Hong Kong Voices in American Politics – Biden’s Confidence Deficit with Hong Kongers

Note from Maggie and Victoria: These are the key preliminary results from the survey on Hong Kong Voices in American Politics. Thanks to all the respondents who filled out the survey. When the full report is ready early next year, we will launch a dedicated website.


First appeared in The Diplomat: https://thediplomat.com/2020/11/hong-kong-voices-in-american-politics/

Hong Kong Voices in American Politics

Preliminary survey results suggest President-elect Biden has some convincing to do to win the confidence of Hong Kong Americans.

By Maggie Shum and Victoria Tin-bor Hui

November 25, 2020   

Hong Kong Voices in American Politics
Hong Kong protesters hold U.S. flags during a 2019 rally acknowledging support from the United States.Credit: Flickr/ Studio Incendo

President Donald Trump has authorized a formal transition process to President-elect Joe Biden. As Biden unveils Cabinet appointees (including Antony Blinken as secretary of state) and formulates his foreign policy, it is crucial that he addresses the confidence deficit among Hong Kong Americans regarding the U.S. stance on Hong Kong.

Our survey of Hong Kong Americans shows that they are united in their desire for a strong U.S. policy to curb Beijing’s repression of Hong Kong. Their key concern is which presidential candidate and which party would be more effective. In that regard, it is notable that even Biden voters expressed doubt about his Hong Kong policy. The survey reveals that 33 percent of Trump supporters in 2020 voted for Clinton in 2016, and that some voters preferred Trump for president but Democratic candidates for Congress this time.

The Survey

The rising profile of Hong Kong’s struggle for freedom on the international stage and the 2020 U.S. elections presented a perfect opportunity to examine the political attitudes of Hong Kong Americans: Hong Kongers who have lived, worked, or studied in the United States, and Americans who have similar strong ties to Hong Kong. We are particularly interested in whether and how political engagement with Hong Kong politics shapes voting behavior in American elections.

Given the lack of a national census of Hong Kong Americans, our sample was not meant to be representative. We reached out to our target population through Facebook groups of Hong Kong Americans, Hong Kong clubs across various U.S. higher education institutions, listservs of China experts, and requested further circulation of the survey. Between October 15 and November 2, we received 890 valid responses. [Note: We received 947 responses and took out the ones finished under 5 minutes.] Our survey sample included 611 US citizens (69 perrcent), of which 595 were registered to vote, while 275 respondents (31 percent) were green card and visa holders ineligible to vote. The majority reported having lived in the U.S. and resided in Hong Kong for more than 10 years (70 percent and 87 percent, respectively).

Respondents to this survey are united in their burning concerns for Hong Kong. They passionately back the 2014 Umbrella Movement and the 2019 anti-extradition protests, while intensely opposing the Beijing-imposed national security law. However, they became deeply divided over the U.S. elections and sorted themselves into either the Trump or Biden camp. At the same time, the majority acknowledged the critical importance of bipartisan support for the Hong Kong cause.

Key Finding 1Respondents are staunch supporters of the pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong.

Respondents overwhelmingly rallied around the city’s fight for democracy, freedom, and autonomy. The majority “strongly support” or “support” the Umbrella Movement’s goal of “genuine universal suffrage” and the anti-extradition protest’s “five demands.” (See Table 1.)

Similarly, 826 respondents (95 percent) expressed their opposition to the Beijing-imposed national security law, which critics argue has effectively ended the promise of “one country, two systems.”

Key Finding 2Hong Kong Americans are divided in the 2020 presidential elections, with pivotal non-partisan voters swinging to Trump

Among 595 registered voters, 325 (55 percent) supported Trump while 205 (34 percent) preferred Biden. Interestingly, almost half of the Clinton voters in 2016 switched to Trump in 2020. Figure 1 shows the pattern of vote change between the 2016 and 2020 presidential elections. Trump managed to draw support from not only Democrats but also those who did not vote or voted for the third candidate in 2016.Figure 1: Vote change in presidential candidates (2016 and 2020).

The survey also reveals a higher level of split-ticket voting among Trump voters: 50 (15 percent) of those who supported Trump in the presidential election indicated that they opted for Democratic candidates in their congressional district. (See figure 2.)Figure 2: Split-ticket voting in Presidential and Congressional elections in 2020.

Respondents were asked to rate the Republican Party, the Democratic Party and leaders from both parties using the feeling thermometer, with 0 indicating extremely unfavorable, 50 neither favorable nor unfavorable, and 100 extremely favorable. The responses demonstrated a large partisan divide between Trump and Biden supporters.

Figure 3 shows the average ratings on the two parties and prominent political figures by voter groups (Trump voters, Biden voters, and non-voters). The average gap between Trump and Biden supporters is 51 points, with Trump being the most polarizing figure with a 74-point difference. In general, Trump voters expressed much warmth toward Trump, Senator Marco Rubio, and Senate Speaker Mitch McConnell, and much coldness toward Democrats including Biden, former President Barack Obama, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Likewise, Biden voters were very warm toward Democrats and cold toward Republicans.

The 275 non-voters (31 percent of respondents), however, did not present any partisan sorting effect and maintained the middle ground across all relevant questions.

Figure 3: Feeling thermometer of political figures and parties

Key Finding 3Consensus on a strong U.S. policy toward China and on bipartisan efforts to protect Hong Kong

Despite polarizing views, respondents presented a near consensus that the United States should pursue a tough China policy. On average, 95 percent of Trump supporters, 78 percent of Biden supporters, and 88 percent of non-voters found it “extremely important” and “very important” for the U.S. to actively limit Beijing’s power, promote human rights, and defend Taiwan even when other priorities are at risk.

When asked to evaluate whether another Trump administration, a Biden administration, the Republican Party, and the Democratic Party would be effective in defending Hong Kong’s “one country, two systems,” Trump supporters perceived Trump and the Republican Party to rise to the challenge while giving low ratings to Biden and the Democratic Party.

It is noteworthy that Biden voters were less certain of their candidate and party. While 62 percent of Biden supporters disagreed that another Trump term would be good for Hong Kong, they had moderate confidence in the Republican Party: 25 percent agreed that the Republican Party would be effective in safeguarding Hong Kong, compared to 29 percent for Biden and 34 percent for his Party. Biden voters even had much doubt about both Biden and the Democratic Party: about half chose “neither agree/disagree” regarding the effectiveness of a Biden administration (50.5 percent) and the Democratic Party (46.5 percent).

Non-voters shared a similar pattern. About 46 percent believed in the effectiveness of a Trump presidency and the Republican Party. Only 7 percent were confident in the Biden administration and 15 percent in the Democratic Party. (See Tables 2-5.)

The strongest consensus is on the need for bipartisanship in countering Beijing. (See figure 4.) As many as 83 percent of the Biden camp, 67.2 percent of Trump supporters, and 68.3 percent of non-voters “agree” or “strongly agree” that it takes bipartisan support for the United States to be effective in protecting Hong Kong. An extreme majority of 814 knew that the 2019 Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act was passed by both the Republican-dominated Senate and the Democrat-controlled House of Representatives.

Figure 4: Bipartisan support needed to defend Hong Kong.

Hong Kong Americans for Hong Kong

Regardless of who they supported in the elections, Hong Kong Americans should reunite to press the Biden administration, the Senate, and the House to work together to formulate an effective Hong Kong policy. The roughly 200,000 Hong Kong Americans represent only a tiny minority in American politics. They have to work tirelessly to make Hong Kong a front and center issue for the new administration and members of Congress.

If Hong Kong Americans lack confidence in Biden, the path forward is to turn their energies toward lobbying the new administration to take effective measures. Biden called the national security law a “death blow” to the city’s freedom. The Democratic Party platform pledges to “fully enforce the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act, including by sanctioning officials, financial institutions, companies, and individuals responsible for undercutting Hong Kong’s autonomy.” Blinken has argued that, if Beijing enjoys impunity over Hong Kong, it would be emboldened to target Taiwan next. The new administration should address the confidence deficit by clearly spelling out its Hong Kong policy.

Maggie Shum and Victoria Tin-bor Hui are political scientists of Hong Kong origin at the University of Notre Dame. Shum studies party organization, participatory institutions and contentious politics in Latin America and Hong Kong. She has written on Hong Kong for the Washington Post’s Monkey Cage. Hui examines political movements in Hong Kong and elsewhere and recently published “Hong Kong Faces Tiananmen 2.0” in the Journal of Democracy.

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Beijing’s Erosion of Hong Kong’s Freedoms Has Been in the Works for Years


The wilting of civil and political freedoms in Hong Kong took a dramatic downturn since July after Beijing imposed its national security law. While the law has formally ended the “one country, two systems” model under which Hong Kong was returned to China, Hong Kong’s freedoms have been under attack for years.

In ProMarket, U of Chicago Stigler Center’s publication: https://promarket.org/2020/11/10/beijing-erosion-hong-kong-freedoms-decades-national-security-law/

Photo credit: HKCNews

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Why American Progressives Should Support Hongkongers

First appears in Logos: A Journal of Modern Society and Culture, vol. 19, no. 2, Fall 2020 (http://logosjournal.com/2020/why-american-progressives-should-support-hongkongers/)

Progressives are enraged by police shootings and are campaigning for police reforms. As many Americans marched under the slogan “Black Lives Matter” in the summer of 2020, some Hong Kong Americans joined them to express solidarity.  

They are fighting against police brutality in both their adopted country and their native city. Hong Kong has experienced a great deal of police abuse and has descended into a police state. During the anti-extradition protests of 2019, protesters and bystanders routinely had their necks and joints kneeled on, their bones broken, and their faces smashed to the ground by police officers. In 2020, protests are banned altogether. Progressives, who champion human dignity for the repressed, should find common cause with Hongkongers confronting the full might of China.

Hong Kong Americans have effectively lobbied Congress and the administration to pass legislation and change policies aimed at restraining Beijing’s erosion of the city’s freedom and autonomy. They have secured bipartisan support from both the Democrats-controlled House and the Republicans-dominated Senate. 

Progressives, however, have been far more ambivalent about the Hong Kong cause than the Democratic Party leader Nancy Pelosi. As a Political Scientist of Hong Kong origin, I have been extensively interviewed by mainstream media including the New York Times, Bloomberg, Los Angeles Times, Time, Wall Street Journal, the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Christian Science Monitor, NPR, PBS, ABC, CNBC, Vox, RFA, VOA, and more. At the height of anti-extradition protests in August last year, the Rachel Maddow Show approached me three days in a row but apparently decided that Hong Kong did not fit into their schedule.

This ambivalence may be driven by the misperception that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) lies on the left end of the ideological spectrum. It is not just Chinese critics who often label the most repressive policies as being ultra-left, Americans and Hongkongers share this view. 

For Hongkongers who have spent decades resisting Beijing’s stifling of their freedom and democracy, their instinct is to find allies with the opposite ideology. This explains why, in summer 2019, Hong Kong protesters not only waved the U.S. flag, but also held up signs “President Trump: Liberate Hong Kong.” Jimmy Lai, the publisher of Hong Kong’s only pro-democracy print newspaper who was arrested under the draconian national security law on August 10, had earlier appealed to Trump: “Mr. President, you’re the only one who can save us.”

For American progressives who fight against the worst ills of American capitalism, the CCP seems to share ideological affinity. Bernie Sandersnotably praised Chinese leaders for having made “more progress in addressing extreme poverty than any country in the history of civilization.” However, the CCP is hardly left-wing when it comes to political and economic equality for marginalized Han Chinese and suppressed ethnic minorities.

The CCP’s earlier achievement in reducing absolute poverty had more to do with the end of Mao Zedong’s long reign of terror which killed 37.8 million from 1923 (when he became a party leader) to 1976 (when he died). Under Deng Xiaoping, who succeeded Mao, rural peasants became better off because they were allowed to make their own planting decisions and accumulate surpluses. However, Deng’s policy since the 1990s to “let some get rich first” also widened the gaps between the well-connected and ordinary peasants and workers. When China acceded to the World Trade Organization in 2001, the working class, who once enjoyed generous cradle-to-grave welfare benefits, suffered from massive layoffs, from which they have not recovered. China specialist Dorothy Solinger observes that China’s Minimum Livelihood Guarantee program has only kept the poor in “a state of long-term if not permanent penury.” 

If the U.S.’s high Gini coefficient of 0.485 seems abhorrent, China’s trails closely at 0.468 (2018 figures). World-renowned economist on inequality Thomas Piketty calculates that the share of national income held by the top 10% of China’s population rose from 27% in 1978 to 41% by 2015, comparable to U.S. level. Although two-thirds of Chinese capital is in private hands, there is no inheritance tax and data of any kind on the transfer of wealth between generations. He wryly remarks that China is the world’s best place to be a billionaire, despite its claim to Communism. Also worthy of note is how Beijing once loved Piketty’s analysis on inequality – “until he turned to China.” Xi Jinping once cited Piketty’s Capital in the Twenty-First Century as proof of the superiority of China’s “Marxist political economy” over Western private capitalism. When his latest Capitalism and Ideologyaddresses the non-Western world, he was asked to cut sections on China. He heroically refused the request.

