Hong Kong rights activists strive to maintain the fire of democracy | Political News


China Hong Kong – In the past 20 years, the Civil Rights Front has mobilized some of the largest protest marches allowed by the Hong Kong police, but they are now accused of illegal activities by the authorities.

The Hong Kong University Student Union, the alma mater of the founding father of modern China, is being expelled by the government.

As the anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre approached, all coalition leaders who organized the annual candlelight vigil were imprisoned except for one leader.

Hong Kong has long been the home of a vibrant and powerful civil society, and it formed its place in the 10 years before the region returned to Chinese sovereignty in 1997.

But only one year after the National Security Law was implemented in Beijing – the law criminalized activities deemed to divide the country, subvert and collude with foreign powers – the Chinese Communist Party regarded it as a threat and subversive activity to its rule. The hotbed, the pressure is great.

The Hong Kong Coalition, which supports China’s patriotic democratic movement, is a typical example of such threats. The coalition has vowed for decades to overthrow the Communist-led government.

Even if almost all coalition leaders are in jail and awaiting trial, Vice Chairman Zhou Hengdong said that she has no plans to back down.

“Once we give in an inch, the authorities will pull the red line closer,” she said.

Holding the line

Although most civil society in Hong Kong has historically been apolitical, the establishment of the Beijing Student Movement Aid League in 1989 marked a watershed.

A supporter in court this week holding a mobile phone showed that 47 democracy activists were accused of “subverting” the primary elections to select their candidates for the 2020 Legislative Council elections, but were subsequently postponed [Vincent Yu/AP Photo]

When people with more political consciousness also began to agitate for direct elections, the organization began a large-scale grassroots mobilization in the British colonies at the time.

In the first few years after the handover, political parties have flourished, and it is hoped that Beijing will fulfill its promise to eventually implement universal suffrage for Hong Kong’s highest office.

In 2003, an umbrella organization of civil society-the Civil Human Rights Front-emerged due to popular opposition to Article 23 (the national security legislation to be promulgated by the Hong Kong legislature).

In 2019, the frontline helped millions of protesters take to the streets and overturned widely feared legislation allowing suspects to be sent to mainland China for trial.

However, in the past few weeks, police investigations on the front line have triggered mass departures of its member groups, and at least two main conveners have been accused of organizing primary elections to select candidates for democratic legislation and organizing marches in 2019. detention.

Nevertheless, due to the postponement of legislative elections and the political measures supported by Beijing further dilute the representativeness of the people, Hong Kong’s pro-democracy activists hope that civil society will stick to it.

“Even if we are deprived of the right to stand for election, if the Chinese Communist Party allows us, we can still play a role in civil society,” said Allen Liang, chairman of the Civic Party.

In April of this year, Liang rejected the public request of four disqualified legislators from the party — all of whom were charged with criminal offences — to be dissolved for “safety”.

Pro-democracy legislators withdrew from the Legislative Council, last year after some of their elected members were disqualified and accused of being a danger to national security [File: Anthony Wallace/AFP]

In response, the party, which has more than 500 members, including many lawyers, reiterated its goal of continuing to fight for social justice on its official Facebook page.

The party’s legal minds also convened discussions with NGOs to discuss how to navigate the political minefield created by the National Security Law.

‘Ear to ground’

Outside of politics, the city’s civil society still proves to be flexible and indispensable—especially in times of crisis.

“Social mobilization has its status and value,” said Edmund Cheng, a political scientist at City University of Hong Kong, who published research with several other scholars to explore how civil society acted when the pandemic began early last year.

“Civil groups usually listen to the voices of the ground, so they are good at providing social services and public goods.”

However, as Tai Wei Lim, a part-time researcher at the East Asian Institute of the National University of Singapore discovered, the political reality is still that non-liberal regimes in the Asia-Pacific region always seek to contain civil society as a tool of control.

“In order to survive, civil society must align their goals with those of the central government and be willing to be wooed on certain issues,” Lin told Al Jazeera.

Lin said that the most likely scenario is that Hong Kong people “turn their struggles into non-institutional forms through personal networks or overseas activities.”

Mutual aid groups have emerged to provide assistance to political exiles and immigrant communities in Britain and Taiwan.

“Our advantage is that our network is stronger, with more connections, international connections and exposure,” said Chow of the alliance. “So, I hope our civil society can be more resilient.”

This year’s vigil was once again banned, and organizers urged people to light candles wherever they are. [File: Vincent Yu/AP Photo]

Having said that, Zhou believes that Hong Kong’s civil society will prove to be stronger than the sum of its parts: every public position is magnified.

Although the government banned Tiananmen’s night vigil for the second year in a row, organizers are still urging people to light candles—in memory of the thousands of people believed to have been killed in Beijing in 1989, and democracy itself.

“In 30 years, this is the strongest sign of resistance,” Zhou said. “If it was only symbolic, the regime would not try so hard to suppress it.”


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