China’s rise means trade trumps rights, says Hong Kong activist


Young Hong Kong democracy activist Joshua Wong warned Wednesday that China’s rise means human rights are in increasingly greater danger of being overshadowed globally by business interests, The Associated Press reports:

He was responding to questions about his expectations for an upcoming Asian tour by U.S. President Donald Trump, who will visit China and four other countries. The 21-year-old Wong (left), Hong Kong’s most famous activist, is out on bail while he appeals a prison sentence related to his involvement in massive 2014 pro-democracy protests.

“Business interests override human rights,” he said in an interview with The Associated Press. “It unfortunately seems to be a common trend in the world” under a rising China.

Looking drained and sporting a prison buzz cut, political activist Wong is trying to put a brave face on the tribulations facing Hong Kong’s democracy movement… As he prepares for his possible return to prison, Wong admits that Beijing’s intensifying crackdown has left activists with fewer avenues for resistance and higher penalties for defying the authorities, the FT’s Ben Bland writes.

“Hong Kong has entered an era where those who fight for democracy and free elections will be put in prison,” the 21-year-old tells the Financial Times, several days after he was released on bail 69 days into a six-month sentence for his role in kick-starting the 2014 Occupy protests. “But I still see hope because even people who are not ready to face life in prison are ready to show their support.”

Hong Kong will try to enact a law penalizing people who boo the Chinese national anthem “as soon as possible”, an official said on Wednesday, in a move that critics say undermines the Chinese-ruled city’s autonomy and freedoms, Reuters reports:

In the past few years, some Hong Kong football fans have booed the national anthem during World Cup qualifiers and other games, mirroring a more recent protest in the United States with football players kneeling during the national anthem.

Human rights have deteriorated in Hong Kong over the last two decades, according to a new report from the London-based Henry Jackson Society.

“A startling and dramatic decrease of Hong Kong’s democratic and legal rights in only 10 years is indicated on a wide front of indicators,” according to Hong Kong After 20 Years: the Rollback of Civil, Human, and Legal Rights, which outlines the following findings:

  • China has engaged in a number of direct and indirect ways to subvert both the legislative process and judicial system in Hong Kong, making those sectors beholden to Beijing.
  • Lacking the legal means of extradition, Chinese police simply resort to illegal kidnappings of those who present Chinese leaders with difficulty.
  • Chinese attempts at fostering nationalist education curriculum in 2014 backfired and are behind the rise of the Umbrella Movement. Only 3.1% of Hong Kong youth identify as Chinese.
  • Reporters Without Borders World Press Freedom Index saw Hong Kong go from 18th place in 2002 to 73rd place in 2017.
  • The UK is torn between its desire for trade relations with Beijing and its moral responsibility to uphold the Joint Declaration. It is at a crossroads and will eventually have to choose one or the other.

Credit: IUF

Hong Kong’s labor movement recently held a march and launched a hunger strike for collective bargaining rights. Twenty-five labor activists began a 30-hour hunger strike in front of the Court of Final Appeal on Sunday morning. According to the Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions (HKCTU, a partner of the Washington-based Solidarity Center), around 300 people representing around 60 unions then marched to government headquarters.

Pro-democracy groups recently launched a civic manifesto called “No to Authoritarianism.” One of the co-founders of the Occupy Central movement, Benny Tai Yiu-ting, is a signatory, The South China Morning Post reports.

Tai, a University of Hong Kong academic, said the law was “being used to suppress the will of Hong Kong people for democracy, human rights and dignity.”

“Authoritarianism is now a fact upon this city. But we do believe Hong Kong people will never give up. We do not bow before authoritarian powers,” the manifesto states. “We will continue to fight, within the system and without. Democracy is never a free gift. It comes from out of the will of the people who fear no authoritarian powers.”

Civil society groups recently distributed moon-cakes with notes inside that read “say no to authoritarianism”, notes Human Rights in China.

Either break the silence, or perish in it, said the statement, signed by some 57 civil society groups, including several grantees of the National Endowment for Democracy.

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