Hong Kong people get creative to show opposition to security law


HONG KONG – For the first 23 years after Britain returned Hong Kong to China, residents of the territory were free to express their views on the handover, the mainland and more.

But now, a year after China’s strict National Security Law (NSL) came into effect, many Hong Kong residents are afraid to raise their voices. While some continue to speak frankly, government actions like the ones that shut down Apple Daily are discouraging people from speaking out.

“The national security law is a law that took humanity away from Hong Kong,” Tomoko Ako, professor of sociology and Chinese studies at the University of Tokyo, told Nikkei Asia. As the “red line” of what constitutes an offense is unclear, she believes this has deprived the freedom to express even “basic emotions and punishments.”

Activist Agnes Chow Ting, who has been outspoken, is currently silent, which is not surprising since she was arrested under the NSL last year, but not charged. For her role in an unauthorized rally in 2019, she was jailed for 10 months and released on June 12 after serving more than six months. The 24-year-old was greeted by enthusiastic supporters but remained silent. She later posted a message on Instagram thanking her friends for saying hello to her despite the heavy rains. “From now on, I need to rest well and recover my body, as I lost too much weight during this time,” she wrote.

Chow is well known in Japan for her advocacy for democracy, speaking and writing in her fluent self-taught Japanese. His Japanese-language Twitter account has 581,000 followers. But Ako, who organized her visits to Japan, said under NSL Chow “could be seen as colluding with foreign forces if she spoke anything in Japanese.” Ako, who received her doctorate from the University of Hong Kong, said she also did not feel safe visiting the territory.

Pro-democracy activist Agnes Chow was released from prison after serving nearly seven months for her role in an unauthorized rally during the city’s 2019 anti-government protests in Hong Kong on June 12, 2021. © Reuters

Despite the ban on street protests in Hong Kong, people are trying to show their opposition to the law in any way they can.

At every trial session on June 11, supporters applauded “I love you!” We all support you! each time, more than 20 pro-democracy activists accused of illegal assembly appeared. A 42-year-old restaurateur told Nikkei Asia he came to applaud “as often as possible”. A 68-year-old retiree said: “I will do what I can to support them.

The day after police raided children’s clothing store Chickeeduck in May, accused of raping NSL by displaying a protest slogan, customers lined up around the store to show their support .

“I am so grateful for everyone’s support,” said Herbert Chow, founder of the brand. Chow was forced to quit his investment in the mainland and move his company’s production line to Southeast Asia in 2019, after coming under attack by state media for his support of the Hong Kong protests.

The city’s large real estate groups refused to renew its leases, leaving the clothing chain with only four outlets in the territory, up from 12 before the protests.

“If the government really takes the trouble to press charges against me, it will declare war on all small business owners in town,” he said. “In this case, it is a gain for the democratic movement in Hong Kong. This is how I got over my fear. [of being jailed]. “

A prominent activist, Nathan Law, left for London just before the entry into force of the NSL. With fellow activists arrested in Hong Kong, his resettlement was aimed at ensuring a dissenting voice abroad.

Law said leaving was the right move and fulfilled the responsibilities of drawing attention to Hong Kong internationally. He believes that policymakers around the world increasingly see China as a threat and speak out more about human rights issues in China. In April, Law said he had been granted asylum in the UK

“I still believe that I can return to Hong Kong as a free man someday, although it may take years, even decades, as long as we never forget why we started and stay true to ourselves. “, did he declare.

Emily Lau Wai-hing, a former pro-democracy lawmaker from Hong Kong, remains open. In 1984, when she was a journalist and Britain and China had just signed the Joint Declaration on Hong Kong’s Return to Beijing, Lau asked then Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher: “You have signed an agreement with China promising to deliver more than five million people into the hands of a communist dictatorship. Is it morally defensible? “

She continues to advocate democracy in interviews with international media, despite the risk of being accused of collusion with foreign forces. Speaking to Nikkei Asia recently, Lau said, “I think the game is not over. I refuse to be intimidated and shut up.” But, she added, people must “be bold, be wise, but be careful” to avoid unnecessary arrests, given Hong Kong’s new reality.

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