“The Disillusioned Inherent Values of the “New Hong Kong
July 1, 2021 marks the centennial of the founding of the Chinese Communist Party and the first anniversary of the implementation of the National Security Law in Hong Kong. A week before that, Hong Kong was in a bloody state, and the Apple Daily, which had stood in Hong Kong for twenty-six years, was forced to cease operation. The fall of the benchmark of press freedom in Hong Kong also symbolizes the disillusionment of an inherent value of the “old Hong Kong”. In just one year, the values that had built Hong Kong in the past were almost “destroyed”. Hong Kong has been transformed into a “new Hong Kong”, or even jokingly called “South Shenzhen”. A year ago, it was claimed that only a “handful of people” would be targeted, but a year later, people are arrested every three days on average. The “second reunification” after a gap of more than 20 years has brought Hong Kong people, is it a gain, or a loss?
“Voting now, please press the voting machine. Passed!”
On the morning of June 30, 2020, the Standing Committee of China’s National People’s Congress (NPC) passed the draft “Hong Kong national security law” by 162 votes in Beijing, in time for the 23rd anniversary of the handover of Hong Kong’s sovereignty to China on July 1 to realize the “second reunification” that Beijing has been thinking about.
The “National Security Law” to be passed first and the provisions to be announced later
This bill, which has far-reaching implications for the fate of 7 million people in Hong Kong, first appeared in the public eye on May 21, 2020. On that day, the pro-Beijing Hong Kong media reported that Beijing planned to start the legislative process of the “Hong Kong National Security Law” during the National People’s Congress, bypassing the Hong Kong Legislative Council altogether and having the legislation enacted directly by Beijing and then handed over to the Hong Kong government for implementation.
In just over a month, Beijing passed the bill, during which Beijing and Hong Kong government officials kept emphasizing the necessity of the legislation and encouraged the pro-Beijing camp to “support the legislation”, but never announced the specific provisions.
The Hong Kong public really saw the provisions of the “Hong Kong national security law” at 11:00 p.m. on June 30, a dozen hours after the bill was passed and an hour before the 23rd anniversary of the handover of Hong Kong’s sovereignty. As soon as the provisions were published, they took effect immediately.
A “national security law” parallel to Hong Kong’s common law
“It’s basically a whole parallel system, an overriding law on top of the original common law. It’s not destroying the original system at all, it’s opening up a new thing.” This is how Hong Kong barrister Zou Xingtong summarized the “Hong Kong National Security Law” formulated by Beijing.
Less than 24 hours after the law came into effect, the first case of a 23-year-old man, Tang Ying-kit, was charged for allegedly driving a motorcycle with the flag of the “Restoration of Hong Kong Era Revolution” into a police officer on duty in Wan Chai. He was charged with “inciting others to secede from the state” and “terrorist activity” under the “Hong Kong National Security Law” and one count of causing grievous bodily harm by dangerous driving as an alternative charge to the terrorist activity charge. The case is an alternate charge to the terrorism charge.
The first case of the National Security Law was tried without a jury and by an appointed judge
Nearly a year after Tang was returned to scabbard, the case recently went to trial. The most controversial part of the case is the “first case” of the National Security Law, which is a benchmark, as the case was tried by three designated National Security Law judges, Du Li Bing, Peng Bao Qin and Chen Jia Xin, instead of by a jury. The defendant filed a judicial review of the case, but lost and had his appeal dismissed.
The judge’s rationale was Article 46 of the National Security Law, which provides that the Department of Justice may direct that the proceedings be heard by a bench of three judges without a jury.
“The ball evidence, the circumstantial evidence, the Football Association, the FA, the Football Committee, all of them are my people.”
“In the past, all High Court cases had juries, and the principle was that it was just the ordinary people around you who judged whether you were guilty or not guilty. It is obvious that the government does not believe in ordinary people when it enacts this ‘National Security Law’, he does not believe that we ordinary people are in agreement with him about what is meant by ‘endangering national security’, so the existence of a jury is not allowed.” Zou Xingtong analyzed the official logic behind the “National Security Law” without a jury.
“The designation of judges is also something that hurts the public’s confidence in the law, that is, you pick the ballot box, of course, pick the person who is most favorable to you. No matter how much the judge emphasizes that I’m still an independent, professional person, the impression to the public is that the regime is picking judges that are favorable to themselves.” Zou Xingtong added.
