The people of Hong Kong are greeting New Year’s Eve with a mixture of excitement, relief and a fair degree of uncertainty. The government is finally lifting most covid-related restrictions after nearly three seemingly interminable years.
Starting at 7 a.m. Thursday, workers began removing the ubiquitous vaccine QR code scanning machines, which had verified people’s vaccine status (proof of vaccination was required for entry to most premises during much of the pandemic). Then the WhatsApp messages and questions began flying on the group chat of the Club Managers' Association (which represents more than three dozen of the private members' clubs in Hong Kong): “Can we open saunas and steam rooms?”… Seguir leyendo »
For a snapshot of Hong Kong’s economic malaise, walk through the once-heaving entertainment district of Lan Kwai Fong and count the number of boarded-up restaurants and bar fronts. At the end of Wing Wah Lane, where property was once at a premium, most of the establishments are shuttered and plastered with “For Lease” signs.
Hong Kong’s stocks hit a 13-year low this week, with markets unimpressed by Beijing’s new leadership lineup for President Xi Jinping’s third term and spooked by bad economic news from China. The city is in a recession after two consecutive quarters of contraction, and analysts are concerned that the year-on-year growth figure will be flat at best.… Seguir leyendo »
Every fall, I think about my first semester at the University of Hong Kong a decade ago. In the mornings, I’d trek uphill toward the flame tree that guarded the entrance of the school campus, my arms aching from heavy textbooks that wouldn’t fit in my backpack. After lectures, my classmates and I read poems and talked about our crushes on the benches outside the baroque-style Main Building in the chestnut light of the late afternoon sun. Winter was around the corner, but we were hopeful; our lives were just beginning.
It has been years since I graduated, but I still often found myself visiting the campus whenever I was in the neighborhood.… Seguir leyendo »
Durante la mayor parte de la pandemia de COVID-19, la vida en Hong Kong no dejó de ser un simulacro de normalidad. La ciudad mantuvo uno de los controles de fronteras más estrictos del mundo, e impuso una cuarentena de hasta tres semanas en hoteles para los viajeros de llegada. Las pequeñas olas de casos se detuvieron rápidamente con un exhaustivo rastreo de los contactos, un riguroso aislamiento en los hospitales y cuarentenas supervisadas en centros específicos. Hubo normas de obligatoriedad de cubrebocas, pero apenas hicieron falta: en su mayor parte, la población general empezó a utilizarlas espontáneamente a principios de enero de 2020.… Seguir leyendo »
For most of the Covid pandemic, life in Hong Kong remained a simulacrum of normal. The city maintained one of the world’s strictest border control measures, requiring inbound travelers to undergo quarantine in hotels for up to three weeks. Small waves of cases were quickly stopped with exhaustive contact tracing, strict hospital-based isolation and supervised quarantine in designated facilities. Mask mandates were introduced but were hardly necessary; masks, for the most part, have been spontaneously adopted by the general public since early 2020. This frenetic city of 7.5 million never locked down.
But now Hong Kong is struggling in the face of Omicron.… Seguir leyendo »
The signs and messages are everywhere: “Cast a vote for Hong Kong and yourself”. Candidates’ faces cover the pavement and walls from the city center to stalls in the wet markets on its outskirts. Government-sponsored billboards calling to “improve electoral system, ensure patriots administering Hong Kong” abound.
Hong Kong and Chinese government officials have for weeks been urging the public to vote in this weekend’s legislative election. But this is not a typical free and fair election: It’s a selection process, thanks to an electoral overhaul with no meaningful participation from the opposition (not least because many are in jail).
The Chinese government wants this election to appear to be successful, as Beijing needs the facade of Hong Kong becoming more “democratic”.… Seguir leyendo »
For nearly a quarter of a century, the Pillar of Shame has stood on the campus of Hong Kong University — a 26-foot-tall commemoration of the victims of the Tiananmen Square massacre. Last month, the university ordered the pillar’s removal.
The order is a striking blow in the government’s ongoing campaign to erase the memory of the 1989 atrocity: First, it banned the candlelight vigil held annually on June 4, arrested the vigil’s key organizers and raided a museum that documents the history of the massacre. But this is about far more than a statue.
