East Asia
Hong Kong

Hong Kong executive pushes new security law

Hong Kong Chief Executive John Lee announced the commencement of a four-week consultation period for a new local security law under Article 23 of the Basic Law, the city’s mini-constitution. Article 23 mandates that the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) pass its own laws to prohibit crimes such as treason, secession, sedition and subversion against China’s Central People’s Government. Massive protests involving an estimated 500,000 participants halted the previous attempt to legislate Article 23 in 2003. The current push highlights the Hong Kong government’s efforts to address “soft resistance,” such as online activity that may jeopardize national security. (Photo: HKFP)

East Asia
china labor

Wildcat labor actions spread in China

Although winning no coverage in English-language media, labor actions are spreading across China in the current economic downturn in the People’s Republic. This week, workers hung banners outside the headquarters of the Guilin No. 3 Construction Company in Guangxi province to demand payment of outstanding wages owed to hundreds of employees. On the same day, migrant workers in Jinan, Shandong province, raised banners in the city’s central business district demanding payment of backlogged wages by the China Railway Construction Corporation. By definition, such actions are not authorized by the state-controlled All-China Federation of Trade Unions (ACFTU). Numerous such recent actions were described at the symposium “Non-violent Resistance, High-Tech Totalitarianism and China’s Future,” held last weekend in Washington DC. (Image: China Labour Bulletin)

East Asia

Arrests at Hong Kong’s ‘patriots-only’ election

Hong Kong Chief Executive Ka-chiu Lee applauded the “good turnout” in the city’s “patriots-only” District Council elections—despite a turnout of only 27.5%, the lowest in any race since the return to Chinese rule in 1997. He also charged that protesters had attempted to “sabotage” the vote. Four of the city’s leading democracy advocates were pre-emptively arrested for supposedly planning protests before the polls opened. This was the first district-level vote since Hong Kong’s government overhauled the electoral system, instating changes that effectively made it impossible for pro-democracy candidates to run. Most of the city’s pro-democracy activists are now behind bars, in exile, or silenced by fear of repression. (Photo of League of Social Democrats chair Chan Po-ying: HKFP)

East Asia

Hong Kong steps up crackdown on Cantopop stars

Hong Kong District Court judge Ernest Lin Kam-hung handed down a judgment sentencing Tommy Yuen, a former Cantopop boy-band member, to 26 months imprisonment. Yuen was convicted of “acts with seditious intention” among other charges. Lin found that Yuen made seditious statements on Facebook and Instagram in 2021 disparaging police and officials. Lin asserted that Yuen had been advocating for Hong Kong independence and insulting Hong Kong’s government. Yuen was well known as a member of the Cantopop boy group E-kids, which was disbanded in 2006. He had been active in the 2019 anti-extradition protests, while Lin won a reputation for his harsh sentences handed down to protesters. (Photo: Yuen, outside West Kowloon Court in March 2021, standing to right of Alexandra “Grandma” Wong. Credit: Studio Incendo via Wikimedia Commons)

East Asia

Hong Kong: protester convictions overturned

Seven high-profile democracy activists in Hong Kong had part of their sentences thrown out on appeal. They were convicted two years ago over a mass demonstration on Aug. 18, 2019 that drew an estimated 1.7 million people, in defiance of a ban on street protests. The Court of Appeal’s judgement found that just because they were at the front of the procession didn’t mean they had actually organized it. However, their convictions for taking part in the rally were upheld. Martin Lee, Margaret Ng and Albert Ho were given suspended sentences or credit for time served, and were released. But Jimmy Lai, Leung Kwok-hung, Cyd Ho and Lee Cheuk-yan remained in custody, as they also face charges under the National Security Law. (Photo: Iris Wong/Wikimedia)

East Asia

Hong Kong pro-democracy radio station closed down

Hong Kong’s pro-democracy Citizen Radio aired its final broadcast, with the founder citing the “dangerous” political environment. Tsang Kin-shing, a veteran political activist, wrote in the station’s closing Facebook post of mounting difficulties. Under the National Security Law imposed by the Chinese government in 2020, the station’s bank account was “frozen,” and consequently it could only afford rent for the studio through August. “We could do nothing but to stop the broadcasting,” said Tsang. In a press conference at the studio, Tsang also told reporters of the growing obstacles to journalistic work: “If we invite guests, they may not be able to speak freely, because there are so many red lines.” (Image: Citizen Radio)