The government has never released the list of judges designated under the National Security Law, and the public can only peek at which judges are designated under the National Security Law each time a case is heard. We have written to the Hong Kong Judiciary and the Chief Executive’s Office to inquire about the list of judges designated under the National Security Law. The Chief Executive’s Office refused to disclose the names on the grounds of “personal confidentiality” and the need to prevent “undermining”.
The CE’s Office also cited Article 14 of the “Hong Kong National Security Law” – “The work of the Hong Kong National Security Council shall not be interfered with by any other institution, organization or individual in Hong Kong, and information on its work shall not be disclosed.
A Hong Kong netizen quoted a line from Stephen Chow’s movie “Shaolin Soccer”, “The ball card, the sideline card, the Football Association, the FA, the Football Committee, all of them are my people, how can you fight with me? (All of them are my people, how can you fight with me?)”
In addition, there is also the “drifting Dragon Gate”.
“Basically, what the government says is against the law is against the law, and there’s no way you can challenge that determination.” Zou Xingtong said.
“The law itself is unclear, and there is no definition of what is meant by ‘subversion of the state’ or ‘secession of the state’. The power to define what it means to break the law and what it means to be legal, that power seems to lie in the political decisions of the regime, and there is no one by the courts to say how this thing should be interpreted.”
“A small group of people”? On average, someone is arrested every 3 days
Before the implementation of the “Hong Kong National Security Law,” senior officials from Beijing to the Hong Kong government stressed that the “National Security Law” only targets a “small group of people,” including “Hong Kong independents and violent elements. The law will not affect the basic rights and freedoms of other Hong Kong people.
However, nearly one year after the implementation of the “Hong Kong national security law,” according to the data provided by the Hong Kong police, as of June 23, 2021, 114 people have been arrested on suspicion of “endangering national security,” plus the former “Apple Daily” editor Fung Wai-kwong, who was arrested at the Hong Kong airport on June 27. The total number of arrests, not counting those wanted, is 115, including the arrest of former Apple Daily editor Feng Weiguang (pseudonym Lu Feng) at the Hong Kong airport on June 27.
In other words, every three days, on average, someone is arrested under the National Security Law. There was a time when the first thing Hong Kong people did every day when they woke up was to watch their phones for news of further arrests.
Among those arrested, a total of 64 people were prosecuted, a prosecution rate of more than half; a total of 48 people, that is, 75% of the defendants were refused bail by the court, or did not apply for bail to return scabbard.
“Conspiracy to subvert state power” in the primary election
The most sensational case is the “primary election case”. 47 democrats were charged with “conspiracy to subvert state power” under the National Security Law for initiating or participating in the non-legally binding Legislative Council primary election last year, and were arraigned in court in March this year. The bail hearing alone lasted 4 days and 4 nights. During the “marathon” trial, some defendants were sent to hospital when they became unwell.
Many defendants were unable to freshen up and lacked sleep. Barrister Lau Wai-chung, one of the defendants, once described the trial as “not only a deprivation of freedom, but also a deprivation of personal hygiene, appearance and self-confidence.
“The official logic behind “imprisonment before trial
After layers of appeals, so far only 12 people have been granted bail in the same case, while the remaining 35 people have been “imprisoned before trial” for more than 100 days. Among them are former legislators, district councilors, academics, journalists, lawyers, doctors, airline pilots, etc. The court refused bail on the grounds that there was insufficient evidence to prove that the defendants “would not endanger national security”.
“The logic is basically to assume that you will break the law, which is contrary to the common law’s respect for a person’s right to freedom, respect for the presumption of innocence, and the right to bail.” Zou Xingtong said.
“Bail is a human right, that is, a person is innocent until convicted by the court, innocent people should have freedom, the logic of Hong Kong law is very clear. But the national security law is the reverse of the text, unless you can convince the court that you will not continue to act against national security, or you can not be released on bail.”
The paradox of the “National Security Law” lawyers: doing whatever it takes to get bail vs. sticking to principles
The lengthy trials and deprivation of personal liberty that precede a conviction can be torturous enough to destroy a defendant’s confidence in justice and even their self-esteem. This leaves lawyers facing enormous difficulties when representing NSA cases.