In the last two decades, Beijing’s and Shanghai’s world-class infrastructure projects have been built by internal migrant workerswho are not just underpaid, but also derided as “low-end populations.” These internal migrants do not have household registration in cities and thus are not entitled to healthcare, education and other public services. Major urban centers have expanded at the expense of peasants who were given such meager compensation that they could not afford to purchase homes in high-rise complexes built on top of their former homes and farmlands. 

Progressives may also find Hong Kong’s capitalism unpalatable. The city’s Gini coefficient of 0.539 ranks it the eighth most unequal place in the world, sandwiched between Comoros’ 0.559 and Guatemala’s 0.53. While Hong Kong’s Gini coefficient was already high in the mid-0.40 range in the 1980s, it went up to beyond 0.5 in the 1990s when Beijing began to use this international city as its gateway to the world. After Hong Kong’s return to China in 1997, state-owned agencies and companies began to buy up the city’s assets, prime real estatesluxurious homestrophy companiesnews media, and publishing houses. Well-connected sons and daughters of Chinese leaders gradually dominated business and professional sectors. Beijing came to command so much power that it could order Cathay Pacific, the city’s flagship carrier, to dismiss and censor pro-democracy staff by 2019. Beijing also compelled Hong Kong-based international companies such as HSBC and Jardine to support the national security law in 2020. What Hong Kong signifies is the worst of state-led capitalism with concentration of both political and economic power, not of free market capitalism. 

In Hong Kong, church-based and community organizations along with government-funded agencies have provided some relief to the poorest. In mainland China, workers who are not paid and peasants who are not compensated have little to fall back on. The CCP is wary of civil organizations that are beyond its control. Rights defense lawyers, who once provided legal counsel and networks of support, were arrested in a massive sweep in 2015. 

China’s ethnic minorities and peripheral populations have fared even worse. Progressives should stand with colonized peoples against colonizers. Yes, China was once a victim of Western and Japanese imperialism. However, China has turned around to victimize Mongolians, Tibetans, Uighurs, and Hongkongers. Taiwan could be next. Each of these societies has its distinctive language, culture and history. Mongols in Inner Mongolia have staged rare protests against the imposition of Mandarin education. Tibetans and Uighurs are subject to not just the erasure of their languages, but also constant surveillance by artificial intelligence as well as security agents at every street corner and on roof top.

Hong Kong could have been subject to post-colonial self-determination but Beijing compelled London to drop the city from the United Nations list of colonies in 1972. Progressives may not care about what the British think about the city, but should take heed of how Hongkongers see their fate as going from a British colony to a Chinese colony. 

Hong Kong’s young people from teenagers to junior professionals were at the forefront of protests in recent years because they already found themselves subjugated both politically and economically as second-class citizens in their home city. The Beijing-imposed national security law now further inflicts torture and execution on those taken across the vanished borders to mainland jurisdiction, lengthy sentences and police abuses on those arrested and convicted in the city, and censorship and brainwashing on those who do not run afoul of security agents. 

For both the left and the right, Americans who champion universal values have ample reasons to condemn Beijing’s bloody crackdown of its own people during the Great Leap Forward in 1958-62, the Cultural Revolution in 1966-76, the Tiananmen massacre in 1989, and of “liberated” populations in Tibet and Xinjiang over the years, and in Hong Kong now.

American analysts once believed that all was well in Hong Kong so long as the People’s Liberation Army did not roll out military tanks in Tiananmen-like fashion. This view misses the fact that the Tiananmen model carried sub-military elements: the use of regular security agents to beat people to death in the city of Chengdu, the fomentation of “riots” and “turmoil”, the narration of “the truth” about the police versus the protesters, and the use of patriotic education and censorship to create “Tiananmen amnesia.” Since Tiananmen, Beijing has mostly relied on public security forces and hired thugs to achieve “stability maintenance.” These are the same tactics that Beijing has deployed to suppress Hong Kong.

American support is not always welcome in some parts of the world. Hongkongers, however, have repeatedly urged on the United States to help them. The 1992 Hong Kong Policy Act which granted Hong Kong special customs and trade status was promulgated in response to Beijing’s promises to maintain the city’s “high degree of autonomy” under the “one country, two systems” model. With the national security law, Beijing has completely broken its international obligation to the city. Hong Kong Americans are thankful that the Democratic Party has pledged support for the 2019 Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act and the 2020 Hong Kong Autonomy Act in the 2020 party platform. Joe Biden has correctly called out the CCP’s treatment of Uighurs in Xinjiang as “genocide.”

When presidential candidates are competing to sound tougher on China, the silence among progressives gives Hong Kong Americans the impression that those on the American left care less about Hong Kong. This has spill-over effects on their attitudes toward mainstream Democratic candidates. Hong Kong Americans, like other Americans, are split between Democrats and Republicans. They are highly organized and mobilized as voting blocks. Progressives could win them over by taking a stronger stand on Hong Kong’s similar fight for equal rights, police reforms, dignity, freedom from fear, and democratic accountability.

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Making Hong Kong China (Davis book)

by Michael C Davis


Imagine you live in a freewheeling city like New York or London—one of the world’s leading financial, educational, and cultural centers. Then imagine that one of the most infamous authoritarian regimes takes direct control over your city, introducing secret police, warrantless surveillance and searches, massive repression and the arrest of protesters, and aggressive prosecutions . . .

This is what just happened to Hong Kong, writes Michael C. Davis, the author of Making Hong Kong China: The Rollback of Human Rights and the Rule of Law

In 2019, the world looked on as millions of ordinary Hongkongers took to the streets to protest a proposed extradition law and to demand democratic reform. People around the globe were witnessing a piece of this great city’s history and feeling every ripe emotion alongside Hong Kong’s determined protesters.

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Hong Kong Faces Tiananmen 2.0 (in J. of Democracy)

Victoria Hui, “Crackdown: Hong Kong Faces Tiananmen 2.0,” Journal of Democracy, Oct. 2020, Vol. 31, Issue 5, pp. 122-37. https://www.journalofdemocracy.org/articles/crackdown-hong-kong-faces-tiananmen-2-0/

Hong Kong, a place where liberty once bloomed, has now been crushed by the People’s Republic of China (PRC). On 30 June 2020, the PRC imposed a draconian national-security law on the city, seeking to “prevent, stop, and punish” a string of vaguely defined crimes of “secession,” “subversion,” “terrorism,” and “collusion with foreign forces.” The crackdown is the latest response by the Chinese Communist party-state to the campaign in defense of freedom and democracy that Hong Kong’s citizens have been waging for decades. The “one country, two systems” constitutional structure that Hong Kong was given at the time of the 1997 handover from Britain was troubled from birth. The radicalization of the 2019 protests against the PRC’s extradition law gave Beijing the perfect excuse to impose its own preferred answer—which might be called “Tiananmen-lite”—to the long-running problem that Hong Kong posed as a thorn of liberty embedded in the side of the PRC’s one-party dictatorship.

Webinars and podcasts:

“The End of ‘One Country Two Systems’ and The Future of Freedom in Hong Kong,” with Nathan Law, Hoover Institute program on “China’s Global Sharp Power,” November 18, 2020 (https://www.hoover.org/events/end-one-country-two-systems-and-future-freedom-hong-kong).

“Hong Kong Update—Autonomy and National Security” with Christopher Patten and Jerome Cohen, Council on Foreign Relations, August 12, 2020 (https://www.cfr.org/event/virtual-meeting-hong-kong-update-autonomy-and-national-security ).

“Hong Kong,” conversation with Jim Lindsay, Council on Foreign Relations podcast “The President’s Inbox,” July 14, 2020 (https://www.cfr.org/podcasts/hong-kong-under-chinas-national-security-law-victoria-tin-bor-hui).

“Hong Kong under the national security law,” Global Dispatches, a United Nations and global affairs podcast, July 2020 (https://www.undispatch.com/hong-kong-braces-for-troubled-times-after-china-imposes-new-national-security-law/ ).

“Recent Developments in the China/Hong Kong Relationship with Dr. Victoria Tin-bor Hui,” World Affairs Council for Greater Reading, July 8, 2020 (https://wacreading.org/event/recent-developments-in-the-china-hong-kong-relationship-with-dr-victoria-tin-bor-hui/)

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Beijing’s National Security Law Brings Mainland Repression to Hong Kong

Hong Kong Is Part of the Mainland Now: Beijing’s New Security Law Has Stifled the Territory’s Autonomy and Hopes

By Michael C. Davis, Foreign Affairs, July 2, 2020

Read at https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/china/2020-07-02/hong-kong-part-mainland-now

How Beijing brings mainland repression to HK and why Beijing criminalizes “collusion” and asserts “extraterritorial jurisdiction”

By Michael C. Davis and Victoria Tin-bor Hui, The Diplomat, July 03, 2020   


Beijing enacted the “Law of the People’s Republic of China on Safeguarding National Security in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region” on June 30, ahead of the 23rd anniversary of the city’s handover on July 1. This law effectively abrogated the “one country, two systems” model enshrined in the 1984 Sino-British Joint Declaration and the 1990 Basic law, the city’s mini-constitution, and rescinded longstanding civil and political rights. On the first day of its implementation, 10 out of 370 people arrested during the July 1 protests have been charged with violations of the new national security law.

Beijing’s System Has Taken Over the Hong Kong System

Hong Kong’s return to China in 1997 was premised on the “one country, two systems” model, which creates a firewall to protect Hong Kong’s open society from the mainland’s one-party dictatorship — to be achieved by “Hong Kong people ruling Hong Kong” under a “high degree of autonomy.” Mainland departments are expressly barred from interfering in Hong Kong affairs. Mainland laws, with limited exception, are not to apply in the city. Central to this constitutional structure is a commitment to the “ultimate aim” of “universal suffrage,” as well as the rule of law and the fundamental rights and freedoms spelled out in international human rights covenants.

The law sets up a local Hong Kong Committee for Safeguarding National Security chaired by the chief executive and composed of cabinet-level officials along with top law enforcement personnel. It operates under Beijing’s direct supervision through a mainland-appointed national security advisor. Its deliberations are held in secret and not subject to judicial review. Its budget is also not bound by current legal restrictions.

Moreover, a Central Government Office for Safeguarding National Security, whose officials are assigned from mainland security bureaus, is set up in the city to guide, oversee, and supervise local officials in national security matters. Its officials, while ostensibly required to obey local laws, are beyond local jurisdiction in exercising their duties. They further have the prerogative to refer “complex” and “serious” cases to mainland jurisdiction.

Where cases are handled locally, the law limits local judges’ independence. The chief executive is empowered to select a limited panel of judges from among current and retired judges to try national security cases. Selected judges are removed if they “make any statement or behave in any manner endangering national security.” Judges cannot exercise judicial review as the power of interpretation is vested solely with the NPCSC. The accused are denied bail by default “unless the judge has sufficient grounds for believing that the criminal suspect or defendant will not continue to commit acts endangering national security.” They may also be denied a jury by the prosecution. They are subject to sentences from three years to life imprisonment.

For elected offices in the Legislative and District Councils, this law repeats the Basic Law requirement of a loyalty oath. Analysts fear that support for the national security law will be added to allow the authorities to disqualify opposition candidates in subsequent elections.

Criminalization of Dissent

Although the national security law promises to protect “the freedoms of speech, of the press, of publication, of association, of assembly, of procession, and of demonstration” in accordance with international conventions, its many vague and overarching provisions prevail over preexisting local laws in case of discrepancies.

The authorities claim that this law is targeted at only a tiny minority of violent protesters. However, “subversion” covers not just “acts by force or the threat of force” but also “other unlawful means,” which could include unauthorized peaceful protest. “Terrorism” refers to violence against property and disruption of transport as well as injuries to human lives. “Collusion” involves disrupting government policies, undermining elections, calling for sanctions, and provoking hatred. Moreover, the law encompasses not just concrete “acts,” but also loosely defined “activities” of “incitement,” “assistance,” “abetment,” and “provision” of financial and other forms of support.

The criminalization of nonviolent means of protest began on day one under the new law. For the first time since the handover, the police banned an annual demonstration planned for the July 1 anniversary, thus rendering any gathering an “unlawful assembly.” The riot police turned out in force and held up this warning: “If you are displaying flags or banners/chanting slogans or conducting yourself with an intent, such as secession or subversion, which may constitute offences under the HKSAR national security law, you may be arrested and prosecuted.” The police arrested 370 protesters and charged 10 of them under the new law for holding or possessing materials that said not only  “Hong Kong independence,” and “Liberate Hong Kong, revolution of our times,” but also “conscience” and “justice.” Zhang Xiaoming of Beijing’s Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office stated that spreading “false claims” about police killing on August 31 last year would constitute incitement of “hatred” toward the authorities. Pro-democracy businesses are being warned by the police to take down “Lennon walls” of sticky notes with political messages.

