Under Hong Kong’s Basic Law, sometimes referred to as a mini-constitution, the territory is supposed to enjoy “a high degree of autonomy” from Beijing, and its citizens are guaranteed a wide range of human rights. But these promises have been under threat for years, as Amnesty shows in a new report
Over the course of his 30-year music career, Cantopop star and native Hong Konger Anthony Wong has become well acquainted with Chinese censorship. From being told to sing in praise of “a harmonious society” at his mainland China concerts to having innocuous lyrics like “our love is a game of power” removed from his songs, making music has always felt like “walking a tightrope” for Wong.
But in recent years, Wong and other outspoken artists have increasingly been feeling the impact of Beijing-directed censorship at home in Hong Kong. After Wong spoke publicly in support of the 2014 pro-democracy Umbrella Movement, he says his work opportunities dried up in Hong Kong as well as on the mainland.
“There is a lot of pent up frustration that’s accumulated since the Umbrella Movement,” Wong says of the Extradition Bill protests that have swept Hong Kong these past few months. “People are finally letting it all out.”
The now-scrapped Extradition Bill is the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Hong Kongers’ grievances against their government. Under Hong Kong’s Basic Law, sometimes referred to as a mini-constitution, the territory is supposed to enjoy “a high degree of autonomy” from Beijing, and its citizens are guaranteed a wide range of human rights. But these promises have been under threat for years, as Amnesty shows in a new report.
Since 2014, the Hong Kong government has increasingly embraced Beijing’s definition of “national security”, which allows for the targeting of journalists, activists and critics under vague pretexts. The people of Hong Kong fear a slide into the repressive style of rule seen in mainland China, and the belated withdrawal of a single bill has done little to allay their concerns.
In 2017, President Xi Jinping gave a speech warning that any attempt to endanger China's sovereignty and security or challenge the power of the mainland government crosses a "red line" and must be dealt with harshly. The Chinese definition of national security essentially means anything that runs counter to the Communist Party's goals, and this interpretation is progressively creeping into Hong Kong policy.
For example, any advocacy or even discussion of self-determination for Hong Kong is considered impermissible by the mainland government. The Hong Kong government has increasingly echoed this idea that merely discussing the idea of independence is an affront to China’s national sovereignty and security, and a breach of the “one country, two systems” principle enshrined in the Basic Law.
In 2018 Hong Kong Law professor Benny Tai was subjected to months of media smears for mentioning in a seminar that one option for Hong Kong to exercise self-determination was independence. Many Hong Kong lawmakers joined in publicly denouncing Professor Tai, arguing that even discussing independence was a threat to national security.
Tags: China, Hong Kong, CENSORSHIP AND FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION.
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