Along with the removal of the Pillar of Shame, political pressure from the government and university administrations has incapacitated two major university student unions.… Seguir leyendo »
When I arrived in Hong Kong in 1987 as the Observer’s south-east Asia correspondent, the foreign editor said he saw it as being a base, not the kind of territory that would generate much news but it was a safe place to be, communications were good and I was unlikely to have any visa problems. I thought I might stay a couple of years and move on. Thirty-five years later, I have, with great sadness, moved on and no one in their right mind can possibly assert that Hong Kong is a safe place for journalists.
The white terror – the term used to describe the ruthless elimination of the opposition in Taiwan following the imposition of Kuomintang rule and more recently taken up by the opposition in Hong Kong to describe similar events in the city – is relentless, swooping down not just on journalists, but on prominent opposition leaders, teachers, lawyers and, recently, speech therapists who had the temerity to write a children’s book about sheep that dared to answer back; they have been charged with subversion.… Seguir leyendo »
On Thursday, Chinese President Xi Jinping personally led nationwide celebrations to mark the 100-year anniversary of the establishment of the Chinese Communist Party. In his speech commemorating the day, Xi celebrated the party’s accomplishments, predicted the “rejuvenation of the Chinese nation,” and warned that any foreign force that tries to bully China would “find themselves on a collision course with a great wall of steel forged by over 1.4 billion Chinese people.”
But most people in Hong Kong did not celebrate. For them, this day marked the loss of their freedoms and democratic institutions. Since 1997, July 1 has been the high point of a series of annual protests and rallies celebrating Hong Kong’s once-flourishing civil society.… Seguir leyendo »
In the past month, under mounting government pressure, Hong Kong’s Apple Daily closed — eliminating the city’s most influential pro-democracy newspaper. China banned two annual democratic traditions — the June 4 vigil to commemorate the Tiananmen Massacre and the July 1 march commemorating Hong Kong’s 1997 handover to China — on public health grounds, although most coronavirus restrictions have been lifted. Chief Executive Carrie Lam refused to say whether such protests would be categorically banned by the national security law (NSL) passed a year ago. But since the law has been used as a pretext to silence critics of the government’s authority, activists worry that any mass protests would trigger arrests and punishment under the NSL, since the protests, by their nature, are criticisms.… Seguir leyendo »
El periódico hongkonés Apple Daily ha sido obligado a cerrar. El día del cierre, la gente hizo fila para comprar un último ejemplar; se imprimió un millón. El destino de la publicación estaba sellado desde el año pasado, cuando el gobierno comunista de China impuso a Hong Kong una dura Ley de Seguridad Nacional. La policía allanó sus oficinas; amenazaron con violencia a sus periodistas; inmovilizaron sus activos, de modo que ya no pudo pagar salarios. Arrestaron a varios directivos y al editorialista.
Al periódico se lo acusó del delito de «confabulación con potencias extranjeras», o como expresó rudamente el ex jefe del ejecutivo hongkonés, C. … Seguir leyendo »
On Sunday, the Hong Kong authorities charged 47 pro-democracy activists with “conspiracy to commit subversion” against the Chinese government under the national security law it imposed on the city last summer. Beijing must be happy with the catch, which elegantly nets under a single accusation both advocates of outright independence for Hong Kong and the city’s old-school loyal opposition. The People’s Republic of China is safe now. Glory to its leader.
But what exactly was these criminals’ crime? Organizing or taking part in primaries in July ahead of legislative elections initially scheduled for September, and for daring to strategize. Were the pro-democracy camp to win a majority, some participants said at the time, it could vote down the government’s budget, possibly forcing it to resign.… Seguir leyendo »
Described by UK foreign secretary Dominic Raab as a ‘matter of principle’ and a ‘historic responsibility’, the UK’s decision to open an immigration pathway to citizenship for Hong Kong BN(O) (British National Overseas) status holders is unprecedented and unique – for its scale, its welcoming political rhetoric, and its geopolitical weight.
However, the rollout of this new visa scheme should not occur in isolation, because inconsistencies within British asylum and immigration policies can send a clear and unfortunate message that some refugees and migrants are viewed as more welcome than others.