This law further encourages confessions and reporting on offenses committed by others to root out dissent.

The Law’s Global Reach 

There is much speculation that a mass arrest will happen when the world’s attention is diverted elsewhere. Here comes the crime of “collusion” and Beijing’s assertion of “extraterritorial jurisdiction” to cut off global support for Hong Kong. The national security law applies to individuals and corporations, residents and nonresidents alike, inside or outside China, who have committed the above acts or activities. Foreign nationals who are also permanent residents of Hong Kong are subject to the same punishment as local residents. Those who have no residency status in Hong Kong are “subject to deportation as the sole or an additional punishment.” Since June last year, overseas Hong Kongers have raised funds for the protests and mobilized for governmental and parliamentary support around the world. The U.S. Congress has held multiple hearings and passed the 2019 Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act and the 2020 Hong Kong Autonomy Act.

Nevertheless, the potential charge of “collusion,” which carries life imprisonment and worse, did not deter Cheuk-yan Lee from testifying at the House Foreign Affairs Committee on July 1. Hong Kongers abroad seem equally determined to push for stronger U.S. policies against Beijing even if this means that they can no longer go home.



Implementation rules for Article 43 of the National Security Law + Operating Principles and Guidelines for Application for Authorization
to Conduct Interception and Covert Surveillance: Barrister Anson Wong Yu-yat said the new implementation rules were far more alarming than the national security law itself (SCMP); Police handed power to do warrantless searches, freeze assets, intercept comms, control internet (HKFP)

HRIC annotated bilingual chart of The Law of the People’s Republic of China on Safeguarding National Security in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region

Beijing appoints tough-talking party official Zheng Yanxiong to lead powerful new agency in Hong Kong while Luo Huining will act as Carrie Lam’s national security adviser (SCMP). Background on Zheng’s crackdown in Wukan (SCMP).

Chinese version to prevail over English one, despite Hong Kong being officially bilingual (SCMP)

How China Scammed Hong Kong (Yi-zheng Lian)

How China’s new national security law will hobble Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement, by Maggie Shum

China outlaws global activism (Axios)

The new Hong Kong, where activists vow to defy ‘rule by fear’ (The Guardian)

‘GFHG, SDGM’: Hong Kong netizens reimagine illegal slogan as protesters find workarounds (HKFP)

‘Hidden language’: Hongkongers get creative against security law
Residents use wordplay including repurposed Chinese Communist party
dogma to express frustration (The Guardian)

“Hong Kong people will stand in line to buy copies of the paper, they buy the stock. It’s an everyday form of resistance when you can no longer go out and protest.” (NYT. After the arrest of Jimmy Lai and the raid of Apple Daily)

Source: Reddit

source: https://twitter.com/rthk_enews/status/1278283944262111234
Source: HKCNews
Source: HKFP
In response, people protested with blank white papers. Source.
A yellow/pro-democracy small business took down post-it notes with political messages and put up blank ones. Source: HK Stand News.

Additional comments:

“One country, two systems” might be dead, but whether that means the end of Hong Kong is a different question, Hui said. “Hong Kong is not dead unless the people let it.” (Vox)

“You can be accused of anything” (RFA)

Webinars on the NSL organized by Hong Kong Democracy Council

https://www.facebook.com/hkdc.us/videos/579468692710881/ https://www.facebook.com/hkdc.us/videos/613584896205727/

“Hong Kong under the national security law” (Global Dispatches, a United Nations and global affairs podcast).

“Recent Developments in the China/Hong Kong Relationship with Dr. Victoria Tin-bor Hui” (World Affairs Council for Greater Reading)

For legal analysis, see

Jerry Cohen’s blog http://www.jeromecohen.net

Donald Clarke’s indepth analysis and blog https://thechinacollection.org


By Kong Tsung-kan

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Keeping the struggle alive under the national security law


The National Security Law is set to be enacted on June 30. Hong Kong is descending into a police state. The annual demonstration on July 1 – with a similar likeness to the annual candlelight vigil on June 4 — has been rejected by a “letter of objection”. All forms of protests are likely to be criminalized. How should Hongkongers confront this looming blanket of fear? 

There have been plenty of debates over which provisions of the law are the most troublesome when the inevitable major crackdown arrives. It really does not matter what is written into the law and what is left out, because the law means everything and anything the Chinese Communist Party wants it to mean. It also does not matter if the expected mass arrests — and, worse, extradition across the border — of the most prominent pro-democracy figures will take place on the first day of the law’s enactment, or in a month when the world’s spotlight is no longer on Hong Kong. The purpose of the law is to instill a kind of fear that silences everyone. 

As if the threats of lengthy imprisonment, torture, and extradition are not enough, the authorities are also emboldening regime supporters to turn on pro-democracy Hongkongers. Last August, Cathay Pacific staff had already been dismissed for posting messages as simple as “Go Hong Kong!”. Recently, the pro-regime “blue” camp has circulated a campaign to snitch on “yellow [democracy] supporters, traitors, police haters, arrested people, cockroaches [protesters],” doctors, nurses, reporters, teachers, students, lawyers, social workers, artists, business owners, civil servants, and owners, managers and staff of yellow businesses.” 

The authorities cannot police everyone in every neighborhood and every office. Creating a network of informers can decapitate a once-vibrant civil society. According to James Scott , the foremost expert on domination and resistance at Yale University, this imposition of surveillance and atomization aims to have the subjects under domination engage in mutual predation just for self-survival.

How should Hongkongers keep up the fight? We can take lessons from other extremely repressive cases. 

Aung San Suu Kyi (before she became a defender of ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya) upheld “freedom from fear” against military dictatorship. She argued that, “It is not power that corrupts but fear. Fear of losing power corrupts those who wield it, and fear of the scourge of power corrupts those who are subject to it.” The list of fear includes the “fear of imprisonment, fear of torture, fear of death, fear of losing friends, family, property or means of livelihood, fear of poverty, fear of isolation, fear of failure” (Aung San Suu Kyi, 1991: 1980, 184). “Fearlessness,” then, served as “the sharpest weapon” against the military junta. 

In apartheid-era South Africa, the most effective tactics, according to Walter Wink and Kurt Schock , were: “labor strikes, slowdowns, sit-downs, stoppages, and stayaways; bus boycotts, consumer boycotts, and school boycotts; funeral demonstrations; non-cooperation with government appointed functionaries; non-payment of rent; violation of government bans on peaceful meetings; defiance of segregation orders on beaches and restaurants, theaters, and hotels; and the shunning of black police and soldiers.”

Even before the formal enactment of the National Security Law, Hong Kong has already become more repressive than the apartheid regime in various respects. Violation of government bans on peaceful gatherings have been rendered “unlawful assemblies” liable to rioting charges. The shunning of police subjects one to pepper sprays and arrests. Consumer boycotts have brought harassment and thuggish attacks upon pro-democracy businesses. Medical workers who staged a one-week strike in February have been warned of legal consequences. Civil servants who organized a union and a “referendum” on striking have been denied promotions. Students who planned a class boycott have been reprimanded and given disciplinary actions. Students are also warned against singing songs that are deemed “political” and forming human chains. Even silence is not permitted when individuals and groups, from the heads of universities to the top executives of HSBC, have been compelled to openly pledge support for the law.
The protest tactics that will remain viable under extreme domination are to be “decentralized, diversified, and daily” – or the “3Ds”. Protests do not have to amass large numbers. The real challenge is to sustain the struggle over time.

When any concentrated gatherings for demonstrations, human chains, sing-alongs are to be criminalized, take decentralized actions . When strikes, boycotts, and sit-ins are risky, try stayaways by calling in sick. When calling in sick is also difficult, attempt work slowdowns and practice deliberate inefficiency. Show non-obedience in the absence of direct supervision. Denmark under Nazi occupation is a prime example of how massive work slowdowns both enhanced camaraderie among the general population and put a drag on Germany’s’ war efforts. 

When the usual protest methods are rendered illegal, devise different, diversified tactics that the authorities cannot ban: Withdraw money from mainland banks, light a candle by the window every night, take advantage of funerals and other social gatherings to share solidarity with the like-minded.

When it is not possible to attend public protests to commemorate key dates and events, integrate decentralized and diversified forms of resistance into the daily life. Maintain the existing networks of trust to counter the policy of “divide and rule”. Volunteer in community work to expand the trusted circles to sustain the civil society. 

In the darkest days when Myanmar was seen in the same breath as North Korea, Aung San Suu Kyi insisted on not giving up. The bleak but telling cases of Myanmar, South Africa, and Denmark all show that there is always light at the end of the tunnel.

Chan Kin-man on James Scott’s “hidden transcript” (The Guardian)

The new Hong Kong, where activists vow to defy ‘rule by fear’ (The Guardian)

Hongkongers are learning from Timothy Snyder’s “On Tyranny”: 威權時代來臨,二十個歷史教訓; how to survival tyranny in symbols.

Vaclav Havel’s “power of the powerless“: “living in truth

More on decentralized methods.

Jerry Cohen on the national security law:

“Perhaps Hongkongers have to think about the fate of people in post-war Prague, Budapest, Warsaw and East Berlin,” he said. “We can’t give up… China has made too much progress in the last 40 years. There is a much better basis for legal reform now than at the time when Mao died, and when Xi leaves the scene, there will be a return to a better life. There will be a more mellow, more enlightened communism than we’re experiencing today,” he said.

China’s Activists Mourn the Loss of Hong Kong’s Glimmer of Hope,
The Diplomat, July 16, 2020. Hong Kongers must now learn from mainland grassroots activists how to confront a paranoid regime. They have already started to adopt creative tactics, like holding up blank pieces of paper to their faces to express self-censorship. Over time, they will master the delicate art of hidden political messages in public discourses. They will resort to performances on social media to cope with a secretive legal process. They will tell each other control parables. They will learn to mobilize without the masses. Most importantly, they will take lessons from both the courage and the sacrifice of generations of Chinese activists in the mainland. The fight against tyranny will go on for Hong Kongers, even as they must take a page from mainland activists’ sketch pad of self-censorship and strategic provocation.

‘GFHG, SDGM’: Hong Kong netizens reimagine illegal slogan as protesters find workarounds (HKFP)

‘Hidden language’: Hongkongers get creative against security law
Residents use wordplay including repurposed Chinese Communist party
dogma to express frustration (The Guardian)

Pro-democracy businesses are displaying vintage communist posters as Beijing clamps down on speech (Bloomberg)

The subtle art of resistance in Macau

A Cultural Revolution 2.0 is sweeping through Hong Kong’s offices and schools (Mary Hui, Quartz)

Bookstore that continues to sell such books (HKFP)

See also

Peter Kammerer: Keep calm and carry on

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Yesterday’s Tiananmen, Today’s Hong Kong


Apple Daily (https://hk.appledaily.com/us/20200629/JKJA2YYPEGMVPAV2FLXCNKBBLM/), June 4, 2020

The annual candlelight vigil planned for June 4 is banned for the first time since the 1997 handover. In 1989, Hong Kong people marched under the banner “Today’s Tiananmen, Tomorrow’s Hong Kong.” Thirty-one years later, “yesterday’s Tiananmen” has become “today’s Hong Kong.”For Hongkongers who are pondering over a path forward under Beijing’s national security law, the first step is to fully understand the parallels between then and now.

“Tiananmen” should refer broadly to a national movement rather than narrowly to the bloody crackdown at the iconic Tiananmen Square in China’s capital city. While it is true that the People’s Liberation Army has not rolled out military tanks to Hong Kong’s busy streets, there are, nevertheless, striking similarities with 1989. 

The most notable of which is the fomentation of “riots” to justify a brutal repression. 

On April 26, 1989, the People’s Daily’s editorial accused the outpouring of grief over the former party secretary Hu Yaobang’s death as a “turmoil” and demanded that “those who smash, loot, and burn must be punished.” This enraged students, sparking more protests. There was in fact no smashing or burning until ordinary people were forced to stop the advance of troops and tanks in the early hours of June 4.

Thirty years later, on June 12, 2019, Beijing began labelling Hong Kong’s anti-extradition protests as “riots”. On that day, tens of thousands protested the legislation that would have allowed for the rendition of anyone in Hong Kong to mainland China. There were in fact no riots, but peaceful demonstrations of 1 million on June 9 and 2 millions on June 16. It was not until August that some protestors turned from umbrellas to firebombs.Bao Pu, the son of the jailed liberal leader Bao Tong, believed that the escalation of tensions in 1989 was “a deliberate strategy .” This may well be the case in Hong Kong too.

