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Unpreserved Freedoms in Hong Kong

Unpreserved Freedoms in Hong Kong

Hong Kong’s development was once described by the late Academia Sinica scholar Hsing Mu-huan as a “pebble miracle.” That is to say it turned from a pebble into a pearl due to the Hong Kong’s laissez faire policies. Although democracy has not been carried out in Hong Kong, a respect for freedom and protection of human rights should remain in place. When Hong Kong returned to Chinese rule in 1997, Deng Xiaoping stressed it would be run under a framework of “one country two systems” that he contended would preserve the former colony’s freedoms. It is evident, however, that the “one country two systems” ideal exists today in name only. This is because Beijing meddles in Hong Kong’s affairs just enough, such as recently when the Chinese Communist rulers stuck their hands in Hong Kong’s judicial affairs.
At the end of February in 2003, some Taiwan Falungong members went to Hong Kong to take part in a legal event, but the Hong Kong government forcibly repatriated eighty of those members. In these past four years, a representative for the Taiwan Falungong members and the Hong Kong sponsor of the event have brought a lawsuit against the Hong Kong government demanding that a high court judge find the government guilty of illegal forcible repatriation as well as awarding punitive compensation for illegal detention.
This case has aroused international attention as the first religiously-based human rights lawsuit between Hong Kong and Taiwan. On March 23rd of this year, Hong Kong’s Supreme Court completely dismissed the charges brought by the Falungong. The verdict ignored basic human rights provisions, showing that Hong Kong courts yield to pressure from the Chinese Communist leadership. This also seems to indicate there is nothing left of the rule of law that had been in place in Hong Kong for so long. One example that can be cited here is the fourth clause of the Basic Law governing Hong Kong: “The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region will guarantee under law the rights and freedoms of the residents and visitors in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region.” The judge’s ruling was that those visitors who made it to the Hong Kong airport but had not completed entrance formalities could not be considered actually in Hong Kong and thus were not entitled to protection of their rights. Of course every government is entitled to carry out its laws within the boundaries of its jurisdiction. The problem is, if someone were killed inside the Hong Kong airport, would the government also see no need to investigate?
The Hong Kong Supreme Court deliberately misinterpreted the law regarding this case in obvious capitulation to pressure from the Chinese Communist leadership. It has been a common occurrence for these leaders to intimidate Hong Kong residents since the colony returned to Chinese rule in 1997.
In the ensuing years since the takeover, outspoken opponents of Beijing have been bullied into keeping off the air, The Epoch Times Newspaper published in Hong Kong was almost forced to shut down in 2005 due to a refusal by the presses located in China to continue printing. In February of last year, the Epoch Times offices in Hong Kong were ransacked by thugs hired by the Chinese Communist government, ruining a newly purchased film processing machine. In August, Ho Junren, a legislator who publicly called for fair treatment for Falungong members was attacked in a busy market.
In the most recent example of official persecution, the New Epoch Weekly, which began publication in January, was unable to hit the shelves due to fear by retail outlets (including convenience stores) of retaliation by the Chinese Communist government. The outlets originally were willing to carry the weekly, but then reneged on their deals a few days later. Industry experts secretly confided that certain well-known pressures were keeping outlets from carrying the Epoch Times weekly, as they were worried about vicious backlash from the Chinese Communist leadership.
Some high-placed personnel in the Hong Kong publication industry tactfully told the director of the New Epoch Weekly that they were indeed fearful of the power the Chinese Communist leadership could unleash in Hong Kong. They said they were worried that the publication of the weekly would bring reprisals, even suggesting a name change so that there would seem to be no connection between the Epoch Times Weekly and the Epoch News Group. It seems as though Hong Kong professionals are just jumping through hoops, but there is a real fear enveloping the city, as its former freedoms have all but vanished.
One old adage has it that “life and love are valuable, but they play second fiddle to freedom.” But freedom has rapidly disappeared in Hong Kong. While the people of Hong Kong sigh with regret, shouldn’t the people of Taiwan be forewarned? We need to fight China’s attempts to annex Taiwan. Isn’t it easy to see the farce of the “one country two systems” framework through the failed Hong Kong example?

Wu Hui-lin is the research fellow in Chung-Hua Instituion for Economic Research.


Updated : 2021-05-06 19:02 GMT+08:00