Five reasons why Hong Kong is NOT the capitalist utopia you might imagine it to be (IV): Rule of Law

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According to a report from Freedom House in 2015, and despite “dramatic public resistance”, rule of law and political freedoms have been under attack in Hong Kong. Although most people are concerned with the upcoming electoral process, there are also a series of events that question the existence of the rule of law in the territory.

Just to give some of the most representative examples, during the pro-democracy Occupy protests of October 2014, seven policemen beat the activist Ken Tsang in a dark corner near Tamar, Admiralty. He was later sentenced for assaulting police with “liquid from the embankment of the underpass at Lung Wo Road and then resisting arrest” the very same day. Edward Leung Tin-kei, who was recently followed and attacked by a left-wing journalist, was also arrested on February 9, 2016 for taking part in the Mongkok clashes during Lunar New Year. He and others are temporarily banned from the neighborhood of Mongkok. More recently, Joshua Wong has been sentenced to 80 hours of community service for the 2014 protests. Another fellow activist, Alex Chow, was given a three week jail sentence with one year of suspension. And let’s not forget the case of Ng Lai-yin, a 30 years old woman who was convicted for assaulting an officer’s arm with her breasts.

In the past weeks, there have been rumors about Hong Kong actors having to sign a “patriotic act” against Hong Kong’s independence if they wish to do any work in China, and teachers have also been warned that they could lose their qualifications if they advocate independence in schools. A long list of recent censorship cases in Hong Kong, including freedom of press, freedom of assembly, and freedom of movement in and out of Hong Kong, can be read here and here. Just to quote a few paragraphs:

“The Basic Law upholds freedoms of speech, press, and publication. Residents have access to dozens of daily newspapers, international radio broadcasts, and satellite television. Foreign media operate without interference. However, in recent years the Hong Kong and Chinese governments, as well as businesses that have close ties with Beijing, have increased physical attacks and pressure against local journalists. Several media owners are current or former members of the NPC and CPPCC, and many have significant business interests in mainland China.”

“In January, Kevin Lau Chun-to, chief editor of the newspaper Ming Pao, was replaced with a Malaysian citizen who was seen as more beholden to the owner and the government. Lau, known for investigations of the Hong Kong and Chinese leaderships, was then badly injured in a knife attack in February. In March, four assailants used iron bars to beat two executives from an independent media company that was planning to launch a new paper.”

“During the protest movement in the fall, many reporters were assaulted by counterprotesters or police, and there were signs of self-censorship by some outlets. In October, the television station TVB broadcast footage of police officers beating Civic Party activist and protester Ken Tsang Kin-chiu, but within hours it replaced the video’s voiceover to downplay allegations of excessive force.”

“Religious freedom is generally respected in Hong Kong. Adherents of the Falun Gong spiritual movement, which is persecuted in mainland China, are free to practice in public. However, in recent years they have frequently been confronted and harassed by members of the Hong Kong Youth Care Association (HKYCA), which has ties to the CCP.”

“A white paper issued by the Chinese government in June 2014 declared that for Hong Kong officials, including judges, “loving the country is the basic political requirement,” which many jurists saw as a demand for loyalty to Beijing and a threat to the territory’s rule of law and judicial impartiality.”

“Hong Kong authorities periodically deny entry to visiting political activists and Falun Gong practitioners, particularly at sensitive times, raising suspicions that the government enforces a Beijing-imposed political blacklist. In April 2014, the Immigration Department barred well-known U.S.-based Chinese political activist Yang Jianli from entering the territory to attend the opening of a museum dedicated to the 1989 Tiananmen crackdown.”

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