Beijing long tried to undermine the civil and political liberties enshrined in the Sino-British Joint Declaration and the Basic Law: It tried to impose a national security bill in 2003, national education in 2012, and “comprehensive jurisdiction” and pre-screened elections in 2014, before the extradition bill in 2019. 

All of Beijing’s previous attempts at undercutting Hong Kong’s freedoms were pushed back by mass peaceful protests. Because it was difficult to repress peaceful protestors, the answer was to incite a violent turn. 

To radicalise peaceful demonstrators, the first move was to refuse to make concessions, thereby forcing the opposition to either abandon their demands or to step up their actions. At Tiananmen Square, students escalated by going on a hunger strike. In Hong Kong, the government’s unresponsiveness to multiple million-strong peaceful marches gave rise to the slogan: “It is [you] who taught us that peaceful demonstrations are ineffective.” 

As if to reinforce this conviction, the authorities began to increasingly close off nonviolent means of expressing dissent. 

The Civil Human Rights Front, an organisation that led peaceful marches without incident since 2002, mobilised the million-strong marches in June and another 1.7-million-strong rally on August 18. Since August, however, the police routinely refused to issue “no-objection notices”– rendering many subsequent protests “unlawful” or “unauthorised” assemblies. 

Protestors formed human chains, spontaneously sang “Glory to Hong Kong” across the city, and promoted their cause through public art and “Lennon Walls”. These peaceful displays of solidarity, however, were subject to same risks as other “unlawful assemblies”, and much of the art were destroyed by government agents and counter-protestors. Supporters were arrested by the police or stabbed by pro-Beijing thugs.

Strikes and boycotts, other popular non-violent tactics, also seemed ineffective in Hong Kong. Striking workers, especially Cathay Pacific staff, were quickly dismissed. Pro-democracy businesses were vandalised by thugs and harassed by government agents.Indeed, the authorities have had little tolerance for such non-violent means of dissent because they are the hallmark of “color revolutions .” As a Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office spokesman said, the goal of general strikes and class boycotts is “to paralyse the Hong Kong government” and “seize the power for governing the Special Administrative Region.” The Hong Kong Education Secretary Kevin Yeung issued a warning that students in uniform “should not stage, or participate in political activities, including class boycotts, singing songs, chanting slogans, forming human chains or other related activities like distributing flyers promoting political messages.”

In addition to stifling legal and peaceful channels of expression, the authorities launched unprecedented state-sanctioned violence against protesters to provoke radicalisation and to eliminate what Chief Executive Carrie Lam calls “enemies of the people.”

Hong Kong people could not believe how the local police, once Asia’s finest, would decapacitate fellow citizens in front of their eyes. “The other Tiananmens” across China in 1989 can offer clues. 

As analysed by journalist Louisa Lim , Beijing deployed the police rather than the military in Chengdu in 1989. The Chengdu police’s goal was not to disperse crowds, but to “annihilate ” the movement by beating protestors to death and by ordering hospitals to stop accepting the wounded. 

The repression in Hong Kong has echoes of the Chengdu model’s short of outright killing. The Hong Kong police have beaten protestors with batons, breaking the bones of those already pinned down in direct view of journalists and passersby. The police fired point blank at protestors on a few occasions. Near the besieged Polytechnic University, police vehicles took on a new “battle tactic ” to ram at high speed into protestors, causing a stampede and severe injuries. 

The police also arrested first responders, blocked the path of ambulances, and rounded up suspected protestors at hospitals. Doctors and nurses, who know first-hand the extent of bone fractures and brain injuries, staged sit-ins with the slogan “Hong Kong police attempt to murder Hong Kong citizens.” International observers complained that police operations were “unheard of in civilized societies” and that they systematically violated international humanitarian norms .

Another aspect of the Chengdu experience is the use of provocateurs and criminals to set fires to the People’s Market to discredit the movement and provide justification for an all-out repression. In Hong Kong, there is reasonable suspicion that some of the large-scale destruction was committed by officers dressed as protestors who were escorted away rather than arrested by uniformed police.

The Hong Kong police further colluded with gangsters to beat up protestors, organisers, and journalists alike. The indiscriminate assaults by thugs in Yuen Long on July 21 and after triggered vigilante justice.

Driven by both the closing of legal dissent and the extremity of regime brutality, protestors increasingly turned to violent escalation. This, in turn, further opened up the opportunity for agent provocateurs to flame the “riots,” even “terrorist acts.” As images of black-clad people emerged from vandalised shops and train stations, it was difficult to sort out who was a protester and who was in disguise.

Then, Beijing deployed a narrative of smashing and burning to justify a heavy crackdown. Today, Beijing has likewise manufactured violent reactions to justify extreme measures to “stop the violence and end the turmoil.” 

The only difference between Tiananmen then and “Tiananmen 2.0” now is international support. In 1989, international sanctions against Beijing came only after a bloody massacre. In 2019, the U.S. Congress tabled, debated and passed the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act in the face of heightening police brutality. It might not be sheer coincidences that the Chief Executive Carrie Lam agreed to suspend the extradition bill on June 15 after Senator Marco Rubio re-tabled the Act on June 13, that she announced to withdraw the bill on September 4 when the Congress held a hearing on U.S.-China relations, and that the District Council election was not delayed or canceled when the Act was set to pass. 

Beijing did not take such setbacks lightly. It decided to impose a state-level national security law to “effectively prevent, stop and punish” any conduct involving secession, subversive acts, terrorist activities, and foreign interference. The world has responded with not just strong condemnations, but also decertification of Hong Kong’s autonomous status. 

China has achieved meteoric rise through integration with the world after the last Tiananmen crackdown. “Tiananmen 2.0” may well bring that chapter to a close

Speaking to the BBC World

Source: https://twitter.com/appledaily_hk/status/1268538911288066048/photo/1
source: Time

Drone video by Studio Incendo.

On the same day, Hong Kong passes law to criminalise insult of Chinese national anthem

HKFP has a series of photos and visuals:

Video: Canadian journalist shares newly restored footage of China’s Tiananmen Massacre horror

In Pictures: June 4, 1989 – the night the tanks rolled into Beijing’s Tiananmen Square

HKFP Lens: ‘The students will prevail’ – Rare shots of Tiananmen Square, before and after the 1989 massacre

In Pictures: Hongkongers commemorate Tiananmen Massacre at solidarity rally for detained protesters

Thousands of Hongkongers defy police ban to commemorate Tiananmen Massacre victims at Victoria Park

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How to keep up the fight for Hong Kong? Be as decentralised as possible.


Apple Daily (English), June 2, 2020

“Hong Kong’s protest movement is in crisis,” reads a New York Times headline . The police have made it too risky to protest on the streets. The Beijing-imposed national security law will further criminalize dissent. What could Hong Kong people do now to keep up the struggle?

Hong Kong people have called on the world to “catch Hong Kong as we fall .” The U.S. unprecedentedly decertified Hong Kong’s autonomous status and is taking steps to impose sanctions on Hong Kong and Beijing officials. The U.K. is offering a path to citizenship for holders of the British Nationals (Overseas) passport.

Yet, it will take time to iron out the details for all these actions, meaning that it will take even longer to make an impact.

In the meantime, Hong Kong people confront police brutality every day. The scene of the police officer kneeling on the neck of George Floyd in Minnesota has repeatedly happened on the streets of Hong Kong. The not-at-all independent Independent Police Complaints Council (IPCC) recently issued a report to exonerate police abuses committed last year. It suggested that police officers will likely escalate violence against protestors with complete impunity.

While the U.S. government is looking to impose sanctions on officials, words from Congressional staff suggested that police officers are not yet on the agenda.

What, then, could Hong Kong people do when the police refuse to issue “no objection” permits for demonstrations on June 4, June 9, June 12, June 16, July 1, July 21, August 31 and more? And what to do when police make mass arrests of daring protesters? If protests are too risky, do Hong Kong people have no choice but to give up?

The political science literature on protests suggests that demonstrations and marches are always the most vulnerable to police brutality, even bloodbaths. Look at what happened at the Tiananmen Square and Tahir Square, as well as in Hong Kong.

When fighting against high-capacity repressive regimes, of which the Hong Kong police is an example, the best strategy is to take decentralised methods.

Hong Kong people have in fact been taking various decentralised tactics. The challenge is to come up with more ways and to integrate them into daily lives .

When the Hong Kong government uses the coronavirus to impose a social gathering ban, Hongkongers should particularly adopt decentralised “stay-at-home ” tactics.

The annual candle light vigil on June 4 is denied a “no objection” permit from the police. Organisers of the Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements in China is calling on supporters to light a candle no matter where they are on June 4. This is a prime example of a decentralised protest method that is more resilient in the face of police repression. [For a compilation of commemoration events around HK, see HKFP story.]

Another example is when Hong Kong people chanted protest slogans at 10pm last fall.

The “yellow economic circle” is a form of decentralised consumer boycott. This method has been proven effective in other cases such as one that was as repressive as apartheid-era South Africa .

Labor strikes such as the one by medical workers in early February could impose costs on the regime by paralysing essential functions.

The Liaison Office labeled the “yellow economic circle” and labor strikes as “political virus.” The new national security law might as well criminalise unionisation and labor strikes.

The answer is to keep protest actions as decentralised as possible. So far, whenever Hong Kong people call for a general strike, they demonstrate at various concentrated locations. When medical workers launched a labor strike, they also gathered for a concentrated protest.

Protestors have been focusing too much on the strength of numbers. Indeed, there is also strength in the reach and depth of diversified and dispersed methods. From now on, all the strikes should stay decentralised.

There will be additional risk for workers who go on strike. Even if they only stay at home, they might still be subjected to dismissal. That was what happened to Cathay Pacific employees last year, and what was used to threaten medical workers this year. Another solution is to launch work slowdown, a method that Denmark effectively deployed even under Nazi occupation.

Most of all, such methods could allow protesters to remain nonviolent . The political science literature concludes that violence could compel changes in weak states, but is absolutely suicidal against a high-capacity regime with the will and ability to impose overwhelming repression like Beijing. I have argued elsewhere that Beijing fomented the violent turn as a trap because it is more fearful of a “color revolution” than firebombs.

In the U.S. , government officials, members of Congress, staffers and non-governmental organisations have all voiced concerns about the throwing of bricks and Molotov cocktails. If Hong Kong wants the world to take strong actions to “catch us as we fall,” we have to stand up tall.


For a debate on nonviolence, watch this panel, beginning at about 23″.

When Peaceful Protest Doesn’t Work, What Do You Do?

In Libya: “The largely spontaneous Libyan uprising, in its nonviolent phase, focused… on mass protests, making them easy targets for Qaddafi’s repression, rather than relying on more diverse tactics – including strikes, boycotts, slowdowns, and other forms of non-cooperation… the failure of the nonviolent struggle was not because it was nonviolent, but because it was not well-organized strategically.” (Zunes)

Watch films of other cases.

See decentralized methods:

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Would Hong Kong become like Xinjiang and Tibet?

Today’s Xinjiang, Tomorrow’s HK”: When this slogan was first put up last year, it seemed like a distant future. But “tomorrow” is getting very close.

Protesters have long feared Hong Kong will become just “another Chinese city.” It could be worse. In most mainland cities, Beijing applies a heavy hand to only the rare dissenters. In Hong Kong, the heavy turnout for November’s local electionsand broad support for the protest movement suggest the majority of Hong Kong’s population are resisting Beijing. Many residents now fear Beijing may borrow from its experience quelling unrest in Xinjiang or Tibet, to destroy the political “virus” in Hong Kong. That would entail keeping a dossier on every noncompliant resident and imposing national education on generations of young people. [https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2020/05/26/chinas-new-national-security-law-hong-kong-will-erode-hong-kongs-autonomy/ ]

Since the Tiananmen massacre of 1989 (Lim 2014), Chinese leaders seem to have adopted a minimalist understanding of “peace”—the absence of outright killing—to ward off regime change. The ruling party has turned to “stability maintenance” by deploying the tools of economic incentives, dismissal from employment, surveillance, arrest, imprisonment, and torture. Among Han Chinese, many have focused on improving their economic lot, so that only isolated dissidents have been subject to repression. In Tibet and Xinjiang, by comparison, the majorities have undergone waves of “strike hard” campaigns (Doyon 2019; Economist 2019). Tibetans and Uighurs in exile have accused Chinese leaders of “cultural genocide,” attempting to eliminate their identity by persecuting cultural leaders, transferring children away from their families, restricting the use of the native language, banning the display of religious identity, and more (Samphel et al. 2017).[i] Muslim Uighurs in Xinjiang have fared the worst. Similar to the authorities in Sri Lanka and Myanmar, Beijing has exploited the global “war on terror” against Muslims. Uighurs are banned from Islamic practices, including growing beards, wearing veils, and fasting during Ramadan (Cronin-Furman 2018; Robertson 2020). Large portions of the adult population have been put in “reeducation camps” and forced labor facilities (Millward 2019). By 2020, even Hong Kong was falling to the fate of Xinjiang and Tibet. As the majority of Hong Kongers have developed a distinctive identity and staged sustained protests, Beijing has likewise labeled protesters “terrorists” and imposed a draconian national security law to make the once free city safe for the regime. [https://www.oxfordhandbooks.com/view/10.1093/oxfordhb/9780190097356.001.0001/oxfordhb-9780190097356-e-16]

Tibet? See What’s in store for Hong Kong? Look at Tibet.

