Clampdown in Hong Kong

Submitted by martin on 29 June, 2021 - 3:44 Author: Pete Radcliff
Apple Daily

July 1 is a day of two anniversaries in Hong Kong.

It is the 24th anniversary of the day when Britain "handed over" Hong Kong to China – from one colonial power to another.

It is also the second anniversary of the 300,000 strong demo in Hong Kong against the Extradition Bill. That bill, which was later dropped, would have allowed the Chinese regime to extradite people from Hong Kong to China to face charges made by the Chinese regime against them.

At the end of the 2019 demonstration, young protestors besieged and managed to break into Hong Kong’s parliament, its Legislative Council (LegCo).

A demonstration in Hong Kong had been organised on 1 July this year but again has been banned. However there will be demonstrations in London and in many parts of the world by Hong Kongers who are now effectively in exile.

The demonstrations are taking place at a time when the repression ramps up further in Hong Kong.

So far just one trial has started under the National Security Law, that of a young protestor, Tong Ying-kit, who drove his motorcycle into police lines, mimicking a earlier similar assault by police motorcyclists on protesters. No-one was injured; but he faces charges of terrorism and is denied a jury.

The trial of the 47 leading figures of the democracy movement, including many trade unionists, is due to start on 8 July. They could face long sentences.

On 23 June, Hong Kong’s most popular paper, Apple Daily, declared that it would have to close after its bank accounts were frozen by the government. Its editorial staff had been arrested on 17 June and accused of “collusion with foreign powers”. Other journalists were later arrested – 12 in total. One of them, lead writer Fung Wai-kong, was arrested at Hong Kong’s airport on his way to London.

Apple Daily was renowned for its rather low-end journalism, celebrity gossip etc. However it identified with the street protest movement, did some useful exposes of corruption, and had been critical of the repression. It was generally on the right of the democracy movement.

Apple Daily owner Jimmy Lai is the only one, among the many billionaires in Hong Kong, who sided with the democratic protests rather than the repression. He is already in jail for his involvement in "illegal assemblies" and has many charges against him under the National Security Law.

HK’s Secretary of Security John Lee followed the 17 June arrests with threats of a "hefty price". He "solemnly declared" that other journalists "standing with these criminals" would also pay hefty prices. They must “cut ties with these criminals before it’s too late to repent".

The workers' union, Next Media Union, spoke out against these attacks as a “blatant violation of the freedom of the press” and said they would continue to work on the paper.But the government then froze Apple Daily's assets.

In an impromptu demonstration, thousands lined the streets from midnight on 27 June to buy the final copy of Apple Daily. All journalists in Hong Kong now face unprecedented threats from the authorities.

After having purged its archives to remove anything critical of the Chinese regime, the state radio and television corporation RTHK has started victimising staff. Allan Au, host of a RTHK phone-in programme and a prominent critic of the government, has lost his job.

The popular and pro-democracy media outlet Stand News has removed all non-news pieces from its website, including commentary and op-eds. It is no longer accepting sponsorship or subscription payments, and six of the board’s eight members have resigned. Journalists wishing to remain have been required to sign new contracts.

The clamp-down on the press has followed weeks of open speculation by senior government figures and their advisors about how far the National Security Law should go in clamping down on the press and free speech.

Two weeks ago, academic advisers to the government argued that to call for the end of the one-party state in China - one of the long-standing demands of the moderate Hong Kong Alliance - is in effect subversion and in breach of the National Security Law.

On Sunday 27 June, C Y Leung, who preceded Carrie Lam as Chief Executive of Hong Kong and hopes to succeed her, was reported to have asserted that anyone calling for sanctions against China would be guilty of treason, and hinted that execution might be the appropriate punishment for such disloyalty.

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