“The defendant may prefer to believe some middleman, or someone who seems to have the background to give him a blow-by-blow, threat or condition. Or some people simply don’t feel that the case is ready to be fought, that it’s a political decision. He also does not rely on your legal advice, it feels that these things must lose, I will try to beg for a reduced sentence. It’s just that there is no confidence in the law anymore, so they don’t believe the court can give them justice in a case like this.” This is Zou Xingtong’s observation of the parties accused of the National Security Law.
During the bail hearing of the primary case, some defendants cried bitterly in court and even offered to accept all conditions in exchange for bail. For those who were granted bail, the conditions were quite stringent, including no direct or indirect statements that “violate the National Security Law,” no direct or indirect participation in any election, and no direct or indirect contact with any foreign officials. This is equivalent to giving up basic human rights before being convicted. Zou Xingtong does not agree with the practice of “doing whatever it takes” to get bail.
“Sometimes the conditions of bail are such that I don’t think it’s necessary to put everything down too low, just to get a bail release. Of course, we have to communicate with our clients about this, but I think behind this attitude is that even lawyers don’t believe in our rights, so they give up. It actually contributes to the regime magnifying the red lines of the law.”
Even though the national security law is a completely different set of laws from Hong Kong’s common law, Zou Xingtong still insists on defending his client’s rights under common law principles in court, “because it’s human rights, it’s universal, and the rule of law is also universal.”
“Political trials, don’t pretend to be legal discussions.”
However, Zou Xingtong also stressed that lawyers should not analyze the legal provisions alone and ignore the nature of the “political trial” of the National Security Law case. She described that in a political trial, lawyers and clients are “no more professional than anyone else,” so lawyers should be more “humble” and clarify to their clients the difference between “legal advice” and “political judgment. In political trials, lawyers and clients are “no more professional than anyone else,” so lawyers should be more “humble” and clarify to clients the difference between “legal advice” and “political judgment,” rather than using the former as a package for the latter.
“The court often says that politics and law are separate. But when you look at the NSCL cases with open eyes, it’s the regime that puts politics into the courtroom, like the 47 people case, which is one of the things where the regime put the opposition leader in jail. This case is a political trial, and these things are supposed to be pointed out and not pretend that you can’t see some understandable injustice. Do not pretend that it is purely a legal or textual discussion, behind the infringement of human rights and political rights, is something that should be spoken about.”
Zou Xingtong said, in comparison, the situation of Hong Kong lawyers is still better than that of Chinese human rights lawyers, at least they can meet with their clients. However, China’s “official lawyers”, the practice of revoking the license of human rights lawyers by the Law Society, has the first signs or emergence in Hong Kong.
The “Apple” tree fell before July 1
“In the past, as long as there were people who were willing to speak out, there would be Hong Kong journalists who would record and report on the matter. However, on June 17, 2021, the Hong Kong Police Force used the National Security Law to arrest the CEO of Next Media, Zhang Jianhong, and five other senior executives, and mobilized 500 police officers to raid the Apple Daily building and seize news materials. What was alleged as “incriminating evidence” were dozens of articles in Apple Daily, which allegedly “called for foreign sanctions against China and the Hong Kong government”.
The most fatal blow was that the Hong Kong Security Bureau invoked the National Security Law to freeze the assets of three companies, including the newspaper, to the tune of HK$18 million before trial, and then arrested the chief writer of Apple Daily, Yang Qingqi (pseudonym Li Ping), prompting the rapid “unnatural death” of Apple Daily within a week. “This is a testament to the earlier rumor that “Apple will not survive July 1”.
The “journalists went to jail for reporting”, an episode that did not occur after the June 7 riots, was repeated in Hong Kong half a century later.
The domino effect: “The worst has happened”
“It’s hard to describe the horror of it.” Yang Jianxing, who just stepped down as president of the Hong Kong Journalists Association and has been involved in journalism for 37 years, described it this way.
“The search for ‘Apple’ and the arrest of Lai Chi-ying in August last year had begun to see the use of the National Security Law against the media. At that time, I think many media think that Lai Chi-ying background is more unique and politically active, may be targeted at him. The second arrest and search, however, was entirely aimed at the work of the media, including allegations that he had published certain articles, and it was clearer that he was in trouble for writing them. The worst case scenario has emerged, even you do not know how deep and broad will be pursued.”