Today’s Macau, Tomorrow’s HK“: This is even closer. Beijing probably wants to rein in HK like Macau. (See the embedded piece written in Feb./Mar.) However,  HK is not Macau. The majority of HK people support the protests. How do you rein in the majority? Massive “hard and soft repression” and massive patriotic education?  “Blood transfusion” by flooding HK with state-owned enterprises and mainland elites?

“Today’s Hong Kong, Tomorrow’s Taiwan”: If Beijing succeeds in taking over Hong Kong with little costs, then Taiwan could be next. See How would mainland China attack Taiwan? A video outlines one scenario Xi emphasizes strengthening national defense, armed forces; China reiterates taking Taiwan by force an option to mark anti-secession law anniversary; The Hong Kong security law could be China’s blueprint to deal with the ‘Taiwan problem’; “Is Taiwan the next HK?”

A conversation



Center for Geopolitics, University of Cambridge, June 1, 2020

Beijing’s decision to impose national security legislation on Hong Kong triggered the US Secretary of State to decertify the city’s autonomous status and the UK to provide a path to citizenship for Hong Kong citizens born before the 1997 handover. International observers once believed that all was well in Hong Kong so long as the People’s Liberation Army has not rolled out military tanks in Tiananmen-like fashion. Such a criterion misses the fact that the Tiananmen crackdown carried other sub-military elements: the use of regular police to beat people to death in the city of Chengdu, the narration of “the truth” about the “riots” and “turmoil”, and the use of patriotic education and censorship to create “Tiananmen amnesia.” Since Tiananmen, Beijing has mostly relied on public security forces and hired thugs to achieve “stability maintenance.” These are the tactics that Beijing deployed after the outbreak of the anti-extradiction protests in 2019. [For more, see Tiananmen 2.0]

For many Hong Kong people, the city’s autonomy was already dead last year when the Chief Executive introduced the extradition bill and met with central leaders across the border for any major decisions. The city’s freedoms were also dead by July 21 – when thugs indiscriminately assaulted passengers at the Yuen Long metro station and the police looked the other way. The most basic of all freedoms, the freedom to be free from fear, was gone.

At the same time that the rubber-stamp National People’s Congress discussed the national security legislation in the week of May 21-28, the Hong Kong government also pushed through the national anthem law. The Legislative Council is structured to ensure that pro-regime legislators are in the majority. Beijing could have taken this same route to force through a local national security law as required by the Basic Law’s Article 23. Yet, top leaders chose a “nuclear option” which blatantly violates the Basic Law, probably believing that the world would continue to take no action so long as military tanks do not roll out of the garrisons.

Hong Kong people have vowed to resist, but Beijing seems unlikely to back off. What could Hong Kong people do in the face of heightening repression? What are the best and worst scenarios? What concrete actions could the world take? Would strong international reactions only convince Beijing to further rein in Hong Kong? Would Hong Kong become another Chinese city like Shenzhen? Or would it even become like Xinjiang or Tibet?


Andreas Fulda, Senior Fellow, University of Nottingham Asia Research Institute

I broadly agree with Victoria’s bleak assessment of the current situation in Hong Kong. Where I would slightly diverge is that in my view “One Country, Two Systems” (1C2S) already ended at around end of August 2019. By then Hong Kong was governed by martial law in all but name and thus had firmly transitioned towards “One Country, One System” (1C1S). Hong Kong could soon become Xinjiang 2.0.

Let me also offer a couple of comments on the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) tactics deployed after the outbreak of the anti-extradition protests in 2019. I would add that the one party-state has weaponized it’s increasingly militant form of nationalism against Hong Kongers. Soon after the popular uprising began Chinese state media portrayed Hong Kongers as undeserving and disloyal subjects. China’s consul general in Brisbane, Australia, praised physical assaults by mainland Chinese overseas students on peaceful protesters at a pro-Hong Kong rally at University of Queensland. Dan Garrett has called the enemification of dissidents the key governance approach under Xi Jinping. Another feature of the CCP’s rule by fear in Hong Kong is political and psychological warfare waged by organs of the party-state. China’s Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office (HKMAO) recently used genocidal language by referring to Hong Kong’s democracy movement as a ‘political virus’. The HKMAO also called for the elimination of so-called ‘poisonous’ and ‘violent’ protesters. Following most recent protests disproportionate numbers of children were arrested. This comes to show that what the CCP fears most is a new generation of Hong Kongers who no longer accept the party’s authority.

We are thus witnessing a grave escalation of the conflict: An overbearing central government has sidelined the HKSAR government, marginalised the Legislative Council, and begun with a harsh crackdown on leading figures of the democracy movement. It is no longer alarming to say that under the conditions of the National Security Law Hong Kong could soon become Xinjiang 2.0.

And while Hong Kong’s leaderless/leaderful political movement has shown great courage and resilience in light of increasing suppression, it has also struggled to reach a consensus over its ultimate goal. Whereas in the past the five demands implicitly meant a defence of 1C2S, political activists will have to reassess their strategic options. Will they now try to mould 1C1S in Hong Kong’s liberal democratic image or pursue Hong Kong Independence instead? Or will political activists vote with their feet and emigrate?

Jeffrey Wasserstrom, Chancellor’s Professor of History, University of California at Irvine

For several years now, I’ve been obsessed with the idea of “imperfect analogies,” by which I meant comparisons that might seem at first farfetched and are definitely flawed, but which I feel have value in helping us think about subjects in novel ways and get out of analytical ruts. In writing about Hong Kong recently in commentaries and in my early 2020 book, Vigil: Hong Kong on the Brink, I argued that “imperfect analogies” can be useful to view Chief Executive Carrie Lam’s position as comparable to, even if not quite like, that of the head of a country like Poland, Hungary or East Germany during the Cold War. Those leaders, too, when faced with protests thought a lot about what men in a distant capital, in their case Moscow rather than Beijing, wanted them to do. Sometimes, the capital sent in troops to suppress unrest (the case in Hungary in 1956); sometimes, the capital indicated that force should not be used against protesters (the case in East Germany in 1989, when Mikhail Gorbachev, an unusual person to be in charge in Moscow); and sometimes, they used local forces in a brutal way to stem a social movement (the case in Poland at the end of 1981, when Solidarity’s first surge was crushed in a way that parallels what we are seeing in Hong Kong right now).

In light of all this, it is hardly surprising that what caught my attention most in the excellent opening statement by Victoria Tin-bor Hui was her ending that brought up two doubtless analogies. Might, she asks, Hong Kong come to resemble Shenzhen or even Xinjiang?

There is nothing novel about considering the possibility of a partial convergence between Hong Kong and a neighboring mainland city. One feature of the use of this analogy has, however, changed over time. Before the Handover and just afterwards, it was possible to imagine that the convergence would occur through mainland cities becoming more open, hence more like Hong Kong. Now, the only likely trend seems for Hong Kong to become less open, less governed by the rule of law, hence more like cities over the border on the mainland, and more like Macau, which has long occupied a sort of in-between position in these areas.

It was the Xinjiang mention that is likely to strike some as outlandish. In noting my reaction to it, I realized two things. First, that, to pair Hong Kong with Xinjiang still takes me aback. It is bound to, as Hong Kong is, even now, the part of the PRC that is in many ways freest, Xinjiang the least free—its only competitor there being Tibet. The second reaction I had—and this is what I want to stress—was to realize that it no longer seems as wildly outlandish, as it once did, to bring up the specter of Xinjiang.

The same goes for Tibet. I remember scoffing at the first mentions of Tibet’s present being an augury of things to come in Hong Kong that I came across in the mid-2010s. I became less dismissive as I began to note ways that Beijing was drawing from its Tibet playbook vis-à-vis Hong Kong in denouncing activists there and trying to pressure foreign governments to block Joshua Wong from entering, the way they had tried in the past with the Dalai Lama. By 2015, when the dystopian film “Ten Years” came out, with its controversial segment featuring an act of self-immolation, a strategy often associated in the PRC context with Tibet, I found myself thinking, to imagine that scene really happening in Hong Kong is farfetched for right now but maybe not for 2025. As the journalist and podcaster Louisa Lim and others have noted, what seemed to lie a decade or probably more in the future when the film came out has come to seem closer on the horizon. This is true with that scene, while with others, there are similar things that have already taken place, though we are only half-way from 2015 to 2025.

By the time I wrote Vigil last year, Tibet had moved so far in my mind from the farfetched to the plausible enough to count as an “imperfect analogy” that I worked references to it into the text. I noted that the Seventeen Point Agreement structuring Tibet’s integration into the PRC in 1950 as a territory that was supposed to enjoy considerable autonomy was a precursor of sorts to the “One Country, Two Systems” framework, something that, as I point out (in an extended footnote that nods to work by Isabel Hilton, Ni Kuang, Geremie R. Barmé and Linda Jaivin) others had realized much earlier.

Hong Kong has always been and will remain unique in many ways. History never repeats itself. The situation in that city on the eastern edge of the PRC may never get nearly as stifling of freedoms as it is now on the western edge of the country. Still, especially in light of the dark developments of the last few weeks, it makes sense to me, in a way it would not have during the heady days of the Umbrella Movement or before that, that Professor Hui would follow up her nod to the Shenzhen possibility with the phrase “or even Xinjiang” as a way to alert us to the range of possible endpoints for the processes underway now. I would probably have written “or even Tibet,” had I written the opening post, but the point would have been basically the same.

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Beijing’s imposition of national security law on HK

Here is an explainer:



Protesters have long feared Hong Kong will become just “another Chinese city.” It could be worse. In most mainland cities, Beijing applies a heavy hand to only the rare dissenters. In Hong Kong, the heavy turnout for November’s local elections and broad support for the protest movement suggest the majority of Hong Kong’s population are resisting Beijing.

Many residents now fear Beijing may borrow from its experience quelling unrest in Xinjiang or Tibet, to destroy the political “virus” in Hong Kong. That would entail keeping a dossier on every noncompliant resident and imposing national education on generations of young people.

Will the world “Catch Hong Kong As We Fall“?

Another helpful explainer in the NYT

Additional analysis:

Hong Kong’s Troubled Future: “The new national security law is worse than Article 23 and extradition legislation combined.”

Michael Davis on the national security legislation and the rule of law in the SCMP

Victoria Hui said the international community had often spoken out against China’s steady accretion of power over the territory but had exacted no real punishment. That has been the case for the most egregious violations of basic rights in Hong Kong in recent years, including extrajudicial kidnappings, excessive use of force by the police last year and the arrests of leading democratic leaders a week ago. “The international pushback has been so weak,” Ms. Hui said. “Beijing is daring foreign governments to continue to issue words but take no actions.” (https://www.nytimes.com/2020/05/24/world/asia/china-hong-kong-taiwan.html)

FPRI webinar: Political Warfare at China’s Periphery: Taiwan and Hong Kong

HK Democracy Council briefings on the national security law for congressional staffers: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mMDtX1UH-pQ and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r-0BKx0Uz0w

The Optimistic Case for Hong Kong

“The Revolution of Our Time” by Hana Davis

If HK burns, the world gets burned too” by Ching-Kwan Lee

A short profile of Martin Lee: ‘I won’t allow this to be the end of Hong Kong’: campaigner on his long fight for democracy

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“Today’s Macau, Tomorrow’s Hong Kong”: The coming end of “one country, two systems”

“Today’s Macau, Tomorrow’s Hong Kong”? What Future for “One Country, Two Systems”?

Victoria Tin-bor Hui

Excerpts below. For the full report, see https://www.ispionline.it/en

China’s “one country, two systems” constitutional principle has been moving ever closer to “one country, one system”. The design, originally intended to entice Taiwan’s unification, has been practiced first in the Hong Kong and Macau Special Administrative Regions (SARs) since 1997 and 1999, respectively. The arrangement promises rule by locals under “a high degree of autonomy”, but Beijing has increasingly eroded local autonomy and asserted direct rule. Chinese leaders have hailed Macau as the paragon of “one country, two systems”, which, in practice, has meant rule by pro-Beijing loyalists. Hongkongers, fearful of the prospect of “today’s Macau, tomorrow’s Hong Kong”, have staged escalating waves of protest. Taiwanese, with the benefit of watching at a safe distance, overwhelmingly voted against “one country, two systems” under the campaign slogan “today’s Hong Kong, tomorrow’s Taiwan” in the January 2020 elections.