Extending a safe haven to Hong Kong citizens at risk of political persecution is the right thing to do, but extending it to people at risk of persecution based on consistent, transparent, and solidary asylum and immigration systems is the better thing to do.… Seguir leyendo »
Some 8,000 miles from the U.S. Capitol, democracy in Hong Kong also came under assault last week. On Jan. 6, Hong Kong police arrested 53 pro-democracy lawmakers, activists and lawyers for their involvement in the pro-democracy camp’s primary election last July. All were accused of “subversion of state power” under the National Security Law, an offense that carries the possibility of a life sentence. Police also raided the offices of the Public Opinion Research Institute and a law firm that assisted in the primary, demanded that three news outlets hand over information and froze $206,000 in funds related to the election.… Seguir leyendo »
On Tuesday, Hong Kong authorities arrested and detained overnight more than 50 pro-democracy activists and politicians. After more than 40 hours of detention, many were released with their travel documents confiscated but face the potential of years in prison. This mass crackdown shows Beijing is not afraid of showing its teeth and acting like a thug. It will not stop until it has eliminated all opposing voices in Hong Kong. There is no chance for coexistence — and it’s time the international community recognized that.
Those arrested this week were the participants and organizers of the primary elections for the legislative council originally scheduled in September 2020 but postponed by the Hong Kong government.… Seguir leyendo »
The arrest of 53 activists in Hong Kong on national security charges represents the purge of an entire generation of politicians. Police also demanded documents from three news organisations and for the first time arrested a foreign citizen – the US human rights lawyer John Clancey – on national security charges. These moves represent an assault on civil society the aim of which appears to be the destruction of the system that nurtured the type of political engagement that brought nearly 2 million people – almost a quarter of the population – out on to the streets in 2019.
Those arrested are suspected of subversion, which carries a maximum penalty of life in prison.… Seguir leyendo »
“Check out that security guard”, Alex said, nodding to my left.
Alex (not his real name) is a protester in his early 20s, and I was meeting him for coffee at the only “yellow” pro-democracy cafe in New Town Plaza, Hong Kong, a once quiet shopping mall in my home district that last year became a battleground in massive anti-government protests. I turned to look: sure enough, there was a guard standing to the side of the main square, staring out into the crowd. I hadn’t noticed him before. Now I can’t help but catch him in the corner of my eye every time I pass through.… Seguir leyendo »
When I fled Hong Kong in late June, I did not reveal my whereabouts due to security concerns. People suspected that I would be in the US, as I was involved in political advocacy work in Capitol Hill when I was studying at Yale University in 2019. But I indeed chose another path – I arrived in London and became an international advocate for Hong Kong’s democratic movement. I’ve struggled with the question of whether I should stay in the UK for the long term, but I’ve now come to a decision – an application for asylum in the UK has been submitted.… Seguir leyendo »
El 12 de diciembre, Jimmy Lai, un exitoso empresario y audaz promotor de la libertad y la democracia fue llevado a los tribunales de Hong Kong, esposado y encadenado, acusado de violar la ley de seguridad nacional recientemente impuesta por el Partido Comunista de China (PCCh). La meta de las autoridades chinas al acusar a Lai era reforzar los nuevos límites de la ley, el disenso y la autonomía en la ciudad.
El juez fue seleccionado por la acomodaticia jefa del poder ejecutivo de Hong Kong, Carrie Lam, cuya principal responsabilidad es ejecutar las malévolas instrucciones del PCCh para la ciudad.… Seguir leyendo »
As of a couple of weeks ago, Hong Kong no longer has a formal political opposition. The entire pro-democracy camp resigned from Hong Kong’s Legislative Council in protest over a resolution by the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress in Beijing that legalized the removal of four opposition legislators — a decision Carrie Lam, Hong Kong’s chief executive, had essentially requested.
Is that what Mrs. Lam had in mind on Wednesday when in her latest annual policy address, she claimed that she “seeks to restore Hong Kong’s constitutional order”? Or when she reaffirmed a “steadfast determination to implement ‘one country, two systems’” — the governance system that is supposed to protect the city’s semi-autonomy from Beijing — only then to chide that “some people’s awareness of the ‘one country’ principle has yet to be enhanced”?… Seguir leyendo »