Call for the EU to Support Hong Kong-ers' Fight for Freedom and Human Rights

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Dear President Tusk, President Junker and President Sassoli,

I am writing to bring your attention to the situation in Hong Kong regarding recent protests and the societal environment in Hong Kong and hope to initiate a dialogue between Hong Kong-ers and the European Union. The Union is founded on the engagement to promote and pledged itself obligated to protect Human Rights worldwide. Its founding treaty stipulates that the Union’s action on the global arena ought to be guided by principles including the universality and indivisibility of human rights and fundamental freedoms, respect for human dignity. The Union has always been one of the major partners of Hong Kong in many aspects.  The European Parliament has recently passed a motion for a resolution regarding the protest happened earlier, supporting the civil society in Hong Kong. Therefore, I would love to urge your further support for Hong Kong-ers in their fight for freedom and human rights. 


Hong Kong plays a vital role in the global financial and trade sector. The shutting down of the airport on 12th August have caused damaged worldwide and Europe-wide. The situation in Hong Kong is not merely affecting Hong Kong-ers, but also the world. Freedom and human rights are the foundation of Hong Kong’s prosperity and its role as an international financial centre. Moreover, the growing influence of China worldwide has been a concern for many states, and it is said that we are in the New Cold War. If that is true, then Hong Kong is the new Berlin. Hong Kong stands between the free world and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) regime.  


Rocking by our largest protest in decades, we were opposing against the Fugitive Offenders and Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters Legislation(Amendment) Bill 2019 (Extradition Law), which many foreign states including the EU had raised concerns over the Extradition law. Now that has turned into a social movement fighting for freedom and human rights. And our outcry for freedom and human rights are on solid grounds.  


In 1984, UK and China signed the Sino-British Joint Declaration, an international bilateral treaty, bound by the Vienna Convention, on Hong Kong’s future after the handover scheduled in 1997. It guarantees Hong Kong-ers fundamental rights and freedoms, including freedom of speech, freedom of the press and freedom of assembly. “One country, two systems” principle is stated in the Joint Declaration, promising Hong Kong-ers could retain our own economic and administrative system for 50 years. 


However, the Chinese government has been tightening its grip on Hong Kong since the handover in 1997. In 2003, the bill commonly known as Article 23 was tabled to the legislature, it defined subversion against the CCP regime as “attempts to intimidate the central government”. It would hugely threaten the city’s freedom of speech and assembly. The bill was shelved after a massive demonstration. In 2012, the HKSAR government attempted to implement a biased national education curriculum denouncing democratic values and praising the CCP as “advanced and selfless”. The proposal was postponed indefinitely after a massive protest. However, it is found that different parts of the original proposal are implemented in schools separately in later years. 


China has never ceased to deprived Hong Kong-ers from their fundamental rights and freedom. Numerous activists are being put behind bars for unlawful assembly and rioting. In 2014, China denied universal suffrage for Hong Kong and sparked off the massive civil disobedience movement known as the Umbrella Revolution. After 79 days of occupation, the police doused the protestors by force, including pepper spray and tear gas. Recently, 9 campaigners have been convicted of the leading roles in the movement. 


Hong Kong-ers’ freedom of speech and the right to be elected are also suppressed. 

In 2015, booksellers selling banned books, including Lam Wing-kee, disappeared. It is suspected that Lam was kidnapped by the Chinese officials in Hong Kong. One year later, an area in central Hong Kong was leased to China under a custom arrangement adopted for the high-speed railway connecting China and Hong Kong. Chinese laws could be enforced in Hong Kong. Principle of “one country, two systems” is violated. In 2016, 6 elected legislators are being disqualified by China and 2 were put into jail for entering the legislative chamber before the disqualifications. And candidates were banned from running for office in the Legislative election that year due to their political stance. 


In 2016, in a protest against the street-hawkers crackdown, police used batons, pepper spray and fired warning shots in the crowd to disperse the crowd. The government classified the incident as a riot on the other morning. More than 100 people are arrested, 33 are charged with riots and they are put behind bars. Edward Leung, a young activist, was put behind bars for 6 years, while another activist Lo Kin-man faced the longest imprisonment in the incident for 7 years. 3 activists fled Hong Kong, Ray Wong, and Alan Li were granted subsidiary status in Germany while Li Sin-Yi fled to Taiwan. 


In 2019, the government introduced the extradition law that allows suspects to be transferred to China where there is no guarantee for fair trials and is notorious for its human rights violations. On the 9th June, one million people took to the streets in protest of the bill. The police used disproportionate force to disperse the protestors. Later, two million people marched onto the streets again. However, the government merely postponed the bill but never suspended the bill. 


On  12th June, Hong Kong Police once again used disproportionate and illegitimate force on Hong Kong Citizens. They were not wearing visible tags, either with the names of the officials nor a number identifying them. Up till now, the government-backed police have fired 1800 shots of tear gas, 400 bean bag rounds, and rubber bullets. The police shot protestors, first-aiders, and journalists, aiming at their head. A lady was shot in the eye and lost her eyesight forever, numerous were injured. Police further hindered hurt protestors in the scene from receiving medical aid and arrest those who sought medical aid in hospitals. Such acts are undoubtedly blatant violations of human rights laws and standards.


In July, protestors and innocent pedestrians were attacked by suspected triad members on the streets and in the underground. More protests and assemblies took place. Civil servants, lawyers, medical staff and other professionals have signed petitions and participated in assemblies and also joined the strike to fight for the government's response. The police have been damaging Hong Kong’s freedom of assembly by banning rallies and protest and caused more conflicts between the police and protestors. 


In August, police stormed enclosed underground stations, firing tear gas in an indoor area to force out protestors. They fired rubber bullets from only a 1-2 meters away from the protestors. Protestors are beaten up by batons on an escalator. A member of the Student Association of the Baptist University was arrested because of his purchase of laser pointers on the street, the police claimed that those are offensive weapons. Abuse of force by the police has become part of our daily routine. Till this point, nearly 600 Hong Kong-ers are arrested. However, the government’s and our Chief Executive responded to these incidents saying “(protestors) have no stake in the society”. 

 

In light of this, I would love to urge for your attention to the human rights violations and support for Hong Kong-ers demand for freedom and human rights. I sincerely hope that the European Union would stand with Hong Kong-ers to protect fundamental freedoms and human rights, which are the pillars of Hong Kong as an international financial center. It is hoped that a dialogue can be initiated so that the Union can be updated with the developments of Hong Kong. 

 

Yours sincerely,

Glacier Chung Ching KWONG