“Today’s Macau, Tomorrow’s Hong Kong”?

Beijing has explicitly pointed to Macau as the role model for Hong Kong, which has rebelled against the passage of national security and national anthem laws, the introduction of national education, and the executive’s exertion of control over legislative and judicial branches.

The Struggle Against Further Descent into “One Country, One System”

Hong Kong’s “one country, 1.5 systems” has gone far down the road toward Macau’s “one country, one system”. Beijing’s harsh crackdown on mass protests has sped up the process. Yet, the extradition bill, if passed, would have achieved the same result. The main difference is that Hong Kong would have fallen quietly in the alternative scenario. The fiery protests have made it impossible for the international community to pretend that “one country, two systems” is still alive and well.

Beijing wants Hong Kong to become a “good boy” like Macau, but Hong Kong has chosen the Taiwan model. Taiwan has helped to magnify Beijing’s broken promises by campaigning on “today’s Hong Kong, tomorrow’s Taiwan”. As Hongkongers celebrated Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-Wen’s victory in January 2020, they expressed hope for a better future by flipping the slogan to “today’s Taiwan, tomorrow’s Hong Kong”. In rejecting “one country, two systems”, Taiwan is also forcing Beijing to re- calculate if it really wants to “kill” Hong Kong and then resort to war to unify Taiwan to Mainland China.

Hong Kong’s battle with Beijing is less hopeless than it may seem because of its international status. Through the summer and fall of 2019, the US Congress tabled, debated, and passed the “Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act” in the face of rising police brutality. The Act mandates annual certification of Hong Kong’s autonomy if the city is to keep its separate customs status, which has allowed Chinese elites to access dual use technologies, raise funds, park clean and corrupt money.93 Beijing should be mindful that, if it treats Hong Kong like Macau or even Zhejiang, the rest of the world would follow suit and rescind Hong Kong’s unique customs status. Macau already suffers from a gradual convergence of its sovereign ratings with China’s because of its “large and rising economic, financial, and socio-political linkages with Mainland China”.

Hong Kong timeline by the BBC

Screenshot 2020-05-26 at 9.11.42 PM


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Beijing’s Hard and Soft Repression in HK

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0030438720300120?dgcid=author or https://www.sciencedirect.com/journal/orbis/vol/64/issue/2


Hong Kong’s new Police Commissioner Chris Tang announced in Beijing on December 7, 2019, that he would use “both hard and soft approaches” to end the anti-government protests. This article argues that such “approaches” amount to physical and non-physical repression—hard power, but employed by Hong Kong, rather than mainland, forces, combined with sharp power exercised by both Beijing and the local authorities. These measures are responses to the limits on what Beijing can do under the “one country, two systems” model. As Beijing cannot send the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), it has subverted Hong Kong’s once-respected civilian police force to act like the mainland’s public security. And as Hong Kong’s judiciary is relatively autonomous and many of the arrested would not be convicted or sentenced, the police have resorted to a decapacitation campaign to inflict direct violence on protesters. Moreover, as the city’s freedom has allowed the public to support protesters in various ways, Beijing has launched a program of dismissal of pro-democracy individuals in both public and private sectors. To zoom in on Beijing’s hard and soft repression, this article examines in closer detail the other “frontliners” at protest sites who provide professional services vital to the sustainability of protests: medics, firefighters, lawyers, journalists, and educators.

[Click on the above link for the full article.]

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How Beijing Has Fomented The “Riots” And Incited Violence

A longer piece: Beijing’s All-Out Crackdown on the Anti-Extradition Protests in Hong Kong https://www.prcleader.org/victoria-hui 

A shorter piece: Hong Kong’s Protests: Look Beyond Tiananmen 2.0


In 1989, Hong Kong people marched under the banner “Today’s Tiananmen, Tomorrow’s Hong Kong.” Thirty years later, the Tiananmen incident still has uncomfortable resonances in Hong Kong.

… the most notable similarity with Tiananmen is the fomentation of “riots” to justify a brutal repression.

… Why and how did Hong Kong’s protests go from peaceful rallies to fiercer forms of protest?

… All of Beijing’s previous attempts at undercutting Hong Kong’s freedoms were pushed back by peaceful protests. But because it is difficult to repress peaceful protesters, part of Beijing’s effort has been focused on turning them into violent protesters.

The process of radicalizing peaceful demonstrators has various steps, and the first move by Beijing has often been to refuse to make concessions, thereby forcing the opposition to either abandon their demands or to step up their actions. At Tiananmen Square, students escalated by going on a hunger strike. In Hong Kong, the government’s unresponsiveness to multiple peaceful marches gave rise to the protest slogan: “It is [you] who taught us that peaceful demonstrations are ineffective.”

As if to reinforce this conviction, the authorities have increasingly closed off nonviolent means of expressing dissent.

The Civil Human Rights Front, an organization that has led peaceful marches without incident since 2002, mobilized 1 million people on June 9, 2 million on June 16, and 1.7 million on August 18. However, the police have rarely issued “no-objection notices” after August 18 – rendering many subsequent protests “unlawful assemblies” to be cracked down upon in the eye of the law. Jimmy Sham, the Front’s convener, was even attacked twice by hired thugs.

Protesters have formed human chains, spontaneously sung “Glory to Hong Kong” across the city, and promoted their cause through public art and “Lennon Walls.” These peaceful displays of solidarity, however, are subject to same risks as other “unlawful assemblies”, and much of the art has been destroyed by government agents and counterprotesters. Supporters have been arrested by the police or stabbed by pro-Beijing thugs.

Strikes and boycotts, other popular nonviolent tactics, have also been made ineffective in Hong Kong, with Beijing responding by manipulating businesses across the city to punish employees who participated.

Indeed, the authorities have little tolerance for such nonviolent means of dissent because they are the hallmark of “color revolutions.” As a Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office spokesman said, the goal of general strikes and class boycotts is “to paralyze the Hong Kong government” and “seize the power for governing the Special Administrative Region.” Hong Kong Education Secretary Kevin Yeung issued a warning that students in uniform “should not stage, or participate in political activities, including class boycotts, singing songs, chanting slogans, forming human chains or other related activities like distributing flyers promoting political messages.”

To further tighten the screw on freedom of expression, the government imposed a mask ban on October 5. Most protestors wear masks to both hide their identities and protect themselves from tear gas and pepper spray. The high court ruled the ban unconstitutional on November 18, but Beijing immediately criticized this decision as a usurpation of central authority, never mind the original guarantee of judicial independence for local courts.

In addition to stifling legal and peaceful channels of expression, Beijing has also used brutality to intimidate some potential protesters and provoke violent reactions from others.

On this, we should turn our focus to the “other Tiananmens” across China in 1989. As analyzed by journalist Louisa Lim, for instance, party leaders deployed the police rather than the military in the inland city of Chengdu. The Chengdu police’s goal was not to disperse crowds, but to “annihilate” the movement by beating protesters to death and by ordering hospitals to stop accepting the wounded.

The repression in Hong Kong has echoes of the Chengdu model, short of outright killing. The Hong Kong police have beaten protesters with batons, breaking the bones of those already pinned down in direct view of journalists and passersby. The police fired point blank at a protester who had no weapon in his hands on November 11. Near the besieged Polytechnic University, police vehicles took on a new “battle tactic” to ram at high speed into protesters, causing a stampedeand severe injuries. Parents of students trapped inside were less worried about their children getting arrested per se, but more about their sons and daughters enduring broken limbs, sexual assault, and other forms of torture under arrest.

The police have also arrested first responders, blocked the path of ambulances, and rounded up suspected protesters at hospitals. Doctors and nurses, who know first-hand the extent of bone fractures and brain injuries, have staged sit-ins with the slogan “Hong Kong police attempt to murder Hong Kong citizens.” International observers complain that police operations are “unheard of in civilized societies” and have systematically violated international humanitarian norms.

Another aspect of the Chengdu model is the use of provocateurs and criminals to set fires to the People’s Market to discredit the movement and provide justification for an all-out repression. In Hong Kong, there is reasonable suspicion that some of the large-scale destruction was committed by officers dressed as protesters, who were escorted away rather than arrested by uniformed police.

The Hong Kong police have allegedly colluded with gangsters to beat up protesters, organizers, and journalists alike. The indiscriminate assaults by thugs in Yuen Long on July 21 and after triggered vigilante justice.

Driven by both the closing of legal dissent and the intensity of regime brutality, protesters have increasingly turned to violent escalation. This has, in turn, opened up the opportunity for agent provocateurs to further inflame the “riots.” As images of black-clad people emerge from vandalized shops and train stations, it is difficult to sort out who is a protester and who is in disguise.

Just as the narrative of smashing and burning helped to justify a heavy crackdown in 1989, Hong Kong protesters’ turn to firebombs has given credence to the authorities’ call to “stop the violence and end the turmoil.”

The sieges of university campuses represented a major escalation to wipe out the most determined young protesters under the new police commissioner Chris Tang. The police arrested 1,377 “rioters” from and near the Polytechnic University alone, taking the total number of arrests to 5,890. Mass arrests of protesters not just from the streets but also residential buildings, universities, and secondary schools means that there is no refuge for what Chief Executive Carrie Lam calls “enemies of the people.”

By manufacturing the “riots,” Beijing has managed to not just inflict debilitating injuries on rebellious youth, but also take down Hong Kong’s pillars of freedom. It has stifled freedom of assembly and undermined local courts’ final jurisdiction. These measures would have been unthinkable in Hong Kong’s more peaceful times.

… if a “Tiananmen 2.0” has been averted, this has to do not just with domestic events, but also with the city’s international status and international support. In 1989, international sanctions against Beijing came only after a bloody massacre. In 2019, the U.S. Congress tabled, debated, and passed the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act in the face of heightening police brutality. It may not be sheer coincidence that the Chief Executive Carrie Lam agreed to suspend the extradition bill on June 15 after Senator Marco Rubio re-tabled the Act on June 13, that she announced the withdrawal of the bill on September 4 when the Congress held a hearing on U.S.-China relations, and that the District Council election was not delayed or canceled when the Act was set to pass.

For these reasons and more, the “Tiananmen 2.0” analogy has turned out to be overblown. And this is not because Beijing has “acted responsibly” as U.S. President Donald Trump said, but because the U.S. Congress and the rest of the world have kept a close watch.

See the entire piece at https://thediplomat.com/2019/12/hong-kongs-protests-look-beyond-tiananmen-2-0/

New York Times photo: Protest photo evokes memories of Tiananmen era


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Taking stock of the university sieges and District Council elections

“Why the Protests in Hong Kong Have Taken a New Turn,” Global Dispatches, a United Nations and global affairs podcast, December 9, 2019 (https://www.globaldispatchespodcast.com/why-the-protests-in-hong-kong-have-taken-a-new-turn/ ).


Hong Kong citizens just voted for more democracy. What happens now? These local election results won’t keep protesters out of the streets

November 26, 2019 at 7:00 a.m. EST

Sunday’s District Council elections produced landslide victoriesfor pro-democracy candidates, just days after a Hong Kong campus turned into a siege battleground. Six months after Hong Kong’s mass protests began, where do things stand — and what’s next? Here’s what you need to know:


1. Clashes between police and protesters have become increasingly violent.


Since mid-June, protesters have demanded that Hong Kong authorities formally withdraw an extradition bill that sparked the initial mass demonstrations, open an independent investigation into police abuses, drop the “riot” characterization of the protests, release those arrested on rioting charges, and reopen a dialogue on genuine universal suffrage as promised in Hong Kong’s Basic Law.

Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam on Sept. 4 belatedly announced the government would withdraw the extradition bill. By then, protesters had turned from umbrellas to firebombs and the police had resorted to massive arrests and brutal beatings of protesters.

As summer morphed into fall, confrontations spread from the streets to train stations, shopping malls and residential buildings across all major neighborhoods. Police routinely fired rubber bullets, tear gas, pepper spray and water cannons at high velocity and at close range — and used live ammunition on Oct. 1 and Nov. 11. In turn, black-clad people (some were protesters and some could be agents provocateur) stabbed officers, meted out vigilante justice to regime supporters and vandalized pro-Beijing businesses.


2. Two Hong Kong universities came under siege.


A University of Science and Technology student named Chow Tsz-lok died Nov. 8, after an alleged fall from a parking garage that week. This triggered citywide mourning and a new cycle of escalation. As protesters threw debris to block major traffic routes around university campuses, police closed in on Chinese University of Hong Kong on Nov. 11 and then Polytechnic University on Nov. 18. Police retreated from the mountainous Chinese University but have continued to encircle the centrally located Polytechnic University, where an estimated 30 students remain.

Hong Kong analysts suspect that the new police commissioner, Chris Tang, deployed a deliberate strategy to lure hardcore protesters to “defend” Polytechnic — then arrest them all in one sweep. Police arrested more than 1,000 protesters, adding to nearly 4,500 arrests before the siege. Labeling those trapped on campus as “rioters” provoked an angry response from supporters, who attempted a counter-encirclement. The police then rammed their vehicles at high speed into nearby crowds, causing a stampede and more arrests.

