China’s stealth campaign in Hong KongBy Asia Sentinel Sep 11, 2013 1:34PM UTC
Security legislation, patriotic campaigns to defang dissent, reports Asia Sentinel’s Cyril Pereira
Before Hong Kong reverted to China in 1997, the departing British administration and the PRC government, without consulting the territory’s then 6.7 million people, negotiated the Basic Law which was to apply to the Special Administrative Region for 50 years until 2047.
Article 23 of the Basic Law obliges the territory to enact National Security legislation to prohibit treason, sedition, secession and subversion against the national government in Beijing. Treason, sedition and subversion are vague terms typically invoked by closed regimes to suppress political opposition.
Lack of legal clarity is deliberate. It allows regimes to choke dissent by circumventing legal benchmarks of evidence and proof of criminal activity. Societies can be terrorized into submission using these catchall laws as colonial powers did, to squash challenges to authority.
The first attempt to pass security legislation in 2003 ended in disaster for then Chief Executive Tung Chee Hwa. The hasty introduction of the Security Bill ignored specific written submissions from legal, professional and civic society bodies to rectify flawed provisions which many felt would compromise Hong Kong’s traditions of free speech, free press and human rights. Hong Kong is probably the only society in history without democracy but enjoying First World rights which it fights to protect.
Between 500,000 and 700,000 citizens marched against Article 23 on a searingly hot July afternoon in 2003 to the shock and awe of both the Hong Kong and Beijing authorities. The widely-held belief was shattered that Hong Kong people are only interested in pursuing wealth with little interest in politics. It flashed on world television screens for all to see.
Since then the security bill has been left in cold storage. The public is deeply skeptical of the true intent of Article 23. It does not build local trust or confidence when China routinely ‘disappears’ dissidents, subjects them to severe physical abuse in detention, imposes security surveillance on spouses and punishes families. This kind of state thuggery cannot be reconciled with Hong Kong’s ‘core values’.
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