Letters from leaders of Hong Kong's political parties and government departments.
To all Hongkongers who remember the Tiananmen massacre in 1989,
June 4th is coming.
In the past twenty years after the handover, the candlelight vigil at the Victoria Park has been the political thermometer to measure the mainland-Hong Kong relationship and the degree of political freedom in Hong Kong.
This year is different, it deserves your attention.
Hongkongers were never barred from attending the ceremony or worried about any kind of political retaliations. But the second term of President Xi in Beijing marked the beginning of a new level of political censorship. For the first time high officials from Beijing repeatedly declared that whoever chant the slogan “end one party rule” cannot hold public office in Hong Kong and shall be disqualified from local elections.
Not only people in the political circle are affected. Beijing is determined to import mainland legal ideas and practices into Hong Kong in order to tighten its control. We were told in the past that the Basic Law is the only constitutional document that is relevant to the governance of Hong Kong. Not anymore. Beijing is trying to reinstate the authority of the PRC constitution over the Basic Law and make every Hong Kong citizens accountable to both documents. Citizens’ actions can be treated as unconstitutional and punishable for the first time.
For example, HKU law professor Benny Tai received harsh political attacks from pro-Bejing politicians due to the content of his speech given in Taiwan, and his freedom of speech protected by the Basic Law was just ignored by the SAR government. Apparently HKU is now under immense pressure to terminate his work, while several other lecturers have already lost their jobs due to their political activities.
At the same time the local adaptation of the Law of the People’s Republic of China on the National Anthem includes for the first time articles that discipline the manner of citizens present at the occasion where the national anthem is performed. Primary and secondary schools are also ordered by the coming ordinance to teach students the national anthem, which is in violation to article 136 of the basic law that gives SAR government the right to set up its own education policy.
The incremental inclusion of Hong Kong SAR to the Mainland political system gives June 4th a new meaning. We are no longer commemorating other people’s agony, we are anticipating our own future.
This year is different for another reason.
After the Tiananmen massacre, the Western world chose to engage the communist party in economic developments with the hope that improvement in living conditions would at the end trigger political reform of the one party rule. Mainland-Hong Kong relationship followed the same logic and for a long period of time, Hong Kong mass media acted as a window for the world to monitor China’s Human rights issues, thanks to our devoted team of journalists who continue their professional works even under physical threats.
But all of a sudden the western world realizes that it is not they who are changing China, but China is strong enough to change the world to its authoritarian ruling model. Countries around the world are now obliged to do business with China and are more reluctant to criticize its bizarre violations of human rights. China is now implementing a social credit system nationwide which uses data and facial recognition techniques to monitor and rank the behavior of its citizens, rewarding those that score high and punishing those that score low. Under the system, the elite will gain access to better social privileges and those who rank closer to the bottom will effectively be second-class citizens. The latter can be barred from buying air and train tickets.
When China is dragging the world into the nightmarish vision of networked authoritarianism, as the only free city in China, is it the time for Hongkongers to rethink our position in the global endeavor to safeguard democracy? At least, our pro-democracy politicians should come up with an updated strategy to promote democracy in Hong Kong and China rather than focusing on a particular slogan.
It is a pity to hear that all universities student organizations are not having any events to commemorate the June 4th massacre due to their localist ideology. In my opinion, to commemorate the June 4th massacre does not equal to Chinese patriotism. It is also to remind the world about the nature of the Chinese Communist regime; it is about breaking the suffocating atmosphere of political self-censorship and blackmailing in Hong Kong; it is about seeking international support to stop the authoritarian state from getting more political influence.
We are not going to turn things around easily, but June 4th is an important occasion for our cause that should not be missed out easily.
See you at the Victoria park.