[Updates: The police arrested 1377 people at Polytechnic, 810 from inside and 567 from surrounding areas. They also registered 318 youth below the age of 18, who may or may not be charged later. Total arrests stand at 5800 as of November 27.]


The images of university campuses in flames prompted international condemnation of the use of force — as did the arrests of medical volunteers wearing clearly marked vests and helmets.


3. The Sunday District Council elections were a de facto referendum on Hong Kong democracy.


The District Councils are the only bodies fully directly elected in Hong Kong. District Council elections typically involve local issues like local facilities and community activities. This time, voters made it clear this election was a way to voice their support for protesters, while China’s state-owned media urged Hong Kong people to “vote to end the violence.”

A record 2.94 million voters turned out — out of 4 million registered voters among a population of 7.5 million — undeterred by long lines throughout the day. Pro-democracy candidates included former student leaders and current protest organizers. They took 57 percent of the popular votes, thereby winning 388out of 452 seats and securing the majority in 17 of 18 districts councils.


4. The elections won’t resolve demands from Hong Kong protesters.


Sunday’s local elections suggest many in Hong Kong remain supportive of the protests. Many of the councilors-elect immediately vowed to press for the protesters’ remaining demands — in particular the call for an independent investigation on police brutality and the push for universal suffrage.


Although the Basic Law, the city’s mini-constitution, promises “one country, two systems,” Beijing has been ruling from behind through the Central Coordination Group for Hong Kong and Macao Affairs, led by Vice Premier Han Zheng. Han has been meting out directives from across the border — it was apparently he who allowed the extradition bill’s suspension in June, and the District Council elections to proceed as scheduled. China’s Communist Party Plenum even formally proclaimed on Nov. 1 that the central government aims to “exercise governance” over Hong Kong.

Hong Kong people believe the only way to stop the erosion of “one country, two systems” is to reform how the chief executive and the Legislative Council are chosen as promised in the Basic Law. Under current arrangements, Beijing effectively handpicks the chief executive through a 1,200-member election committee. Pro-democracy district councilors are now guaranteed all 117 allotted seats in this committee, but they are still in the minority. In the Legislative Council, “functional constituencies” representing different industries and specialized sectors select half of the 70 seats, many chosen by pro-Beijing corporate votes.


The weakness of democratic accountability is what has allowed Beijing to push through any bills, corrupt the local police, roll back freedom of expression and undercut judicial independence. Hong Kong people’s deep fears of the vanishing “one country, two systems” is likely to sustain the protest demands.


5. Will the violence continue to escalate?

Many international observers ask if Hong Kong protesters will return to nonviolent means of protest, in the aftermath of the overwhelming victories at the District Council elections.


That may be the wrong question. Beijing has no tolerance for strikes and boycotts, seeing these as attempts at a “color revolution.” The police stopped granting “no-objection notices” to applications for peaceful marches, and has shown up in force to stop what it considers unlawful assemblies. Police have also harassed and arrested young students who have formed peaceful human chains. The government has further taken down “Lennon Walls” of pro-democracy artwork and messages.


The massive turnout for the elections suggests that Hong Kong people would opt for the ballot rather than confronting bullets. So perhaps the more important question is whether Beijing would open up the ballot box to include genuine universal suffrage for higher offices.

However, if Beijing is intent on controlling Hong Kong rather than honoring the promised high degree of autonomy, then it may well conclude that it should further tighten its grip on Hong Kong. If the ballot box and peaceful means of dissent are closed off, there is likely to be another cycle of violent escalation. As pundits have increasingly warned, Hong Kong could become Belfast.

source: Standnews
Screen Shot 2019-11-30 at 8.25.16 PM

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The mask ban and a pending constitutional crisis


In Hong Kong, Beijing’s tough talk could spark a constitutional crisis

The rule of law is at the heart of the protests

November 21, 2019 at 6:12 a.m. EST

China’s Legislative Affairs Commission on Tuesday condemned a Hong Kong high court decision to overturn the ban on wearing face masks — which Hong Kong pro-democracy protesters wear to avoid identification by police. The message from Beijing was clear: Only China’s National People’s Congress Standing Committee can decide whether a local law aligns with the Basic Law, which guides Hong Kong’s “one country, two systems” governance.

The Basic Law is designed to protect autonomy, the rule of law and basic freedoms for a period of 50 years after the July 1, 1997, handover to China. Legal scholars, however, cite recent concerns about whether Hong Kong will be able to retain these freedoms and the rule of law. Here’s what you need to know.

1. The rule of law has long been at the heart of Hong Kong protests

Global rule of law rankings in 2019 put Hong Kong near the top, at No. 16, higher than the United States (No. 20) — while China ranks in the bottom half, at No. 82. Hong Kong’s autonomy, and ability to maintain the rule of law, has been at the heart of nearly every protest since the 1997 handover.

Hong Kong’s chief executive, Carrie Lam — in a leadership position determined by Beijing through a Beijing-friendly Election Committee — has little capacity to guard Hong Kong’s autonomy. This perception has helped drive popular demand for the universal suffrage promised as the “ultimate aim” in the Basic Law. During the 2014 “Umbrella Movement,” this was protesters’ key demand.

This same concern with the rule of law has shaped the current protests. At first, the 2019 demonstrations showed broad opposition to an extradition bill that would have allowed Hong Kong to extradite anyone to face criminal justice on the mainland, with limited exceptions. After 1 million and then 2 million protesters marched in successive weeks in June, the government still refused to withdraw the bill. This led to protesters breaking into and occupying the Legislative Council to block the bill’s passage.

2. Clashes with law enforcement led to demands for police accountability

After weeks of protest and violent confrontations by police, the Hong Kong government finally agreed to withdraw the bill. This proved too little too late. Protesters had added four other demands: an independent investigation of police behavior, amnesty for arrested protesters, withdrawal of the characterization of the protest as riots, and the promised democratic reforms.

The demand for an independent investigation has wide support of up to 80 percent on all sides of the political divide. Media coverage shows police manhandling protesters, and using rubber bullets, tear gas and water cannons. The Hong Kong government continues to reject demands for an independent investigation, reinforcing questions on whether the police are above the law.


Rather than addressing the underlying political questions, the government has focused on strengthening law enforcement, including banning all face masks. To hide their identity from police and surveillance cameras, protesters began wearing masksover the summer. Lam promulgated the ban under a 1922 Emergency Regulations Ordinance (ERO), which gives the government wide powers to enact almost any restrictions it likes during an emergency or periods of public danger.

Under a legal challenge, the court found the ERO was incompatible with the Basic Law insofar as it applied to non-emergency public dangers. The High Court further found the ban on masks was essentially too broad and not proportionate to the government’s purpose.

3. Is Hong Kong facing a mini-constitutional crisis?

The Hong Kong Basic Law specifies Hong Kong courts are to be independent and final, and maintain the common law principles inherited from the United Kingdom, as practiced in Hong Kong. It further provides that no laws are to violate the Basic Law. These guarantees alone grant Hong Kong courts the power to exercise constitutional judicial review over legislation.

The Basic Law goes further. After noting the power of interpretation is vested in the NPC Standing Committee, Article 158 provides the Standing Committee “shall authorize the courts … to interpret on their own in adjudicating cases, the provisions of this law which are within the limits of the autonomy of the region.” Further provisions call for referral of interpretations to the Standing Committee for matters beyond the limits of autonomy.

At this point, Beijing appears set to intervene in Hong Kong, not with tanks, but by issuing a legal interpretation that would contravene the Hong Kong High Court’s ruling. A spokesman for the NPC Standing Committee’s Legislative Affairs Commission, Zang Tiewei, slammed the court’s ruling saying, contrary to the above Basic Law guarantees, only the NPC Standing Committee has the power to decide constitutionality of laws. Other PRC offices echoed this view.


This statement may signal the intention of the NPC Standing Committee to issue a concurring interpretation that would be legally binding. Such an interpretation would severely undermine the rule of law in Hong Kong, effectively freeing the Hong Kong government to enact any laws it wanted without an effective challenge in the courts.

What happens next? A NPC Standing Committee intervention could come immediately while the case is still pending, as was the case in a recent Standing Committee interpretation on disqualification of public officials who fail to take their oaths “sincerely.” Or the Standing Committee could wait to see how it is handled on appeal, where pressure on the court to conform to the above NPC Standing Committee view is now apparent.

Beijing’s statement does not sit well with leading lawyers in Hong Kong. Legal scholars see the face mask decision as a matter falling squarely within the scope of local autonomy, which should be a restraint on Standing Committee intervention. But scholars also cite concerns that the previous practice of restraint against Beijing intervention may no longer exist. If Beijing’s response is an indication of what’s to come, Hong Kong’s rule of law may be diminished further.

Michael C. Davis is a Senior Research Scholar at the Weatherhead East Asia Institute at Columbia University and a Global Fellow at the Wilson Center. He was formerly a professor in the University of Hong Kong Faculty of Law.

Image from RFA: https://www.rfa.org/english/news/china/hongkong-protest-10182019142357.html


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Refrain from violence to keep international support


Hong Kong protesters should refrain from violence to keep US support for democracy and human rights

Hong Kong protesters are engaged in a teenagers-vs-superpower struggle. The movement needs international support to tilt the balance. To mobilise international support, protesters should refrain from violent escalation.

Hong Kong people have been lobbying the US Congress to pass the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act. The act was passed by the House of Representatives on Tuesday. It remains uncertain when and if it will be passed by the Senate.

Yet, when US Senators Ted Cruz and Josh Hawley visited the city last weekend, they were greeted by news of a police officer being stabbed in the neck and the detonation of a home-made bomb for the first time. Both senators urged protesters not to respond to police violence with their own violence.

Protesters should heed this advice. The act, when signed into law, would impose sanctions against police officers and government officials who violate human rights in Hong Kong. Its passage would help rein in police brutality.

See more at: https://www.scmp.com/comment/opinion/article/3033265/hong-kong-protesters-must-renounce-violence-keep-us-support



Michael C. Davis

Democratic reform is the best way to protect Hong Kong’s autonomy and halt the cycle of protests and repression

How should we understand the ever-escalating violence, as the protests have lasted for 20 weeks, and where should we look for a solution that might bring the protests to a satisfactory end?

The historic effectiveness of non-violent protests in Hong Kong has largely depended on who is calling the shots, Hong Kong or Beijing. This same issue, which relates to the sufficiency of Hong Kong’s autonomy, is where a solution to the ongoing protests must be found.

Looking back at the many protests in Hong Kong – in 2003, over Article 23; in 2009, over the high-speed rail; in 2012, over national education; in 2014, over democracy, and; the current anti-extradition/democracy protest – a common denominator is that when the Hong Kong government is free to respond to demands, solutions can typically be found.

This was evident in two massive non-violent protests, the Article 23 demonstrations, where the draconian bill was ultimately withdrawn, and in the proposal over national education that was ultimately withdrawn. Such a local climbdown was also evident when Hongkongers fought off the proposed extradition bill: Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor’s self-admitted misjudgment produced a bill that is ultimately to be withdrawn.

If Beijing is seen to override Hong Kong’s autonomy to dictate outcomes, protests are more likely to be sustained and violent. This is not surprising, as the question of Beijing’s interference and the resultant diminution of Hong Kong’s autonomy has been at the heart of nearly all mass protests.

More at https://www.scmp.com/comment/opinion/article/3033928/democratic-reform-best-way-protect-hong-kongs-autonomy-and-halt



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How Mainland Students at Chinese University of HK See The HK Protests

An important study on what mainland students at CUHK think about the protests. The views are surprisingly evenly split, not all against.

Main page: https://matters.news/@researchgroupcu/?????????????????-?-zdpuB2f67CPvh1itSyzuZ9TBUhVJGRDaz3HxD764mE13cdMCo

Report 1 https://matters.news/@researchgroupcu/香港中文大学内地生对反修例运动态度问卷结果报告-上-zdpuAviBnCDbvHseTTkECvFv9MLsAHyHhyEy4NBb4vJTZ4YtV

Report 2 https://matters.news/@researchgroupcu/香港中文大学内地生对反修例运动态度问卷结果报告-中-zdpuAoD3Z4qu2tt3uKpnKbbeF79dNjZ8idrHTjNYJxZ3U1KPN

Report 3 https://matters.news/@researchgroupcu/香港中文大学内地生对反修例运动态度问卷结果报告-下-zdpuB1NZhF6JCxKQjRzsh8zD2pghRTW9f7kfjvwuWp3tJD73g



10 月 11 日




*收集方式:通过研究团队的Facebook Page、研究成员朋友圈、内地生微信群,以滚雪球的方式发布






See the rest at the above links.