Because of this, the “Apple Daily” up and down in the sudden loss of employment is owed wages, but also everyone is self-conscious. Another former lead writer, Fung Wai-kwong (pseudonym Lo Fung), was arrested at the Hong Kong airport on June 27 while leaving for the United Kingdom, bringing the number of arrested Next Media and Apple Daily employees to seven.
The fall of Apple Daily also triggered a domino effect, with Hong Kong online media outlet Standpoint News announcing that it would temporarily take down its “blog posts”, another online media outlet 852 Post taking down all its videos, and online media outlet Winandmac announcing its withdrawal from Hong Kong. However, no one can be sure whether such “self-censorship” will be enough to “keep the peace”.
Even if the authorities do not use the national security law to target other media organizations, the actual effect is to create a “white terror” and a “chilling effect”, so that the previously blossoming media in Hong Kong will be “one voice”. The actual effect is to create a “white terror” and a “chilling effect”, so that the previously blossoming media in Hong Kong will become a “one-man show.
Freedom of the press falling like a “free fall”
Looking back at last year’s national security law, the Hong Kong Journalists Association (HKJA) submitted its views to Beijing, proposing the inclusion of “public interest” as a defense and the protection of news materials, but there was no response at all. Yang Jianxing described the role of the industry’s voice as “almost zero.
“The media had good hopes that the national security law would have some constraints and that Beijing would consider the impact on society, but now it seems to be wishful thinking.” Yang Jianxing lamented. Having served as chairman of the Hong Kong Journalists Association for four years since July 2017, and having experienced the anti-China campaign, he once described the Hong Kong press as a “roller coaster ride,” but witnessed how the regime, in the name of “law” after the implementation of the national security law After the implementation of the National Security Law, he has seen how the regime has “exhausted its power” in the name of “the law”, with no checks and balances at all, he now has a different view.
“Our car never went up. It goes down, then it goes up, then it goes down again, and that’s the roller coaster, but the last four years have actually been a drop to a deep valley. In the past year or even two weeks, the speed of the fall is even more horrible, even unknown when will fall to the bottom, already dare not think when will rise again.”
Like a “free fall” like the fall of Hong Kong’s press freedom, so that Hong Kong journalists are trapped in a “weightless state”. Yang Jianxing said, at present can only try to slow down the speed of the fall, but next year, the 20th National Congress is approaching, he expects the situation will only get worse.
Hong Kong media space is narrowing, the industry is shrinking is inevitable. Yang Jianxing, who still teaches journalism courses at the university, said that despite the general environment as it is, the principles of journalism education and training will not change. “Try to grope in the dark and try to maintain.”
“Politics should not invade the campus”? Depends on whose politics it is
“Preaching, teaching and solving problems” is supposed to be the way to pass on social values, yet the hand of the National Security Law has reached out to the education sector at the same time. The most concerned is that the original secondary school subject of Liberal Studies, which aims to cultivate students’ critical thinking and independent thinking, was “killed” in February this year and turned into “Civic and Social Development”, with a significant reduction of the original curriculum content.
The curriculum guidelines recently released by the Education Bureau clearly state that the curriculum should enhance students’ “understanding of the rule of law and the state of the nation, building a national perspective and understanding the importance of safeguarding national security”. In recent years, the Liberal Studies program has been criticized by the pro-Beijing camp for instilling political ideas in students, making them radicalized and leading to a large number of young people being anti-government.
“It just felt like I couldn’t possibly continue to teach.” Liz (a pseudonym), who has 16 years of teaching experience and mainly teaches Liberal Studies, decided that night to leave Hong Kong next year after teaching the class at hand, after learning in February that Liberal Studies had been “killed”.
“I have always thought that this subject is a very good platform, whether it is the personal growth of children to globalization issues, any content is a topic that students need to learn and understand. After this such a good platform fell, it turned into something that could only have correct answers, into a multiple-choice based answer sheet and assessment, which is no longer the same.”
What Liz used to enjoy most was discussing livelihood and political issues with students during the teaching process, breaking away from established ideas and stimulating students to think. However, under the new curriculum, there are only set answers to everything, erasing the possibility of thinking from multiple perspectives.
