The choice of Hong Kong’s non-partisan scholars in the face of the strong deterrence of the National Security Law

Nearly one year since the implementation of the Hong Kong version of the national security law, more than one hundred Hong Kong people have been arrested, some of them suspected of colluding with foreign or overseas forces to endanger national security. In an interview with the Voice of America, Hong Kong Institute of Public Opinion Research (HKIPR) Deputy CEO Jianhua Zhong also said that the arbitrary nature of the enforcement of the national security law has increased his own worries.

I would never call on others to do something, even for the June Fourth Gala I would not call on others to participate, I think people will know how to judge. Now it’s all the more important to be careful not to have a single word about these issues, just like Mr. Li Ping of Apple Daily was said to be colluding with foreign forces, it’s really whatever the government likes to say.”

Zhong Jianhua originally had the habit of uploading articles to Facebook, but he believes that the current political situation in Hong Kong is severe and it is necessary to make adjustments.

The political climate has changed for the worse and less articles are being written

Chung said, “From April 2020 until the end of November, I uploaded an article and a poem to Facebook every day. My poems are using the genre of Tang poems and Song lyrics. Through the articles and poems, I satirize the government and criticize its inappropriate actions, and I will even criticize the Communist Party. I would write every day. I wrote close to 200 poems during that period, but things got worse after November. I also wrote less. After January this year I tended to write only poems, not articles. I am sure you will understand without too much explanation. I use a few lines in a poetic way to be more subtle, so people can guess what I want to say.”

The anti-Send-China movement and the Hong Kong version of the National Security Law have triggered many Hong Kong people to emigrate. In the first five months of this year, Hong Kong police received more than 15,000 applications for the Certificate of No Criminal Conviction, commonly known as the “Good Citizen Certificate,” an increase of more than 40 percent year-on-year. The British government has received more than 34,000 applications in the first quarter of this year since it announced the opening of the BNO, or British National (Overseas) Passport, for immigrant visas.

Zhong Jianhua said that many of his friends around him have also chosen to immigrate in the past year.

The government seems to have no bottom line now,” he said. In the past year, I have many friends have immigrated away from Hong Kong. Many of the students I teach myself have also emigrated as a family recently. They would all remind me that they were worried about my situation and ‘why don’t you leave too.’ People who know me or not will mention this. So I can’t stop thinking about it. I used to hold a BNO (British National (Overseas) Passport), but it expired and was not renewed, but with the National Security Act, I applied for a BNO again after the old one had expired for more than ten or twenty years in order to give myself and my family some peace of mind.”

Considering immigration for peace of mind

Hong Kong from August 1 this year will implement the Immigration Amendment Ordinance, empowering the government to require airlines to notify the Immigration Department of passenger information before the arrival of flights in Hong Kong, while empowering the Immigration Department to require airlines to prohibit the carriage of individual passengers. Although the Security Bureau stressed that the amended regulations only apply to flights to Hong Kong, but the outside world doubts that the amendments give the Immigration Department unfettered power to prevent Hong Kong residents from leaving.

Zhong Jianhua said: “The government in addition to the provisions to prevent people from boarding, but also some people told me that you only have BNO is not enough, but also add ‘right of abode in Britain’, but at least I have BNO again, some people will feel that it is the last protection. Under the epidemic, the government appealed to the public to get vaccinated. I initially had no intention of getting it, and then I was reminded that even with a BNO in hand, you have to have a vaccination record if you want to leave, so I finally got vaccinated at the end of April.”

The national security law has also caused Jianhua Zhong’s family to lose confidence in Hong Kong.

Jianhua Zhong said, “My second son came back to Hong Kong after his studies in Australia and was planning to develop his job and career in Hong Kong, but after the national security law came into effect, there was a time when he made it very clear that he intended to leave. At that time I felt a little surprised, but afterwards I thought it was normal because it is difficult for a young man in his twenties to spend the rest of his life in such a society. In fact, none of my family’s main relatives had emigrated, yet there was such a shift in the space of a year.”

The biggest problem, he says, is that the current predicament seems endless.

