OPINION: Hold Beijing to Account on Hong Kong’s Regression

OPINION: Hold Beijing to Account on Hong Kong’s Regression
photo credit: AP Photo/Vincent Yu/達志影像

What you need to know

As Hong Kong is truly a global city and an international economic hub, the United States and the rest of the democratic world have an interest in seeing the preservation of Hong Kong’s democracy and ensuring that Beijing is held accountable, argues Matthew Geason.

Last month, the world watched as Hong Kong elected its chief executive. The outcome wasn’t anything short of expected as Carrie Lam was announced victorious by the election committee. For the majority of Hong Kongers and the significant number of those who are in support of the pro-democratic camp, her victory signified the continued interference by Beijing in Hong Kong even while Beijing vowed to not meddle with elections.

Last year, I received the opportunity to attend language school in East Asia and spent time between Taiwan and the former British colony of Hong Kong. By living with a Hong Konger in university, I was introduced to circles that would not commonly be entered by an average visitor to Hong Kong. I was able to meet with fellow students and various city residents, and these interactions helped me to understand their convictions and the immeasurable struggle that Hong Kongers face as they venture to resist Beijing's involvement. The continued interference and disregard for Hong Kong’s high degree of autonomy and democratic laws has ultimately proven that Beijing is not concerned with the interests of Hong Kong. Beijing’s agenda, rather, is to inhibit the growth of the pro-democratic movement and halt the spread of western liberal ideas.

Lam’s new government has claimed that her goal is to mend societal divides. However, with the election finished, authorities wasted no time arresting pro-democracy members involved in Occupy Central, otherwise known as the Umbrella Movement, in violation of Hong Kong’s Basic Law which gives its residents the right to freedom of speech, association, assembly, and other liberal rights. By hunting down alleged dissidents, the new pro-Beijing chief executive is signaling the unremitting goal of dismantling Hong Kong’s democracy. The claim that this action is for the stability and prosperity of Hong Kong is deceitful, for this very action goes against the Hong Kong Basic Law and infringes upon the human rights and democratic rights of Hong Kongers. Nevertheless, Beijing is interested in ensuring that the pro-democratic camp in Hong Kong is silenced in order to promote a Beijing-oriented agenda.

Beijing’s current actions are illegal, but these intrusions are not new. In recent years, five Hong Kong booksellers vanished and resurfaced in Chinese custody. These booksellers were members of a publishing house known for publications critical of Communist Party leaders. Although Beijing claims that the five voluntarily returned to China, it is widely accepted that several of these booksellers were abducted in Hong Kong. This illegal abduction of Hong Kong residents is a clear infringement on the Hong Kong Basic Law and, most basically, human rights, and it clearly exhibits China’s intent to silence those who criticize Beijing and the Communist Party. Evidently, the government in Beijing has no intention to support democratic values or human rights in Hong Kong and will continue to deny the residents of Hong Kong a voice.

The abduction of Hong Kongers and the election clearly demonstrate that China is systematically and deliberately interfering in Hong Kong. Their actions are directly hypocritical to statements made by Beijing and prove that Chinese assertions of Hong Kong’s autonomy are insincere – in the same way that China falsely justifies its election interference and illegal abduction in the name of social stability. Beijing’s objective is not to maintain social stability in Hong Kong; it is to implement stricter policies that will inhibit the growth of the pro-democratic movement and prevent the spread of western liberal ideas. What is happening in Hong Kong should be of significance to Americans, considering that a fundamental principle of the United States is the support of democratization and the promotion of democratic values abroad. As Hong Kong is truly a global city and an international economic hub, the United States and the rest of the democratic world have an interest in seeing the preservation of Hong Kong’s democracy and ensuring that Beijing is held accountable.

Editor: Edward White


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