Cheng Xiaonong: Hong Kong’s Darkest Hour

The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has turned on Hong Kong’s Apple Daily, a newspaper it wants to get rid of as soon as possible, no longer caring about Hong Kong’s faltering international status. on June 17, Hong Kong police deployed more than 500 people to search the Apple Daily building and other locations, arresting five of the newspaper’s executives. The police claimed that the newspaper had published dozens of articles since 2019, in violation of the National Security Law. The National Security Law only came into force on June 30 last year, and the Chinese Communist Party, in its usual “party over law” approach, has included the freedom of the press in Hong Kong before the National Security Law as evidence of its guilt. Apparently, it has no qualms about treating the rule of law in Hong Kong as a shackle to its current dictatorship, and treating the Hong Kong executive and judicial system as the CCP’s pawns in the mainland, and has begun to do whatever it wants in Hong Kong nakedly. The mainstream media of Western countries have reported on this, and the U.S. State Department has strongly condemned it, but the Chinese Communist Party has not been moved.

Rather than the crackdown on Apple Daily to coincide with the 100th anniversary of the CCP’s founding, this action in Hong Kong is an opportunity to take advantage of the increased political repression in the mainland to extinguish the last vestiges of press freedom that remain in Hong Kong and turn Hong Kong into a complete Communist-style rule. Although the Chinese Communist Party still regards Hong Kong as “outside the country” in economic terms, and Hong Kong-Land trade is temporarily called foreign trade, Hong Kong has been reduced to “inside the country” in political terms.

The word “hostile” was used in the indictment prepared by the administration before this arrest. This is a political charge that has been used since the establishment of the Chinese Communist Party in the mainland, and its predecessor was the crime of “counter-revolution”; after Mao’s death, the term was changed to hostile forces, which means that any voice that says no to the Chinese Communist Party, as long as it speaks out, is a “political opposition crime”. The large number of mainlanders who have moved to Hong Kong after the reform in Hong Kong today have learned to keep their mouths shut in order to escape potential political threats on the mainland. From this perspective, the Apple Daily case is not only about the destruction of freedom of the press, but also directly related to the eradication of freedom of expression in Hong Kong.

Freedom of speech has disappeared, leaving only insinuation and slander

Political freedom must be based on freedom of thought and free speech. After the free media was suppressed, only social media were left to express free speech; when the speech on social media was also purged according to the “hostile” rule, the freedom of speech in Hong Kong disappeared. Under such circumstances, Hong Kong people, like mainlanders, are left with only the possibility of insinuation and slander, and such speech can be criminalized at any time if reported by undesirable elements. It will not be long before civil servants and employees of companies in Hong Kong are evaluated on the basis of no “inappropriate comments” and “good political performance”. When the Communist regime reveals its dictatorial teeth, “hostility” is the most common tactic to intimidate those who say no to the Communist Party.

An old French friend of mine, the sinologist Michel Bonnin, quoted a few lines from the East German poet Bertolt Brecht in his book The Lost Generation many years ago: “Leaders, wouldn’t it be easier to dissolve the people and elect a new one?” But this was discovered only after his death, when he wrote such verses and dared only to belabor them when he was alive. Once the communist regime took control of the formerly free society, its usual practice of denying freedom of speech and thought was a forced red social transformation, where the ideologically disobedient had to at least shut up, or else he was removed from the category of “people” and persecuted. This inevitably caused fear among members of the formerly free society, and flight became an option. After the Soviet occupation of East Germany, a large number of middle-class East Germans left their homes and moved to West Germany; later, before and after the Berlin Wall was built, many East Germans continued to flee by various means in order to join freedom. Now a large number of middle-class families in Hong Kong have abandoned their homes and emigrated, which is the choice of the foresighted.