Hong Kong’s freedom declines as security law disagrees

Hong Kong (AP) — Hong Kong is still the wealthiest and most capitalist city in China. Surrounded by dragon-backed emerald peaks, skyscrapers and sea views are more spectacular than ever. But a year after Beijing imposed strict national security legislation on the former British colonies, civil liberties that raised expectations for more democracy among as many as 7 million people declined. I am.

The enforcement of the law on June 30, 2020 accelerated the rollback of freedom promised to Hong Kong when China acquired it in 1997. This process was interrupted earlier this month by the closure of Hong Kong’s last democratization newspaper, Apple Daily.

Authorities first came for Jimmy Lai, the founder of Apple Daily’s candid billionaire. He has been sentenced to 20 months in prison and is facing the crime of foreign collusion to endanger national security.

Last week, about 500 police officers attacked the headquarters of the newspaper. At least seven of the journalists and executives were arrested, the $ 2.3 million worth of paper-related assets were frozen, and they were unable to pay salaries and other expenses. In the final version, Apple Daily printed 1 million copies. This is more than 12 times more than normal print execution. Sold out to the crowds lined up at the newsstand for hours.

Yuen Chan, a journalist instructor at the University of London and former principal of the University of Hong Kong’s journalism school, said in an online news commentary that Apple Daily’s coverage was often “sensational,” but revealed corruption and was awarded in investigative journalism. Said that he received the award. Portal Citizen News.

She wrote that it was also a “barometer of Hong Kong’s freedom of the press and freedom of expression.”

The treatise concludes with the Chinese Communist Party celebrating its 100th anniversary in Shanghai in 1921 by Mao Zedong and others. Last year, the Chinese government strengthened its semi-autonomous control over Hong Kong months after anti-government protests that brought hundreds of thousands of people to the streets.

Demonstrations against the proposed delivery law, which would allow suspects to be tried in courts in mainland China, sometimes became violent, including demands for universal suffrage and police tactical investigations. Included the request of. Currently, protesting or publicizing what could be interpreted as a violation of security law could result in jail in Hong Kong.

Traditionally, the city has been considered one of the most attractive places for expatriates due to its low tax rates and ease of business. It is still a major business and financial hub. However, some multinationals have begun relocating their businesses and staff. The American Chamber of Commerce says two of the five foreigners surveyed in May are considering leaving the city. The biggest concern was the National Security Law.

In personal conversations, many in Hong Kong lament the loss of freedom, but life continues. weekend. The shopping mall is still crowded. People still line up for hours sitting in popular dim and noodle restaurants, or strolling along the scenic Victoria Peak on weekends. On the surface, everyday life hasn’t changed much.

What has changed is a special privilege that Hong Kong has promised for half a century after the transfer of territorial control to Beijing on July 1, 1997. Its court and legal system autonomy, civil freedom, including freedom of the press, freedom of speech, and the leeway to go to the streets and other public places in protest.

As the room for disagreement diminishes, online news platform Stand News has announced that it will remove commentary published on the site by June, suspend funding efforts and stop accepting new subscribers.

With the takeover 24 years ago, Hong Kong became a semi-autonomous territory, promising independent economic and legal status under the “one country, two systems” arrangement, and despite the lack of the Communist Party, many people in the city. Has come to expect more democracy. Tolerance to cross-border oppositions in mainland China.

Like millions of people who have left the mainland in Hong Kong for more opportunities in the last few decades, Wang Wai in his 40s wages “thousands, but still hundreds in China. He said he moved to Hong Kong because he was there.

“The health care system, education and work found in Hong Kong is much better than in China,” said Wang, who is married to two children.

Hong Kong has been primarily committed to making money since Britain’s time as a hub for exchanging opium from India for silk, tea and porcelain from China. After the communist revolution of 1949, the city prospered as Shanghai businessmen settled in the colonies and brought their recovered property.

After Hong Kong’s clothing and electronics manufacturing crossed the border back to China, Hong Kong’s colonial heritage became a good place to prosper as the world’s second-largest economic financial center. I did. For many in the city, the delivery to Beijing was just a flag switch.

Hong Kong was aimed at leading China’s rise as an economic power and enjoying the best of both worlds. The first CEO, Tung Chee-hwa, will often say. After prospering on the mainland, it continues to be the home of billions of millionaire businessmen and many other wealthy Chinese who have invested in selected properties.

Despite the massive anti-democratization movement that paralyzed parts of the city in 2019 and the pandemic’s impact on tourism and trade, the city’s stratospheric real estate market soared even higher.

Even modest apartments less than 100 square meters (1,100 square feet) have more than doubled in price since 1997, said Derek Chan, head of research for real estate firm Rica Corp Properties.

“Even if prices soar, wealthy people in Hong Kong are still prepared to buy real estate at these prices, making it increasingly difficult for ordinary residents to buy a home,” said Chan. I did.

Such costs have made the city affordable for many: the share of Hong Kongers living in poverty has doubled by a fifth since delivery.

Such pressure increased frustration as Beijing tightened the screws.

Even before the delivery, China and Britain argued over how much democracy Hong Kong should have. When the election results revealed that the public preferred more, Beijing moved to make it less obligatory and ensure that it remained in control.

Chris Patten, Hong Kong’s last colonial governor, left the territory, declaring that “the people of Hong Kong are now to run Hong Kong.”

“It’s a promise — and it’s an unwavering fate,” he said when he boarded the Royal Yacht Britannia and set sail after delivery.

Chinese cities accustomed to free press, the rule of law, and freedom of assembly wanted to be in time to gain more say about how they were governed. Instead, one distant ruler replaced another.

Mr. Wang, who moved to Hong Kong from his hometown in Fujian Province in southeastern China, said the weakening of the city’s civil liberties was “bad.” “I came to Hong Kong because of its freedom, the rule of law and more democracy. It now looks more and more like a Chinese city.”


Kurtenbach, who has lived and worked in Hong Kong and China since 1981, contributed to this report from Bangkok.

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