Hong Kong

Hong Kongers Are Purging the Evidence of Their Lost Freedom

“What should I do with those copies of Apple Daily?”

Someone in Hong Kong I was chatting with on the phone recently had suddenly dropped her voice to ask that question, referring to the pro-democracy newspaper that the government forced to shut down in 2021.

“Should I toss them or send them to you?”

My conversations with Hong Kong friends are peppered with such whispers these days. Last week, the city enacted a draconian security law — its second serious legislative assault on Hong Kong’s freedoms since 2020. Known as Article 23, the new law expands the National Security Law and criminalizes such vague behavior as the possession of information that is “directly or indirectly useful to an external force”.…  Seguir leyendo »

‘Don’t Be Scared,’ My Father Said Before He Was Led Away in Hong Kong

I haven’t seen my father, Jimmy Lai, in three years.

The most recent pictures that have emerged show him surrounded by guards in a Hong Kong prison courtyard during his 50 minutes of daily exercise. He looks thinner, his skin darker. But this will not be the enduring image of him that I carry.

In my memory, Dad is sitting at the breakfast table reading Apple Daily, the rowdy Chinese-language newspaper he founded and published. For 26 years, his paper championed Hong Kongers’ fight for democracy. Then, suddenly, it was all over: Beijing tightened its grip, my father was arrested in 2020, and the paper was shut down the next year.…  Seguir leyendo »

Hong Kong's authorities would have the world believe that the city, after three years of crippling covid restrictions, is open for business. Their ongoing crackdown on the rights and freedoms that made Hong Kong a global centre for trade and finance tells a different story.

In a speech aimed at bolstering investor confidence in Saudi Arabia last October, the territory’s financial secretary, Paul Chan, spoke of its “very promising” prospects. Hong Kong will continue to develop as an international financial centre, Mr Chan said, citing among other things a commitment to “maintaining the common-law system and independently exercising judicial power”.

On the very same day, a Hong Kong court convicted my father, Jimmy Lai, of two counts of fraud stemming from a commercial-lease violation.…  Seguir leyendo »

Demonstrators sing "Glory to Hong Kong" during a rally at Chater Garden in Hong Kong on Oct. 26, 2019. (Mark Schiefelbein/AP)

Can a song endanger the national security of China and threaten to subvert the power of the ruling Communist Party?

You read that correctly — a song.

Hong Kong officials seem to fear it can, as they are seeking an injunction against a protest anthem called “Glory to Hong Kong”. Officials have asked a court to ban the song from being performed, broadcast, distributed, displayed, sold, printed or published by any means and on any platform.

Not just the lyrics but also the melody. Under the government’s sweeping request, even humming it on the subway or street could violate the city’s draconian national security law.…  Seguir leyendo »

Hong Kong’s Memory Is Being Erased

The group of about 80 protesters wore numbered lanyards around their necks and cordoned themselves off with tape as they marched, like a crime scene in motion.

This odd spectacle last month was Hong Kong’s first authorized protest in three years — highly choreographed, surveilled and regulated, even though it was not an explicitly antigovernment demonstration, and a world away from the crowds that thronged streets in 2019 to protest China’s tightening grip on the city. One participant said the protesters, who were opposed to a land reclamation project, were “herded like sheep”.

It was just one example of how Hong Kong, a global, tech-savvy city whose protests were once livestreamed around the world, is being transformed.…  Seguir leyendo »

People visit a bar in Hong Kong on Thursday. (Isaac Lawrence/AFP/Getty Images)

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 »

Shuttered storefronts on Wing Wah Lane in Hong Kong. (Keith B. Richburg for The Washington Post)

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 »

Workers remove part of the Pillar of Shame from the University of Hong Kong on Dec. 23, 2021. Anthony Kwan/Getty Images

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 »

Pacientes en un área de espera junto a la sala de emergencias del Hospital Princess Margaret en Hong Kong, el 11 de marzo. Dale De La Rey/Agence France-Presse—Getty Images

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 »

Patients in a holding area next to the emergency room of Princess Margaret Hospital in Hong Kong, March 11. Dale De La Rey/Agence France-Presse—Getty Images

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 »

I Know What a Meaningful Election in Hong Kong Is. This Isn’t One

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 »

Hong Kong’s Universities Have Fallen. There May Be No Turning Back

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 »

I covered Hong Kong for decades. Now I am forced to flee China’s ‘white terror’

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 »

A woman raises her hands in a symbol of “Five demands, not one less” at Causeway Bay after police denied permission for a protest rally during the 24th anniversary of the former British colony's return to Chinese rule, on the 100th founding anniversary of the Communist Party of China, in Hong Kong on Thursday. (Lam Yik/Reuters)

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 »

Pedestrians in Hong Kong take selfies with the flags of China and the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region on Wednesday ahead of the anniversary of the territory’s return to China. (Lam Yik/Bloomberg News)

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 »

La muerte de la libertad de prensa en Hong Kong

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 »

Pro-democracy candidates and their supporters during primaries in Hong Kong in July ahead of planned legislative elections. On Sunday, scores of organizers and participants in the primaries were charged with conspiring to subvert the Hong Kong and mainland authorities. Credit Lam Yik/Reuters

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 »

Reese Tan poses with his British National (Overseas) passport in his favourite part of Hong Kong, the shopping and eating district of Mongkok. Photo by ANTHONY WALLACE/AFP via Getty Images.

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 »

Helena Wong, former pro-democracy lawmaker who was released on bail after being arrested for subversion under the city’s national security law, holds a legal document during a news conference in Hong Kong on Friday. (Chan Long Hei/Bloomberg)

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 »

Pro-democracy activist Joshua Wong, left, in Lai Chi Kok Reception Centre after being jailed for unauthorized assembly near the police headquarters during the 2019 anti-government protests in Hong Kong. (Tyrone Siu/Reuters)

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 »