” as the core of its platform, and on June 12, the director of the Liaison Office of the Central People’s Government in Hong Kong, Mr. Luo Huining, said at a forum that those who call for “ending one-party dictatorship” are the real enemies of Hong Kong’s prosperity and stability.
Zou Xingtong stressed that as vice chairman of the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China (HKASPDMC), he is responsible for keeping the gate and will not change his platform because of the comments made by officials like Locke or pro-Beijing scholars.
Zou Xingtong said, “The Alliance is a sacred organization. It exists for an ideal value. It is to vindicate the 1989 pro-democracy movement, to fight for democracy in China, and to end one-party dictatorship. This position and attitude have to be put forward to guard the dignity of Hong Kong people. I think that since the passage of the National Security Law, we have lost ground in order to preserve our strength, but there are certain positions and values that we must adhere to. The Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China (HKASPDMC) is such a position-based organization that has demonstrated the bottom line of Hong Kong people’s conscience for more than 30 years. Whether you change the law at will or use the court to suppress it at will, it will not change our insistence. I don’t think we can disband ourselves and surrender our arms just because of these blows. You can put me in jail, but my position is still ‘to end one-party dictatorship’. At least this attitude I put there.”
Detained by Hong Kong police on the eve of June 4
On the eve of June 4, Zou Xingtong posted on Facebook that she would enter Victoria Park on the night of June 4 in her personal capacity, after which she was detained by Hong Kong police for more than 30 hours before being released.
Zou Xingtong said, “There is actually a consideration of risk sharing. The risks that a group and an individual can take are different. If the movement is to continue, if it can’t be done in the name of an organization, then it should be done in the name of an individual. It’s important to continue the June 4 candlelight and the struggle for this memory, if it’s in the name of an individual, once it’s shut down it’s also a personal problem.”
Zou Xingtong was unable to commemorate June 4 at the Victoria Park, which was heavily cordoned off by police during her detention, yet thousands of Hong Kong people wandered the outskirts of the park and the streets of the downtown area that night, holding cell phone lights or candlelight.
Since the National Security Law (was implemented), everyone has been quite frightened, the whole civil society has sunk, and we no longer see people taking to the streets to participate in large marches,” said Zou Xingtong. I saw a turning point on June 4. People are coming out again, and they are willing to take to the streets again. There is definitely fear, but how do you live, act, and resist in spite of that fear? I think I saw a little bit of that here on June 4, and then I hope people will slowly learn how to fight in spite of fear.”
Macau, like Hong Kong, has banned civil society organizations from holding June 4 candlelight vigils since last year, but this year the Macau government has gone a step further by raising the ban on June 4 rallies to the level of national security for the first time. Zou Xingtong called on Hong Kong people not to back down because of the regime’s intimidation. I think that why Hong Kong has not been on par with Macau? We have different strengths. The accumulation of 30 years of candlelight in the Victoria Park in Hong Kong is something it does not dare to move easily. If you suddenly say ‘there was no massacre on June 4’, you will provoke a huge backlash. It will be jealous of this kind of civil backlash. I think the most important thing is not to feel that you don’t have power in the first place. Actually there is. It’s to avoid Hong Kong turning into the current situation in Macau.”