In the lead-up to Christmas 2020, the communist Chinese Government has stepped up pressure on pro-democracy activists in Hong Kong, arresting leading media businessman Jimmy Lai, above, and eight activists who protested last November at the University of Hong Kong.
Mr Lai faces a charge under the national security law that could put him in jail for life.
He is the owner of Hong Kong’s Apple Daily, a popular newspaper that is unashamedly pro-democracy and fiercely critical of authorities. Police raided the paper’s headquarters in August and arrested a number of senior company figures, including Mr Lai.
More recently, he was denied bail and remanded in custody until April 2021 after being charged with fraud.
The national security law states that no bail should be granted unless the court has sufficient grounds to believe the suspect will not continue to endanger national security.
On Saturday December 12, Chief Magistrate Victor So denied Mr Lai’s bail application.
He is accused of colluding with foreign countries, by calling on overseas governments to sanction Hong Kong and China in response to the crackdown on pro-democracy activism in the city.
The fact that the arrests did not take place at the time of the alleged offences is a clear sign that Beijing ordered its National Security Office in Hong Kong to conduct the crackdown.
ANGER AND FEAR
Among ordinary people in Hong Kong who simply want to preserve the freedoms that China guaranteed to maintain until 2047, there is a pervasive sense of anger and fear.
Overseas visitors who once flocked to Hong Kong are unlikely to return while the palpable sense of apprehension in Hong Kong remains, and the threat of arrest hangs over anyone who has ever expressed misgivings about Beijing’s policies.
The latest crackdown, implemented by the Beijing-appointed Chief Executive of Hong Kong, Carrie Lam, follows the administration’s decision to defer elections for the Legislative Council for a year from September.
The official reason was the covid19 crisis, but the real reason was that pro-democracy parties had successfully conducted primaries to preselect candidates for the election. Over a million people voluntarily voted in the primaries.
Since then, the Government orchestrated the expulsion of several members of the legislature for expressing secessionist sentiments. About 20 other members of the Legislative Council resigned in protest.
With Carrie Lam now exercising total power in Hong Kong on behalf of Beijing, including the power to prevent people standing for election, it is unclear whether the insistent voice of democratic Hong Kong will ever be heard again.
The increasingly repressive environment in Hong Kong has led to U.S. sanctions against leading Hong Kong officials, including the Chief Executive.
Last August, the United States imposed sanctions on senior political and police figures in Hong Kong, preventing them from visiting the U.S. or having any assets there.
Following the latest crackdown, the U.S. extended sanctions to 14 members of the communist Chinese Government in Beijing, including the vice-chairmen of the National People’s Congress Standing Committee (NPCSC).
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said: “Beijing’s unrelenting assault against Hong Kong’s democratic processes has gutted its Legislative Council, rendering the body a rubber stamp devoid of meaningful opposition.”
The European Union has made verbal protests against the arrests in Hong Kong and China, but done nothing more.
There has also been concern in Hong Kong at Carrie Lam’s decision to use a Chinese-made vaccine, Coronavac, which has not even passed phase 3 trials.
According to the New York Times’ virus tracker, the Chinese vaccine showed “a comparatively modest production of antibodies” in phase 1/2 tests. Results of phase 3 tests, which involve mass vaccination, had not been published at the time of the announcement.
The head of Hong Kong’s Public Doctors Association, Dr Arisina Ma, criticised the selection of the Chinese vaccine, produced by Sinovac Biotech.
“We know very little about Sinovac Biotech as it hasn’t even published its third-phase data on its vaccine … the Government should come clean on why it chose the firm to restore public confidence if it wants Hongkongers to get vaccinated,” Dr Ma told the South China Morning Post.
While communist China continues to bully countries like Australia with impunity, undermine the Sino-British treaty, and treat the people of Hong Kong with contempt, there will be no resolution of any of the global challenges that Beijing is currently making to the rest of the world.
Arrest and release continues in Hong Kong by Terri M. Kelleher, August 26, 2020.
Beijing regime tightens grip on Hong Kong by Peter Westmore, August 19, 2020.