I was born a year before the 1997 handover. I grew up in a time where Hong Kong was free — relatively speaking. I was taught to think critically, to voice my opinions, and fight for democracy and freedom. I became an activist at the age of 15, witnessing first-hand the power of our social movements, seeing the possibility for Hong Kong to change for the better. For a while we even saw victories, like when the government ditched the proposals for a patriotic curriculum.
I was hopeful at the time. I remember thinking to myself: if we fight harder, maybe we will get universal suffrage soon. But then Beijing decided against the idea of universal suffrage, and sparked off the Umbrella Revolution in 2014. The world cheered our courage, but we didn't get what we wanted.
Since then, the city has changed a lot, and always for the worse. Candidates were barred from running in elections and elected legislators disqualified while the world sent "thoughts and prayers" but did nothing.
In 2019, the anti-extradition law movement appeared on the scene, turning into the biggest social movement ever in Hong Kong. It also showed me something I have never seen with my own eyes — police brutality, tear gas, real ammunition shooting at minors, and mass scale human rights violations in detention facilities.
Then the national security law was implemented to curtail the city's freedom and autonomy once and for all. Friends and loved ones were arrested — one by one, disappearing behind bars. I was forced into exile. The world was "deeply concerned." Again, they did nothing.
My life is now dominated by an endless stream of bad news from home. Media outlets were forced to close down, people arrested for sedition for commenting on the government's COVID-19 policy, more friends arrested or forced to flee the city.
Politicians and governments are always sympathetic. They tell us we are brave and honorable, they are sorry for our sacrifices and they are deeply concerned about Beijing's expansion in the world. At least on paper they are.
China must be held accountable
The international society has never moved beyond empty hand wringing to try to hold the People's Republic of China accountable for what it has done to my city and the rule-based order it destroys. The world watched as Beijing tightened its grip over Hong Kong and sought to hinder our common values.
Hongkongers and many other victims of Beijing's policies stand alone on the front line of fighting against a brutal, expansionist regime. The free world has never honored our sacrifices.
On this day as we commemorate the 25th anniversary of the handover and the suffering of my fellow Hongkongers, I want to call upon you to press your governments to take action to actually hold China accountable.
Impose sanctions against individuals who are involved in the erosion of Hong Kong, do not allow them to store the wealth they earn from crackdowns on your shores. Further scrutinize export control over dual-use goods and surveillance technologies and implement due diligence regulations; do not allow entities on your soil to be aiding perpetration of human rights crimes. Ban the usage of products related to human rights abuse in Hong Kong and China, do not use taxpayers' money to support companies that are accomplices.
Stand with Hong Kong is more than a slogan, it is the determination to hold China to account for what it has done to us and our common values.
Chung Ching Kwong is Hong Kong Campaigns Coordinator for the Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China.