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INTERNATIONAL > East Asia & Pacific

Editorial: Hong Kong national security law suppressing pro-democracy forces

  • August 13, 2020
  • , The Japan News , 12:34 p.m.
  • English Press

This is a clear indication that China is trying to bring the methods of governance it employs on the mainland — containing criticism through arbitrary application of laws and strict control of the media — into Hong Kong, and suppress pro-democracy forces there.

 

Hong Kong police arrested a number of prominent pro-democracy people on suspicion of violating the national security law.

 

Jimmy Lai, the founder of Hong Kong newspaper Apple Daily, which has been critical of the Chinese and Hong Kong governments, was also asked by the police to attend when a search was conducted at the company’s headquarters. It is said that the police investigated materials for news coverage held by reporters as well. It is obvious that the police aim to psychologically oppress the media.

 

The use of the national security law to put pressure on the media can never be tolerated. There are concerns that the media in Hong Kong will be increasingly dispirited or self-censored.

 

Agnes Chow, a pro-democracy activist, was also arrested. She is well known in Japan as she calls for support in fluent Japanese. Lai and Chow were released, but the authorities seem to be counting on the targeting of two people to have the effect of holding the entire pro-democracy forces in check.

 

It is less than two months since the national security law went into effect at the end of June. It is shocking that the law’s application is so fast and aggressive.

 

The problem is that the reason for their arrests is unclear. Both Lai and Chow have made global appeals over China’s infringement on Hong Kong’s autonomy, but there have been no major actions since the law took effect.

 

The national security law only prohibits “collusion with a foreign country or with external elements to endanger national security,” but it does not specify any concrete content. It seems that the authorities are abusing the ambiguous provisions of the law.

 

In Hong Kong, which is under China’s “one country, two systems” framework, freedom of speech has been allowed. It is an international promise based on the 1984 Joint Declaration between China and Britain. China must recognize its importance and listen to harsh opinions from the international community.

 

The European Union criticized, “The national security law is being used to stifle freedom of expression and of the media.” Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga also reiterated the Japanese government’s “grave concern” over the situation in Hong Kong. China refuted Suga’s remarks by citing “China’s internal affairs,” but the claim is unreasonable.

 

Respect for fundamental freedoms is specified in the U.N. Charter, and the 1993 Vienna Declaration emphasized that the promotion and protection of all human rights are a “legitimate concern of the international community.”

 

Hong Kong has developed as an international financial center because of its freedom of speech based on “one country, two systems” and the rule of law. If these lose substance and become mere words, the foundation of activities of foreign companies will collapse and its status as a financial city will decline.

 

China should realize that Hong Kong is on the brink.

 

— The original Japanese article appeared in The Yomiuri Shimbun on Aug. 13, 2020.

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