“There is a lot of content in the new subjects that I can’t talk about. For example, the impact of reform and opening up on China’s development, it is obvious that you can only talk about achievements, not some problems, which is not telling the truth. You can’t be a human being, let alone a teacher.”
All subjects must serve “national security education”
In addition to the general studies subject “killed”, the Education Bureau also requested that “national security education” be added to the 15 subjects in primary and secondary schools, for example, the general studies subject in elementary school should let students “appreciate the people who protect Hong Kong For example, the General Studies subject in primary school should let students “appreciate the people who protect Hong Kong”, such as the police and the People’s Liberation Army; the Biology subject in senior secondary school should let students “understand the importance of the state to the well-being of the people”; the Geography subject in secondary school should let students “understand the scope of China’s territory and territorial waters from the example of the South China Sea, so as to understand the importance of safeguarding national security. “.
“The concept of national security is not just about sovereignty and politics, but also about food security and nuclear security, which are mentioned in all subjects.2320 The idea of most teachers is that when they encounter national security education, they just read from the book and pretend that they are being pressed by ghosts. Liz said this.
The “Cultural Revolution-style” reporting on campus
The Education Bureau also requires schools to set up a “national security education team” to regularly report progress and submit work reports to the Bureau, and to discourage political activities on campus, and to make it a violation of professional conduct for teachers to advocate their political positions.
This has made whistleblowing on campus a trend. The day after the Apple Daily was searched, an elementary school teacher bought 10 copies of the Apple Daily and handed them out to teachers he knew, which were reported to the school by other teachers. The Education Bureau responded by asking the schools involved to follow the guidelines, stressing that teachers “should not conduct political promotion activities in school. In the past two years, teachers have been removed for political issues.
Liz said that in recent years, her peers have been asked by the Education Bureau to explain their complaints, and she herself had been complained to the school by parents, saying that she kept saying “black police” in the classroom, but fortunately, the content of the relevant online class has been archived, clearing her name.
“Anything you do is monitored, and sooner or later there will be surveillance cameras in the classroom.”
In April this year, on National Security Education Day, the scene of elementary school students pointing imitation guns at their classmates in a mock MTR carriage at the Police Academy was a “shocking education” for countless parents. When teachers were asked to play “My Country and I” in class, some students sang the theme song with great enthusiasm.
As a teacher, she no longer has expectations for education in Hong Kong. “Don’t have children if you can, and send all the words you want to have to foreign countries.”
The ubiquitous hand of the National Security Law
In addition to primary and secondary schools, the influence of the National Security Law has also seeped into the academic world. At least two faculty members of the University of Hong Kong, the highest academic institution in Hong Kong, have reportedly been reported by graduate students for violating the National Security Law; the University of Hong Kong and the Chinese University of Hong Kong have both cut ties with student unions on the grounds of the National Security Law. The Chinese University of Hong Kong has even reported to the police on the march of graduates on campus, the Hong Kong Police National Security high-profile entry into the campus to search for evidence, at least eight people were arrested, including three CUHK alumni.
In the arts sector, the authorities revised the Film Censorship Ordinance censorship guidelines, stating that film censors should take into account the duty to “prevent and suppress acts or activities that endanger national security”, and that films that may endanger national security should be listed as “unsuitable for exhibition”; content related to the The short film “House of Execution”, a film about the anti-China campaign, was then banned. The pro-Beijing camp has also continued to use the National Security Law to target the M+ Museum, which collects politically sensitive artworks. The “red line” of the National Security Law is being pushed towards the arts and culture sector.
The Hong Kong government is also planning to move against various professional sectors, including taking away the licensing power of the Hong Kong Institute of Certified Public Accountants and transferring it to the government’s Financial Services and Exchange Bureau, as well as introducing non-locally trained doctors. These regulations are expected to be successfully passed in the Legislative Council, which has no opposition.
Under the principle of “patriots ruling Hong Kong”, the future elections of the Election Committee, the Chief Executive and the Legislative Council will be firmly in Beijing’s hands, and even public calls for “blank votes” will be illegal.
We are torn apart by the times
Hong Kong has always been a “city of immigrants”, with large numbers of Chinese fleeing to Hong Kong in the last century. Before the handover of sovereignty in 1997, Hong Kong people emigrated because of their distrust of Beijing; last year, Beijing pushed through the “Hong Kong National Security Law”, which prompted them to flee Hong Kong. According to some Hong Kong media, the net number of Hong Kong people leaving Hong Kong in the past year exceeded 100,000. Hong Kong people, torn apart by the times, are scattered in all directions, just like the Jews.
