How democracy was dismantled in Hong Kong in 2021
HONG KONG — As the times of 2021 dwindled, so did any remaining traces of democracy in Hong Kong.
On Wednesday, a vocal pro-democracy media outlet — one of many final brazenly important voices within the metropolis — closed after a police raid. Earlier in December, the opposition was shut out from elections underneath a brand new regulation that places all candidates to a loyalty check. And monuments commemorating the Tiananmen Sq. protests of 1989 have been taken down.
Time and again all year long, the town’s authorities and the central authorities in Beijing stamped out almost every thing the pro-democracy motion had stood for. Activists fled overseas or have been locked up underneath the draconian Nationwide Safety Legislation imposed on the town 18 months in the past. Unions and different impartial organizations closed down.
The place as soon as Hong Kong allowed “open opposition and questioning of the federal government’s core insurance policies and legitimacy …
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any significant coverage debates will now happen amongst a small circle of presidency loyalists,” mentioned Kurt Tong, companion at The Asia Group and former U.S. consul basic in Hong Kong and Macao.
The times when the previous British colony was thought-about a bastion of freedom fade in reminiscence. Returned to China in 1997, Hong Kong has endured an overhaul of its political system and a crackdown on political dissent.
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Authorities sought to suppress antigovernment sentiment that led to months of political strife in 2019.
The newest instance was Wednesday’s raid by Hong Kong police on the net pro-democracy information outlet Stand Information. Seven folks have been arrested — amongst them two present and former editors and 4 former board members, together with a preferred singer, Denise Ho — for alleged sedition underneath a colonial-era ordinance.
The outlet introduced that afternoon that it could halt operations.
Stand Information is the second media outlet to close down after being focused by Hong Kong authorities. The Apple Every day newspaper closed earlier in 2021 after authorities raided its places of work for a second time and froze tens of millions in property.
“Democracy has been underneath a sustained assault for effectively over a yr in Hong Kong,” mentioned Luke de Pulford, a coordinator for the London-based Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China, a bunch of legislators from democratic international locations targeted on relations with China. “No democracy can operate with out a free press.”
“If no important data is ready to be revealed in regards to the administration in Hong Kong or in China, then what final vestiges of democracy there have been, I feel now we have to say, have been snuffed out.”
In a string of tweets, Hong Kong activist Nathan Legislation known as upon the world to “publish about Hong Kong … (and) in regards to the courageous journalists who danger a lot.” Legislation, who fled to London after the safety regulation was carried out, mentioned he feared “a domino impact” that will lead different shops to shut.
Little stays of Hong Kong’s pro-democracy motion.
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Greater than 100 pro-democracy figures and others have been arrested underneath the safety regulation, which penalizes actions seen as separatist or subverting the Hong Kong or Chinese language governments.
That features 47 folks charged with subversion in February over their roles in an unofficial main election held in 2020 to find out the most effective candidates to subject in deliberate legislative elections.
Authorities accused the activists of subversion, saying they deliberate to win a majority and use it to paralyze the federal government and ultimately power Hong Kong chief Carrie Lam to step down.
The federal government postponed the 2020 elections, citing public well being dangers from COVID-19. Then, the central authorities in Beijing introduced new election legal guidelines earlier this yr that lowered the proportion of immediately elected seats to lower than 1 / 4 and required all candidates to be loyal to Beijing.
The outcomes have been predictable: Earlier this month, when the election lastly was held, pro-Beijing lawmakers received a landslide victory. Town’s largest opposition get together, the Democratic Celebration, fielded no candidates for the primary time because the 1997 handover.
A number of pro-democracy commerce unions and organizations have additionally been dissolved this yr. Town’s largest lecturers’ union disbanded in August as a result of political local weather, adopted later by the town’s largest impartial commerce union.
The Civil Human Rights Entrance, a pro-democracy group that organized a number of the largest protests in 2019, additionally disbanded following a police investigation underneath the Nationwide Safety regulation.
Different pro-democracy activists have additionally been arrested for involvement in unauthorized protests and the annual Tiananmen candlelight vigil, which has been banned for 2 consecutive years. Many of the metropolis’s pro-democracy activists are behind bars or have fled overseas.
Because the yr drew to a detailed, a number of artworks have been eliminated that commemorated the Tiananmen bloodbath.
Two days earlier than Christmas, the College of Hong Kong cited authorized dangers in ordering the elimination of the Pillar of Disgrace monument, which depicts a pile of torn and twisted our bodies of Tiananmen victims. A number of different universities adopted go well with, making away with pro-democracy and Tiananmen statues.
China’s Communist Celebration has lengthy sought to erase Tiananmen from the general public consciousness within the mainland, forbidding any commemorative occasions. Now it appears decided to do the identical in Hong Kong within the title of restoring stability to the town.
Wu reported from Taipei, Taiwan.