Where Are Hong Kong’s Leading Pro-Democracy Figures Now?

Where Are Hong Kong’s Leading Pro-Democracy Figures Now?

In 2019, Hong Kong erupted into essentially the most gorgeous expression of public anger with Beijing in a long time. Protesters broke into the legislature and vandalized it. They purchased full-page ads in worldwide newspapers, criticizing the federal government. Lawmakers hurled unsavory objects in conferences to protest unpopular payments.

In the years since then, China has waged an expansive crackdown on Hong Kong to crush the opposition. Beijing straight imposed a nationwide safety legislation on the town in 2020 that gave the authorities a robust software to spherical up critics, together with a outstanding pro-democracy media tycoon.

So when Hong Kong’s pro-Beijing lawmakers handed a brand new safety legislation on Tuesday that expanded the authorities’ energy much more, the vote was just about unopposed. The most vocal pro-democracy activists and lawmakers are actually both in jail or self-imposed exile.

Chow Hang Tung was a human rights lawyer representing different activists on trial for nationwide safety offenses, till she herself was arrested in 2021.

Now, she says, she had no different possibility however to “turn into a columnist,” writing open letters from jail, that are then posted on-line by her buddies. She has additionally filed a number of authorized appeals, writing statements to the court docket by hand as a result of she had no entry to a pc or the web.

Recently, Ms. Chow has taken goal at Hong Kong’s new safety laws, saying that officers had been attempting guilty the turbulence it had skilled on atypical individuals and imprecise “overseas forces.”

She faces a number of costs, together with some beneath the 2020 nationwide safety legislation, associated to her function in organizing a candlelight vigil commemorating victims of the 1989 Tiananmen crackdown in Beijing.

Being in jail has not stopped her from attempting to talk out. Ms. Chow has tried to make use of her many court docket appearances as platforms from which to criticize Beijing, together with over its longstanding repression of the Tiananmen Mothers, a bunch representing victims of the bloodbath.

Ted Hui was identified for being a confrontational lawmaker.

In 2020, he hurled a foul-smelling rotting plant onto the ground of the legislative chamber to protest a invoice making it against the law to disrespect the Chinese anthem. At road rallies, he used his megaphone to warn riot police to not damage protesters; one officer responded by firing pepper spray into Mr. Hui’s eyes.

Mr. Hui was arrested in 2020 and accused of illegal meeting and different costs. He managed to flee to Copenhagen with the assistance of two Danish politicians, and was later joined by his household.

At first, the authorities froze his household’s financial institution accounts. But they later backed down due to an outcry, and Mr. Hui was capable of get well his household’s financial savings.

Mr. Hui is one in every of round a dozen high-profile pro-democracy activists whom the authorities regard as “absconders.” The new safety legislation now prohibits any try to assist “absconders” entry their property or property.

“Hong Kongers needs to be ready to count on that what has occurred to me may turn into part of on a regular basis life for normal residents,” he stated in a telephone interview from Adelaide, Australia, the place he and his household have settled.

Claudia Mo was amongst 47 pro-democracy leaders charged with “conspiracy to commit subversion” after collaborating in an unofficial main election.

Prosecutors cited tv interviews and WhatsApp messages with journalists from The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times as proof towards her. Ms. Mo has been behind bars for greater than three years and is awaiting sentencing after pleading responsible.

According to a former lawmaker who visits Ms. Mo in jail, she has been finding out French and educating English to fellow detainees, together with the finer factors of figures of speech like “inform me about it” and “over the moon.”

Ms. Mo, a former journalist, was generally known as a average within the pro-democracy camp. When masked younger protesters stormed the Legislative Council with makeshift battering rams in 2019, Ms. Mo was amongst various veteran politicians urging the demonstrators to cease.

“Please ask if it’s value it,” she informed one protester. “Think about your mom.”

Jimmy Lai, probably the most outspoken critics of China’s Communist Party, is on trial on nationwide safety costs.

For years, China’s state-controlled media shops have denounced him as a “C.I.A. agent.” Prosecutors have portrayed him because the grasp conspirator behind the 2019 protests that roiled Hong Kong. Mr. Lai has pleaded not responsible.

Mr. Lai, who was born on the mainland and moved to Hong Kong at age 12, made his fortune from clothes. But after the Tiananmen bloodbath, Mr. Lai grew to become a writer, launching the Apple Daily newspaper in 1995 that grew to become a platform for pro-democracy voices.

After Beijing imposed the 2020 safety legislation, the authorities raided Apple Daily’s workplaces and arrested Mr. Lai. The newspaper was compelled to shut in 2021 after a number of high editors and writers and a senior govt of Mr. Lai’s media group had been additionally charged with “conspiracy to commit collusion” with overseas forces. Those former workers have pleaded responsible.

“I imagine within the media, by delivering info, you’re really delivering freedom,” Mr. Lai stated in an interview in 2020 with The Times.

Nathan Law was a pupil chief in 2014 protests generally known as the Umbrella Movement, which known as for freer elections. He later grew to become the town’s youngest elected lawmaker at age 23 however was shortly disqualified.

And in 2017, he was jailed on costs of inciting the 2014 road protests, together with Joshua Wong, a fellow protest chief and a outstanding face of the student-led demonstrations. Mr. Wong has served a number of jail sentences associated to protests, and is at the moment in custody whereas he awaits sentencing in a separate nationwide safety case.

Mr. Law escaped Hong Kong shortly earlier than the passage of the safety legislation and was granted asylum in Britain in 2021.

He is now probably the most outstanding younger Hong Kong activists overseas, typically testifying earlier than American and European lawmakers.

Recently, he organized Hong Kong March, a monthlong cultural competition that includes movie screenings, calligraphy courses and festivals in varied cities in England. He is the founding father of Hong Kong Umbrella Community, a nonprofit targeted on the Hong Kong diaspora.

“I feel having that impartial cultural work is essential to protect our id and historical past and sense of group,” he stated in a telephone interview. “Though we are going to undoubtedly be much less related to the one in Hong Kong, we will a minimum of be extra related to the one abroad.”

Anna Kwok, a Hong Kong activist primarily based in Washington, is one in every of 13 abroad dissidents the Hong Kong authorities has focused with bounties of about $130,000 and promised to pursue “for all times.” (The others embody Mr. Law and Mr. Hui.)

She had helped the protesters in 2019 from afar, elevating a whole lot of hundreds of {dollars} anonymously as a part of a crowdfunding marketing campaign to pay for front-page newspaper ads criticizing the federal government.

She later grew to become govt director of the Hong Kong Democracy Council and urged the U.S. authorities to bar John Lee, Hong Kong’s chief, from attending the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation assembly in San Francisco in November. She traveled to the summit to protest the attendance of Xi Jinping, China’s chief.

In a telephone interview, Ms. Kwok stated she was disheartened that the brand new safety legislation had handed with no objection or protest. She anxious that future generations would neglect that lots of the metropolis’s residents had as soon as fought onerous for democracy.

“No matter how unfree the atmosphere is, we will nonetheless hold our minds free,” she stated. “And, that’s the freedom we’ve got to protect.”



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