In Hong Kong on the eve of July 1, the sadness of the Apple Daily’s collapse was not yet over, but there was added sorrow and fear.
On June 28, the Hong Kong government suddenly announced that it had classified the United Kingdom as a “high-risk area” in view of the rebound of the epidemic. The “meltdown mechanism” was launched to ban British airliners from coming to Hong Kong. It was a sensitive day, starting at 00:00 a.m. on July 1.
It was a sensitive day, and 24 years ago, the same day was a dead line for Hong Kong people to leave Hong Kong. Back then, the old Kai Tak Airport in Hong Kong staged a scene of life and death. farwell, sending off and saying goodbye became the daily life of Hong Kong people.
Twenty-four years later, like a reincarnation, Hong Kong people are rushing to leave Hong Kong again before this day. Fearing that once this day has passed, it will not be so easy to fly directly to the UK.
In fact, in the past few months, the UK-bound airport counters have been overcrowded, in stark contrast to the empty arrivals area. Grandparents have been crying and urging their dumbfounded children and grandchildren, or they have been drifting away to unknown destinations with their families.
In the “second reunification” of Hong Kong after the implementation of the “Hong Kong SAR National Security Law”, Hong Kong people are once again torn apart by the times.
The previous generation of old immigrants: looking forward to “a better tomorrow” in Hong Kong
When Zhang (a pseudonym), a 31-year immigrant to the United States, left Hong Kong, there was not much sadness about leaving.
“I think our generation of immigrants, not many people are planning to Sha yo which la, never see, not so. Just think, give yourself a choice, I should all come back later.”
In 1990, Zhang, who was working in an American bank in Hong Kong at the time, had an opportunity to work in the U.S. He had practical considerations such as personal career development and his son’s education in his early 40s, but the trigger that finally made him decide to seize the opportunity was the June 4 massacre in 1989.
At the time, he, like many immigrant Hong Kong people, still had a wait-and-see attitude, watching the transformation of China after its economic development and the changes brought about by Hong Kong after the handover of sovereignty and one country, two systems.
“At that time there would be an expectation, an expectation for both Hong Kong and China, that everything would develop in a good direction. Even after 1997, I believed that Hong Kong and China would develop in a good direction.”
In the past 30 years, he has had several opportunities to return to Hong Kong, but all of them failed to materialize due to the circumstances. Even so, he has not resisted returning to live in Hong Kong, until these two years, Hong Kong has undergone a radical change.
“Strange, is a very apt description, has been very different from the Hong Kong I used to be familiar with. There is also a saying that there is no greater sorrow than death, I am now completely without the motivation to come back to Hong Kong. Fear is one of the considerations, but even if I am assured that I will not be okay to return, I do not want to return unless necessary. Because the current state, I am dead to Hong Kong.” This is how he describes his feelings towards Hong Kong at the moment.
The awakening of overseas “Greater China gum” in 2019
In the past, there was a saying that for more than 20 years, Hong Kong’s “hearts and minds have not returned” because Hong Kong people have a “colonial complex” and reject the mainland. On the contrary, Zhang was influenced by leftist publications such as “Children’s Illustrated” and “Youth Paradise” since he was a child, and he always sympathized with the Chinese people and believed that the Communist Party would bring change to the Chinese people.
He even participated in some leftist “study classes” and leftist activities in Hong Kong, but after the June 7 riots, he began to rethink.
“The two words that Ching Cheong used were called ‘bitter love’. I love the motherland, I saw many of his shortcomings, I raised many questions, so he distrusted me and thought I was anti-bone. But I have certain expectations of him, so I will not be completely detached.”
He was even one of the first representatives of U.S. banks to enter China to do business at the beginning of China’s reform and opening up, when he was convinced he could act as a liaison between the U.S. and China. Even after emigrating to the United States after 1990, he still hopes that China will change as more foreign money flows into the country and improves the lives of its people. He hoped that if Western society accepted China, China would accept Western values.