East Asia
glory to HK

Hong Kong: bid to ban protest anthem backfires

The Hong Kong Department of Justice applied to the Special Administrative Region’s High Court for an injunction to prohibit any performance or online dissemination of the song “Glory to Hong Kong,” anthem of the 2019 protest movement. The government asserts that the song contains secessionist lyrics that breach multiple laws in Hong Kong and China, including the National Security Law. However, thousands of Hong Kong citizens responded to the government’s move by gathering in public to sing the song, in defiance of an ongoing ban on protests. It also shot to the top of the iTunes charts. After days of this, a judge postponed deciding on the petition, finding it potentially overbroad and asking the government to be more specific on the breadth of its request. (Image: Campaign for Hong Kong via Twtter)

East Asia

Macau national security law threatens free speech

Reporters Without Borders denounced Macau’s expansion of its national security law, saying the revision “increases the pressure on journalists and further threatens…residents’ right to information.” The Macau Special Administrative Region’s National Security Law, first passed in 2009, defines seven crimes that can result in a maximum sentence of up to 25 years’ imprisonment. Under the revised rules, these crimes have been expanded far beyond their previous definitions. For example, “subversion” and “secession” now extend to non-violent acts, while “sedition” includes “acts that incite participation in riots.” Additionally, the law now applies to “any individual” who is suspected of undermining China’s national security. This applies regardless of the territory in which the acts occur, and regardless of the individual’s nationality—meaning that Macau law enforcement will have authority to pursue suspected violations extraterritorially. (Photo: kewl.lu via Wikimedia Commons)

East Asia
Chow Hang-tung

Hong Kong: prison hunger strike to remember 6-4

Hong Kong police detained at least eight people for allegedly attempting to hold public vigils commemorating the Tiananmen Square massacre. Victoria Park, the site of the massive annual commemoration which is now suspended due to the crackdown in the city since 2020, was meanwhile the scene of a fair promoting unity with China. However, prominent activist Chow Hang-tung, who has been imprisoned since her arrest in 2021 for promoting an “unauthorized” commemoration that year, announced a 34-hour hunger strike—one hour for each year since June 4, 1989, known in China as “6-4.” (Image via Twitter)

East Asia
Civic Party

Hong Kong pro-democracy party votes to disband

The chairman of Hong Kong’s Civic Party, Alan Leong, announced that the pro-democracy party is disbanding following a resolution by a majority of members. The Civic Party, one of the few remaining pro-democracy parties in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, was founded in 2006. Since Beijing passed the controversial national security law in 2020, multiple Civic Party members have been charged with “subversion.” Party members were also accused of organizing and participating in an unauthorized primary election in July 2020. (Photo: Stand News via Wikimedia Commons)

East Asia

Censorship regime expands in Hong Kong

Hong Kong newspaper Ming Pao ended the decades-long run of popular satirical cartoonist Wong Kei-kwan, known by his pseudonym “Zunzi,” after his work drew fire from government authorities. Since 1983, Zunzi’s work had lampooned city officials over corruption, authoritarianism, rights abuses, and subservience to Beijing. His drawings had recently been publicly criticized by Hong Kong Chief Executive John Lee and Security Bureau chief Chris Tang. Meanwhile, books about Hong Kong protest movements, the Tiananmen Square massacre and other subjects deemed politically sensitive by Beijing are being removed from the city’s public libraries. A government audit stated that the Cultural Services Department needed to “step up efforts in examining library materials for safeguarding national security.” (Image: Zunzi cartoon depicting a monk, representing the Chinese government, controlling the rebellious Monkey King, representing Hong Kong, by a magic incantation—China’s national anthem. Photo credit: Bill Weinberg/The Village Sun)

East Asia
Yau Tong

Hong Kong sees first protests since 2020

The first protest since the introduction of the 2020 National Security Law in Hong Kong was held in Tseung Kwan O, an eastern area of the city. A small number of protestors marched against a land reclamation plan and construction of a waste disposal facility. The marchers complied with restrictions imposed by authorities. The protest was limited to a maximum of 100 participants, whose banners and placards were pre-screened. Protestors were required to wear numbered tags. However, two days later, a smaller but seemingly unauthorized protest was held outside Hong Kong’s Central Government Offices. Some 40 residents from Yau Tong squatter community in Kowloon, which is set to be razed to make way for a public housing project, gathered to voice opposition to their impending eviction. (Photo: HKFP)