People can’t demonstrate and petition, and some people don’t even dare to open their voices, and with the epidemic, the community is very depressed,” said Jianhua Zhong. When people come out for dinner and chat, the topic is inseparable from immigration, or how to deal with the education problem under the National Security Law, and it can be seen that there is a general uncooperative mood toward the government. Friends would laugh among themselves at the ridiculous behavior of government officials, pro-Beijing people, and Beijing, and have a bittersweet laugh, but on the other hand, the upper class is lying every day. I think the biggest problem is that at the moment we can’t see what kind of an endgame the government wants to pursue, and the problem is that no one knows how long this current atmosphere will continue.”

Denied entry by the mainland

Jianhua Zhong bought a house in Guangzhou shortly after sovereignty over Hong Kong was returned to China in 1997. In recent years, he has frequently visited Guangzhou for weekends, but in November 2019, as Hong Kong’s anti-Send-China movement was in full swing, he was denied entry by mainland authorities at the Shenzhen port. Zhong Jianhua called a Chinese official in charge of United Front Work to inquire. According to the official, his denial of entry was related to the “tense situation.

I thought about selling my house, but I felt sorry for it,” Zhong said. I had planned to stay on the mainland more after I retired, so I could exchange my license plate for a mainland car and drive to different places to explore the scenery and historical sites. But with the current environment, it is inevitable to consider whether in the long run also to return to the mainland to retire.”

Zhong Jianhua has exchanged views on Hong Kong with Chinese officials in charge of united front work, and cited himself as an example that Hong Kong people did not originally resist the central government, but that Beijing’s policies have driven Hong Kong people further and further away.

Zhong Jianhua said, “Even if we often talk too much and criticize the government, or even have opinions about the situation in China, we are actually not the type of people they say are ‘anti-China and rebellious to Hong Kong’ and ‘resistant to Chinese culture. This just proves the failure of Beijing. We were among the first group of people who supported the return of democracy in the early (1980s) and felt that we should be cleared of our colonial past. By today it seems to be forced by the situation to go further and further away.”

Jianhua Zhong had been a regular contributor to Apple Daily. He said the termination of Apple’s operations did not affect him personally too much, but the symbolism behind it was poignant.

It is a clear symbol of Beijing’s fundamental inability to maintain Hong Kong’s original way of life and to live up to all the promises it had already made to Hong Kong people in the 1980s, so the biggest failure is not Apple Daily or the democracy movement, but Beijing,” Chung said. I am missing a platform (for publication), but I think, in fact, the era of big media has basically passed, it doesn’t matter to me, most of the words I write are not submitted to newspapers, most of them are (published) on Facebook or other social platforms. I will continue to write. I used to post every week in the Apple Forum, and maybe every Monday after that I’ll have a ‘My Apple Forum’ on Facebook”

Inviting academics to speak is becoming increasingly difficult

In January this year, Hong Kong police arrived at Chung Kin-wah as the deputy chief executive in charge of co-organizing and operating the Hong Kong Institute of Public Opinion Research survey for the 2020 pro-democracy primary election. The police asked Chung Kin-wah to assist in the investigation and went to his home to search for evidence.

According to Chung, it has become increasingly difficult for the institute to invite scholars over the past year.

We initially intended to provide more opportunities for young scholars, but most of these young scholars are afraid to answer appointments, and some who used to be very familiar even do not reply to my messages on WhatsApp, and some will frankly tell me that if we come out to speak now, we are worried that we will spoil it for our supervisors or affect the renewal of our contracts,” Chung said. I have been told by individual college people that scholars have to write briefings to their supervisors after speaking publicly. Even if someone would attend, they would have to take a leave of absence, even without using their title. It didn’t used to be that way; it used to be that people were encouraged to get involved in the community and make professional contributions in the community, but now it’s become that way.”

Not choosing to be silenced by fear

Although facing many challenges, Jianhua Zhong stressed that he will insist on speaking out and will not remain silent for fear of stepping on the red line by mistake.

Jianhua Zhong said, “I have been playing the role of a public intellectual for many years. I feel I have a responsibility to society and should not stop pointing out where the problems are. If everyone chooses to be silent out of fear, they are playing into the government’s hands. I have never been partisan or affiliated with any political group. At a time when everyone is self-adjusting and feels the need to be silenced for various reasons, I feel it is more my responsibility to say as much as I can and do as much as I can to let the government and the community know a perspective that may not necessarily be the official perspective, or even if the official perspective is wrong and a lie.”