But when China began to “get rich”, he began to feel disappointed when he witnessed the hideous face of Chinese officials in the U.S. and some overseas Chinese under China’s “war wolf diplomacy” in recent years.
The outbreak of the anti-China movement in Hong Kong in 2019 and Beijing’s push for a national security law last year made him feel firsthand how Beijing has reneged on its promises.
“You tell me one country, two systems? You don’t believe anything you tell me. How are you different from being in mainland China? I used to think that we had a discussion, we had some sparks, but we could coexist peacefully. What’s happening now is that it’s a crime for you not to take a stand.”
Often watching the live webcast of the demonstrations from across the water, watching his homeland being ravaged, he is angry, but powerless. All he can do is to participate in the local rallies and demonstrations, and keep “giving money” to the opinion leaders who support Hong Kong.
After 70 years of living, he woke up from his dream and realized that he was too naive in the past. Along with this awakening comes fear. Even though I am in the United States, I am still afraid that my family members in Hong Kong will become hostages, and I am also afraid that when a family member passes away and must return to Hong Kong, I will not be able to return to my home.
“The facts show that what I was expecting did not happen. Sometimes people ask me if I’m afraid of communists, I’m not afraid. I wasn’t afraid of the Communist Party before, I just wanted to give myself a chance. And now am I afraid of the Communist Party? Now I’m afraid because he has no bottom line. Even the National Security Law does not have a bottom line, you can ask him and there is no answer, it is simply a red line that can be pulled any way you want.”
A new generation of “new immigrants”: this is a farewell or years
No bottom line, red line drifting national security law, so that hold British citizenship, born and raised in Hong Kong, Mr. Chen (a pseudonym), accelerate the implementation of the idea of immigration sprouted early last year, the end of May this year to leave for the United Kingdom. At the time of the interview, and his wife in the United Kingdom, the “new immigrant” life, not yet a full month. This farewell, he has psychologically prepared, the next 10 to 20 years, will not return to Hong Kong.
“As a generation that has experienced the British Hong Kong era and the SAR governance, we are not to ask for anything extravagant, just do not want the so-called boundaries keep drifting, we have basic human rights and freedoms, in fact, can already consider coming back.”
Asking himself not to ask for much, but he is also not confident that Beijing will loosen its grip on Hong Kong in the near future.
“Like June 4, after 30 years, they still don’t recognize it and want to erase the history. Is it possible for Hong Kong to revert to what it was before in 10 years? I’m not very optimistic.”
The freedom to participate in the rally was like a lifetime ago
When he first arrived in the UK, after 10 days of isolation, he immediately participated in the local 612 rally, followed by a rally in support of the Apple Daily. The feeling of participating in a rally legally and safely in the air of freedom was like a lifetime ago, familiar and unfamiliar. The last time, it was already 2019.
“Hong Kong has not had the freedom to rally and march for most of the past half year or year. It’s a bit emotional, thinking why can I speak up for the place I was born only in a foreign country? Seeing that many Hong Kong people have come, I feel that people have not forgotten Hong Kong, not cut off from Hong Kong when they go to foreign countries. If Hong Kong people overseas are not vocal, in fact, friends in Hong Kong are even more unable to speak out.”
Under the National Security Law, whistle-blowing is the norm in all sectors, especially in the public sector. He previously served in Hong Kong’s health sector and had fears about even posting online before he left Hong Kong.
“The boundaries are getting narrower and narrower because of the introduction of the national security law, which will also restrict people in public institutions from speaking online, even on their own platforms, so there will also be fears. So in the final stage, basically, you don’t post anything on your own platform online.”
After leaving Hong Kong, smiling faces and snippets of daily life reappear on his social media platforms. When he looks back at his hometown, it is a different place.
“The feeling of ritual collapse, the rule of law that everyone believes in the most, the presumption of innocence among them, all these most basic principles, have been erased under the national security law. The beliefs and consistent practices of the various sectors were overridden by the National Security Law.
The “yellow silk” Hong Kong drifters: stay away from the pinky and keep safe
The “Cultural Revolution-style reporting” and white terror brought about by the National Security Law is felt most deeply by those who have lived in China.
