Hong Kong dissidents

Defiant Hong Kong activists vow to resist China crackdown

Agence France-Presse, Agence France-Presse
Defiant Hong Kong activists vow to resist China crackdown

Pro-democracy activist Joshua Wong (L) holds up his notice for disqualification at a press conference in Hong Kong on July 31, 2020, after a dozen local democracy activists were disqualified from standing in September's legislative elections the day before. - The prominent dissident on July 31 said Hong Kong's beleaguered democracy camp will continue to fight Beijing's crackdown on political freedoms. (Photo by Anthony WALLACE / AFP)

Anthony Wallace

(UPDATED) 'Beyond any doubt [this] is the most scandalous election fraud era in Hong Kong history,' says Hong Kong dissident Joshua Wong

Hong Kong democracy activists vowed Friday, July 31, to press their fight against China’s crackdown on political freedoms after a devastating month of election disqualifications, arrests for social media posts and protest figures fleeing overseas.

Democracy advocates have come under sustained attack since Beijing imposed a sweeping national security law on the city last month – a move China’s leaders described as a “sword” hanging over the head of its critics.

The ensuing weeks have radically transformed a city used to speaking its mind and supposedly guaranteed certain freedoms and autonomy in a “One Country, Two Systems” deal agreed ahead of its 1997 handover from Britain.

In some of the most significant developments since the law was enacted, a dozen democracy activists on Thursday, July 30, were barred from legislative elections due to be held in September.

Our resistance will continue on and we hope the world can stand with us in the upcoming uphill battle.

Joshua Wong, Hong Kong dissident barred from running in the elections

Wong was one of those disqualified, along with other young firebrand activists and some older, more moderate democracy campaigners.

“Beyond any doubt [this] is the most scandalous election fraud era in Hong Kong history,” said the 23-year-old, dressed in a T-shirt that read “They can’t kill us all.”

Hong Kong is not a democracy – its leader is chosen by pro-Beijing committees. But half of its legislature’s 70 seats are directly elected, offering the city’s 7.5 million residents a rare chance to have their voices heard at the ballot box.

Polls suspended?

Planning to capitalize on last year’s huge and often violent anti-Beijing protests, democracy activists had been hoping to win their first-ever majority in September.

But authorities have begun scrubbing ballot lists of candidates deemed to hold unacceptable political views.

There are doubts over whether the election will even go ahead.

Multiple local media outlets have reported that Hong Kong’s government plans to postpone the vote, citing a recent surge in coronavirus cases.

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“That would be the complete collapse of our constitutional system,” a coalition of democracy parties warned in a statement as they called on authorities to ensure elections go ahead with social-distancing measures in place.

Around half of Hong Kong’s 3,100 COVID-19 cases have been detected in the past month and authorities fear hospitals are on the verge of being overwhelmed.

The office of Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam announced a surprise press conference for Friday evening, but did not give further details.

According to the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance, at least 68 elections worldwide have been postponed because of the virus, while 49 went ahead.

In its statement, the pro-democracy coalition accused its opponents of using the pandemic to avoid a drubbing at the polls.

A law to end unrest

Hong Kong is going through its most politically turbulent period since its return to Chinese rule, and last year 7 straight months of pro-democracy protests swept the city.

The pandemic and mass arrests have helped throttle the movement, but anger towards Beijing still seethes.

In response, China imposed its security law on June 30, bypassing the legislature and keeping the contents of the law secret until it was enacted.

Beijing said the law would restore stability and not impact political freedoms.

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Hong Kong activists arrested under new security law

Hong Kong activists arrested under new security law

It targets 4 types of crime – subversion, secession, terrorism and colluding with foreign forces – with up to life in prison.

But the broadly worded law instantly outlawed certain political views such as promoting independence or greater autonomy for Hong Kong.

One provision bans “inciting hatred” towards the government.

Critics, including many Western nations, say it has demolished the “One Country, Two Systems” model.

Since it came into force, some political parties have disbanded while at least 3 prominent Beijing critics have fled overseas.

Libraries and schools have pulled books deemed to be in breach of the new law.

At least 15 arrests have been made so far.

On Wednesday, July 29, 4 students were arrested under the new law for “inciting secession” through posts on social media. Others have been arrested for shouting pro-independence and other protest slogans, or possessing objects emblazoned with them. All were bailed on Friday.

A man who allegedly drove his motorbike into a group of police officers while flying an independence flag was the first to be charged under the law, with terrorism and secession offenses. – Rappler.com