Southern German Press: Kowtow Before Beijing

It would be laughable if it were not so serious: a tiny group of 16 people unfurl a banner on an almost 10 metre wide sidewalk in Hong Kong. Then the police arrive, a scuffle ensues, and the officers cordon off the sidewalk. Now those sixteen have been in court for two full months, because “they disturbed the public order,” and “blocked a public through-way,” and that means the sixteen members of the group, NOT the police officers! What makes this case such a tongue-tickler? The venue was the sidewalk in front of the Mainland Chinese Liaison Office in Hong Kong. The demonstrators were members of the Falun Gong, which is forbidden in China. Their banner was an appeal to the Chinese head of state and read, “ Jiang Zemin – Stop the Killing.”

Everyone awaits the court’s decision on Thursday [15th August] with baited breath. It is a “grand opening” of sorts, the first time a trial has been conducted against the Falun Gong movement, which up until now is still legal. “That is precisely what we mean when we speak of a dangerous erosion of freedom and of institutions,” said Law Yuk-Kai, director of the Hong Kong Human Rights Monitor, the human rights organization having the largest number of members in this city. “These people are not standing trial for disturbing the public order, but for disturbing China.” [..]

The Falun Gong trial is not an isolated indicator that the two-term head of state of Hong Kong, Tung Chee-hwa, sanctioned by Beijing, uses harsher methods. Last February, three young Hong Kong citizens had organized a student demonstration without having the proper permits. Three months later the police knocked on their doors. “They sent a special team trained to deal with hard-core, violent criminals,” relates Law Yuk-Kai. In a scene worthy of a movie segment, the police roused the students from their beds at 7:00 o’clock in the morning. They woke up all the neighbours. This kind of thing only happens when loan sharks try to find notorious deadbeats who refuse to pay.” That incident was also a first since Hong Kong reverted back to China in 1997.

But all these related incidents are only a preamble to a much larger step Hong Kong’s government is now willing to take, albeit under duress from Beijing: Hong Kong is soon to ratify an anti-subversion law, as has been spelled out in Article 23 of her Constitution. Critics view this law as the biggest danger for the freedom of Hong Kong, saying it leaves the door wide open for arbitrary actions. Among other things, such a law would prohibit contact by local groups with “other political organizations abroad,” which effectively covers all human rights organizations within the City and, of course, Falun Gong.

Chinese Deputy Prime Minister Qian Qichen had this to say in response to a question from Hong Kong’s TV Station TVB, “If they have any further contact with foreign powers, it would create problems for Hong Kong and would constitute a breach of law.”

By Kai Strittmatter

(Original text in German)

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