“I have deliberately kept some distance from some very pink people in 2019 because I was worried about my safety. After I got to the National Security Law, it became clear that I was more distant from those people and I would be more wary and more careful. Would be a little worried in case someone did report it or something. “
Charlie (a pseudonym), from Anhui Province, China, came to Hong Kong in 2012 to study at university, and upon his arrival, he encountered the “anti-state religion movement” at the time. The national education program, which was described as “brainwashing education”, was overturned amidst strong opposition from Hong Kong people.
During her four-year university career in Hong Kong, she was “brainwashed in the opposite direction” and identified with the democratic and liberal values pursued by Hong Kong people, becoming one of the few “yellow silk” among Hong Kong drifters.
“It was a life-changing choice, and if she hadn’t come to Hong Kong at that time, she might have had a completely different life path.
In the early days of the 2019 anti-China campaign, she participated in demonstrations almost every week and even participated in “Lunch with You” during her lunch break at work. She was stunned when she saw the final version of the “Hong Kong National Security Law” last year.
“When I saw the final version that actually came out, it felt like a document that had no Hong Kong style at all and was completely in mainland language and format.”
An identity that cannot be reversed by the national anthem
This “Chinese wind” has not only changed the laws of Hong Kong, but also invaded her daily life. In particular, she remembers that one morning last year, the “March of the Volunteers” suddenly came on Radio Hong Kong.
“I was just brushing my teeth and suddenly I heard the national anthem, and then I was very upset. Just walking on the street will also be very angry, November when there are very many slogans and billboards to celebrate the National Day, to later when the Legislative Council system changes, there are a lot of what ‘promote one country, two systems, maintain the stability of Hong Kong’ billboards. Anyway, every time I pass these things, I get very angry.”
Since mid-November last year, the public broadcaster Radio Television Hong Kong has been playing the national anthem on all channels every morning before the 8 a.m. news program to foster “a sense of civic and national identity” among the public. But her identity can no longer be reversed by a national anthem.
“I think in the period after 2019, whether it’s outside influence or my own reading, I will understand and become more familiar with the history and identity of Hong Kong. I realize how good this place is while at the same time all these good things are gone. Once you understand how good this place is, the next thought is, I probably need to escape.”
Having “escaped” from mainland China to Hong Kong, she can’t turn back now, but can only “escape” further. At the beginning of the new school year, she will be studying for her master’s degree in the United States.
“I would like to join some local organizations related to Hong Kong. There is always a way to make a small contribution to the cause of recovery while maintaining my physical and mental health. (Not joining a Chinese student organization?) No, I think at any time I might be reported, and I should stay away from the Chinese.”
When will I leave today, when will I return? She has a goal.
“If Hong Kong is restored, I will definitely come back. I understand again how Israel was founded at that time, and those Israelis went back from all over the world. If Hong Kong is restored one day, there will probably be many people going back as well.”
Please live well before the restoration
At this moment, Hong Kong people, just like the Jews, are torn apart by the times. The road to light recovery is far away, and many Hong Kong people are pinning their hopes on the next generation, prompting them to give up everything and leave Hong Kong. Mr. Chan is one of them, hoping that the next generation will grow up in a place where he can “speak his mind and tell the truth”.
“We will let him know the importance of universal values and freedom and democracy, and let him develop the motivation to think independently, rather than being indoctrinated unilaterally. We will lead by example and continue to tell him every day what is happening in Hong Kong. We brought books and newspaper clippings about Hong Kong to the UK, and these will be the future history passed on to the next generation.”
Those who chose to leave and were able to leave Hong Kong are, after all, only a lucky few. There are still countless protesters and political prisoners in prison, and there are still those who persist in staying in the fallen city of Hong Kong. In the last days of the Apple Daily, a reader placed a front page ad under the byline “Those Who Stay”, opening the door for people to fill in the form “I will stay in Hong Kong and continue to do ……”. For those who stayed behind for various reasons, they could console each other.
“No matter what, live a good life and keep your faith. Do something within your reach, it is already very good, we support each other.” These are the words that Mr. Chen left behind for those who stayed behind.
At this moment we are like water scattered in all directions, before reunion, may you be well.
//Saying goodbye and agreeing to say goodbye will be goodbye//
According to Article 38 of the “Hong Kong National Security Law” –
“If a person who is not a permanent resident of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region commits an offence under this Law outside the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, this Law shall apply.
Under the “Universal National Security Law”, the above interviewees were all asked to be interviewed under pseudonyms.