Explanation: Repression of National Security in Hong Kong – 18th month

Hong Kong had its first “patriots only” legislative race in December after the implementation of the National Security Act, which saw a historically low turnout. And another pro-democracy outlet closed its doors following a raid by the National Security Police, as monuments to the Tiananmen massacre were purged from universities. HKFP continues its monthly development survey as the city heads into the New Year.

Freedom of the press “in free fall”

Reporters Without Borders’ latest report on China, published in early December, said press freedom in Hong Kong was in “free fall” and that the National Security Law imposed by Beijing as “a crackdown on independent media” in the city .

Photo: Government of Hong Kong.

The month had started with media mogul Jimmy Lai – currently behind bars – and his now defunct Apple Daily, winning the Golden Pen of Freedom award from the World Association of News Editors.

Constitutional and Continental Affairs Secretary Erick Tsang wrote a threatening letter to the Wall Street Journal about an op-ed he ran on Hong Kong’s first “patriots only” legislative race, claiming that the article contained “factual inaccuracies” and “baseless assumptions”.

After Christmas, the city also saw another press room raided as more than 200 national security police officers searched the offices of the non-profit media Stand News and arrested six former directors and staff, as well. than a former reporter for the now defunct Apple Daily, for allegedly publishing seditious material.

Police pulled out boxes from the Stand News office on Wednesday. Photo: Candice Chau / HKFP.

Stand News, founded in December 2014 with a pro-democracy orientation, announced that it was going out of business hours after the raid and arrests, and all content, including its website and YouTube channel, was deleted that evening. His two former editors were formally charged the next day and both were denied bail by a national security judge.

The seven-year-old newsroom became the second outlet to be indicted under colonial-era anti-sedition law after the shutdown of Apple Daily in June.

Just a day before authorities raided Stand News, Lai and six former Next Digital and Apple Daily staff indicted under the National Security Act learned they would face an additional charge under the National Security Act. anti-sedition legislation, which was last amended in the 1970s. The High Court also ordered the liquidation of the parent company.

Purge of the Tiananmen Massacre Monument

Three Hong Kong universities, including the University of Hong Kong, Chinese University of Hong Kong and Lingnan University, destroyed monuments to the Tiananmen Massacre from their campuses in the 48 hours leading up to Christmas.

The evictions – carried out while the students were on break – came just after the sentencing of eight pro-democracy figures, including former leaders of the former Hong Kong Alliance in support of China’s democratic patriotic movements, during the vigil of the Tiananmen massacre banned last year. .

A before and after shot of the scene. Photo: HKFP.

Lai, along with former Alliance vice president Chow Hang-tung and activist Gwyneth Ho, were found guilty of participating in or instigating others to take part in the banned rally. The trio, along with five other Democrats who pleaded guilty, including former Alliance chairman Lee Cheuk-yan, were sentenced to prison terms ranging from four months and two weeks to 14 months.

Simon Leung, a former Alliance standing committee member who was also jailed in the 2020 banned vigil, also pleaded guilty to refusing a national security police data request and was given a sentence three months in prison.

Court decisions

December also saw the approval of bail requests for two defendants awaiting national security trials.

A 16-year-old boy accused of conspiracy to incite subversion has been released on bail after nearly three months in police custody. However, the student faced a long list of bail conditions including not sharing, commenting on, or “liking” social media posts or otherwise expressing any political opinion and to current affairs.

Wong Ji-yuet, who was the former spokesperson for the disbanded student activist group Demosisto and one of 47 Democrats accused of plotting to commit subversion, was released on bail at the Winter Solstice.

Court of final appeal. Photo: Kelly Ho / HKFP.

In addition to the bail decisions, the city’s highest court has also confirmed that the stricter standard for granting bail to national security suspects also applies to those charged under other laws, though the case involves acts endangering national security.

The confirmation came after the Court of Final Appeal dismissed an application to challenge a lower court’s denial of bail to a speech therapist, who was accused of publishing seditious children’s books about the sheep.

China hails “success” of elections

After Hong Kong’s first “patriots-only” legislative race with a historically low turnout and only one self-proclaimed non-pro-democracy candidate elected, China claimed the development of democracy in the city in a white paper published within hours after the closing of the polling stations.

Constitutional and Continental Affairs Secretary Erick Tsang (second from left) and President of the Electoral Affairs Commission Barnabas Fung (second from right) pour ballots into a ballot box at the Congress and Conference Center. Hong Kong exhibitions on December 20, 2021. Photo: GovHK.

The document also stated that the revamped electoral system provided “favorable conditions” for the ultimate goal of implementing universal suffrage, and that Hong Kong did not have a democracy under British colonial rule which ended in 1997. He also claimed that the colonial authorities had “implemented very repressive policies for a long period of time, tightly controlling news publications and suppressing freedom of expression.”

Before the race, the chairman of Hong Kong’s largest pro-democracy party, Lo Kin-hei of the Democratic Party, was violently attacked by the official gazette of the Communist Party of China. He accused him of preventing members from running in Sunday’s “patriots only” election and urged party members to “clean his house”.

City security chief Chris Tang also criticized former lawmaker and self-exiled activist Nathan Law for accepting an invitation to speak at the Democracy Summit in the United States. Tang accused the 28-year-old of violating “the electoral ordinance, and possibly even the national security law” for allegedly causing voters to ignore the Legislative Council elections.

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