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Campaign to pass the HK Human Rights and Democracy Act

The letter to congressional leaders has been sent. See the letter below. See earlier post, the expiring/expired link to the original letter.
We are now expanding that campaign to gain further signatures and are migrating the campaign to change.org. For this second phase, the target is to get as many signatures as possible. Please kindly sign it (again) at the following link and share on your social media: 
http://chng.it/mFM6zVJtGF (the link for your signature)
There is a lot of talk that the Act is certain to pass this time. What we have heard is that while the chance is higher, there is still much reluctance among some members of congress. The highest worry is that a senator may put a hold on the act and indefinitely delay it. Another worry is that some members would pass only the toothless resolution 543 and think that they have done the right thing for HK: 
Support Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act (S.1838/H.R.3289)
The enclosed letter will be sent to the following Congressional leaders individually:

Majority Leader Mitch McConnell
Minority Leader Chuck Schumer
SFRC Chairman James Risch
SFRC Ranking Member Robert Menendez
Speaker Nancy Pelosi
Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy
HFAC Chairman Eliot Engel
HFAC Ranking Member Michael McCaul
Republican Conference Chair Rep. Liz Cheney
Democratic Caucus Chair Rep. Hakeem Jeffries
CECC Chairman Rep. Jim McGovern
CECC Co-Chairman Sen. Marco Rubio

For example:

The Speaker of the House of Representatives
The Honorable Nancy Pelosi
H-232 The Capitol
Washington DC, 20515

Dear Speaker Pelosi,

As supporters of human rights and democracy, with deep concern for Hong Kong, we strongly urge the passage of the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act (S.1838/H.R.3289, introduced in Congress on June 13, 2019. The 1992 Hong Kong Policy Act (PL 102-383) vitally needs updating to meet the escalating crisis that has dominated the news for months. We urge you to move this bill through committee and schedule a vote in your respective chambers on this important legislation without delay.

The Hong Kong Policy Act demonstrated a strong U.S. commitment to human rights and democracy in Hong Kong and acceptance of China’s invitation to treat Hong Kong separately from the rest of China with regard to trade, investment, commerce, immigration and other cultural and educational relations. China committed to this special status in the 1984 Sino-British Joint Declaration, which allows Hong Kong a “high degree of autonomy,” and guarantees that democracy, the rule of law, and basic human rights will be maintained under the “one country, two systems” model. The Joint Declaration itself guarantees rights and freedoms in Hong Kong, “including those of the person, of speech, of the press, of assembly, of association, of travel, of movement, of correspondence, of strike, of choice of occupation, of academic research and of religious belief.”

Beijing has violated these solemn commitments by eroding Hong Kong’s autonomy and rule of law since the 1997 handover, especially in recent years. Over the same period, the Beijing-appointed Hong Kong government has proven unable or unwilling to safeguard Hong Kong’s autonomy. It has become complicit in undermining basic freedoms. The ongoing onslaught on the rule of law will not stop without the democratic reform promised in the Basic Law. This situation harms not only Hong Kong people but also the city’s vast amount of trade and finance, adversely affecting the U.S. business community –- including 85,000 Americans based in Hong Kong.

We are deeply disturbed by the recent parade of Chinese and Hong Kong government infractions of these basic policies. Beijing’s 2014 White Paper on Hong Kong effectively dismissed the continued applicability of the Joint Declaration. Beijing refused to offer long-promised democratic reforms in 2014-15. Elected legislators were barred from taking up their office in the partially democratic Legislative Council. Select opposition candidates were not allowed to run for office. Pro-democracy protesters faced harsh sentences. A political party was banned, and the Hong Kong government expelled the foreign journalist who hosted the party’s convenor. Most recently, the proposed extradition law would have made anyone living in or transiting Hong Kong vulnerable to China’s highly-politicized criminal justice system –- notorious for human rights abuses and injustice.

These activities have led in recent weeks to massive protests of up to two million people. The government has resorted to repression instead of responding to public concerns. Both the Chinese and Hong Kong governments have allowed and even encouraged abusive police practices to quell the protests, leaving the community in chaos. Requests for an independent investigation have been ignored. Authorities are even credibly suspected of complicity in the beating of dozens of protesters and bystanders by a marauding criminal gang.

The U.S. Government needs additional tools between simply reporting on Hong Kong’s special status or revoking it. The Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act expands the policy toolbox in the following ways:

(1) Requiring annual recertification by the Secretary of State of Hong Kong’s autonomy, which adds teeth and vital political judgment to the oversight process.

(2) Requiring Commerce, Treasury, and the State Department to report on whether the government of Hong Kong is adequately enforcing American export laws regarding sensitive dual-use items and U.S. and UN sanctions, which addresses the vital question of technology transfers.

(3) Providing authority to sanction those individuals responsible for suppressing human rights in Hong Kong, which serves to emphasize the core nature of human rights and the rule of law both in U.S. foreign policy and in the success of Hong Kong.

(4) Prohibiting U.S. visa denials for Hongkongers on the grounds of conviction of offences related to the demonstrations, which ensures protection for the guardians of Hong Kong’s autonomy.

(5) Banning travel to the U.S. by those responsible for violations of human rights and other commitments related to Hong Kong, which ensures individual accountability.

(6) Reporting to Congress on those sanctioned by the U.S. Government related to Hong Kong, which better informs congressional decisions going forward.

We are grateful to the members of the House and Senate who have sponsored and co-sponsored the bill, and to the Speaker of the House for expressing her support. We understand the bill is not perfect and appreciate efforts to strengthen and broaden its coverage that can be pursued in the legislative process. We strongly encourage passage.

With highest urgency,

Signed (in alphabetical order), Affiliation (for identification purposes only)

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Testimony at Congress

US-China Economic and Security Review Commission

Hearing on “U.S.-China Relations in 2019: A Year in Review”

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

The event and the written testimony: https://www.uscc.gov/Hearings/us-china-relations-2019-year-review

The video: https://www.c-span.org/video/?463934-2/us-china-economic-security-review-commission-holds-public-hearing-part-2

The oral beginning statement:

The Hong Kong Reckoning

Thanks so much for giving Hong Kong a voice.

I was born in Hong Kong and I grew up in Hong Kong. The Hong Kong protests are both academic and personal to me.

China watchers have raised the phenomenon of “China reckoning” in U.S.-China relations: that Americans have only belatedly waken up to China’s increasingly aggressive trade and security policies.

If international observers had paid more attention to Beijing-Hong Kong relations over the years, a “Hong Kong reckoning” could have led to an earlier “China reckoning.”

Beijing has broken the promise of “Hong Kong people ruling Hong Kong” with a “high degree of autonomy” under the “one country, two systems” model — written in black and white in the Sino-British Joint Declaration and the Hong Kong Basic Law.

Many people believe that all is well in Hong Kong so long as Beijing does not roll out tanks into the streets of Hong Kong in Tiananmen-like fashion.

My friend Victor Shih testified this morning that China’s approach to Hong Kong has been “soft” and “moderate.”

It is a mistake to narrowly define “violence” by looking only at PLA deployment.

This view distracts from how Beijing has controlled Hong Kong through nonmilitary but still heavy-handed means.

In order to quell the current protests, Beijing has deployed the Hong Kong police without rolling out Chinese troops, used the Hong Kong government to take draconian measures without formally declaring emergency, and wielded less visible, whole-of-society white terror without creating bad optics.

The U.S. Congress and the U.S. Government should broaden monitoring efforts from Chinese troop deployment to the daily repressive measures already applied in Hong Kong.

The protests started with the call to withdraw the extradition bill, which would have required Hong Kong to turn over accused offenders to mainland China.

The Chief Executive Carrie Lam “suspended” the bill on June 15. But she refused to withdraw it until early this morning.

This concession is too little too late.

In refusing to address protestors’ demands, the Authorities have relied on Hong Kong’s police to repress the escalating protests in the last two and a half months.

This policy has corrupted what used to be Asia’s finestpolice into “just another mainland force.”  When I was a little girl, my mom would tell me that, “whenever you get lost, go get help from a police uncle or aunty.” That was the level of trust then. Today, as shown in global TV, the police arbitrarily beat up and arrests Hong Kong people.

It is not even obvious who the police answer to. When the Chief Secretary Matthew Cheung, Carrie Lam’s second in command, apologized about police actions, he was publicly rebuked by the Police Inspectors’ Association.

To make it even clearer that it is Beijing ruling from behind the scene, the central government’s Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office in rare press conferences said: “We should relentlessly crack down on… violent criminal acts without mercy, and we firmly support Hong Kong police and judicial authorities” in doing the job.

Beijing has additionally stepped up a white terror campaign to silence the larger society.

The written testimony chronicles such repressive measures up to September 2. The rest of my oral testimony will only highlight the key points.

The first point: The bloody crackdown.

The first tactic in the police toolkit is to restrict the freedom to protest by refusing to issue a “no-objection notice” — essentially, a permit. This technically renders protests “unlawful.”

Second,the police have arrested more than 1,100 peoplesince June, charging many with not just “unlawful assembly,” but also serious crimes such as rioting, assaulting the police and possessing weapons.

Third, the police routinely hit protestors with batons and fire tear gas, pepper spray, beanbags, rubber bullets, and sponge grenades.

The first “bloody Sunday” happened on August 11and more bloody arrests have taken place since.

The UN Human Rights Officeand Amnesty Internationalhave accused the Hong Kong police of using crowd control weapons in waysthat are prohibited by international standards.

What is not visible to reporters and bystanders is even more disturbing. Many of the detained were denied access to lawyers for many hours, and stopped from contacting families. Some of them were so brutally beatenin detention that they came out with broken bones and head injuries.

It is noteworthy that doctors and nurses have repeatedly staged sit-ins with the slogan “Hong Kong policeattempt to murder Hong Kong citizens.” A nurserecounted how one detainee’s wrist is connected only by skin, with bones and tendons both broken in x-ray.  Medical workers have also complained about inhumane rules and procedures: that ambulances are not allowed access to the wounded at protest sites without police approval, that the police arrestsuspected protestors at hospitals so that the injured are fearful of seeking medical treatment, and  that medical staff are restricted from calling families on patients’ behalf.

Most alarming, police forces are credibly suspected of collusion with criminal gangswho have assaulted both reporters and protesters.

This biased enforcement of the law and complicity with lawless attacks on protestors has turned Hong Kong into a police state, even a mafia state.

The second point: Hong Kong has taken Emergency Measures Without Declaring Emergency Since August 30

The authorities were particularly worried about August 31, the fifth anniversary of a Beijing decision to deny universal suffrage that had sparked the Umbrella Movement of 2014.

The day before, the police arrested well-known legislators and activists as a preemptive move to suppress protest turnouts the next day.

To further intimidate the public, the police for the first time imposed a total banon a peaceful march organized by the Civil Human Rights Front on August 31.

The police then took severe measures against those who dared to protest.

They deployed water cannons with blue dye for the first time, leading analysts to draw analogy with martial law under theapartheid regimein South Africa.

The police also stormed into the Prince Edward metro station with batons and pepper spray. The early horrifying scenes were caught on live streamsand videos. The police later ordered reporters to leavethe station. Medical staff were also notallowed in for 2.5 hours. The police acted more violently that night than the notorious gangsters has before.

Pro-government voices have been advocating the imposition of emergency to put an end to the escalating protests. However, if the Hong Kong police are already taking away citizens’ right to protest arbitrarily arresting democratically elected law-makers and activists indiscriminately beating up passengers inside train stations banning reporters from covering police abuses denying medical workers access to the wounded arresting social workers who mediate between the police and protestors breaking the bones of the arrested, then the Hong Kong government has effectively adopted emergency measures even if it has not formally declared emergency.

The third point is a widening white terror to punishprofessionals.

The protests have enjoyed extensive societal support. One million marched on June 9, 2 millions on June 16, and 1.7 millions on August 18. Many professional groups have organized protests one after another: medical staff, social workers, journalists, civil servants, lawyers, airlines crew, teachers, accountants, surveyors, architects, financial sector staff, and many more.

The police cannot lock up every dissenting voice. But Beijing has dramatically raised the costsof supporting the protests.

  • For Cathay Pacific Airways, Beijing has forced it to choosebetween its China business and its employees right to protest, banning crew member who had. The pressure has led to the resignation of the CEO and the sacking of pilots and ground staff.
  • The big four accounting firms in Hong Kong are also pressed to identify employees who placed an advertisementin the pro-democracy Apple Daily.
  • Teachersare targeted by China’s People Dailyfor polluting young minds.
  • TVB, HK’s main TV station, has fired over 20 staff for pro-protest comments.

The extent of Beijing’s erosion of HK’s autonomy is nicely captured by one social media meme: HK’s police, airlines, and television stations no longer belong to Hong Kong people, because the Hong Kong government does not belong to Hong Kong people.

Hong Kong’s Last Stand

Yet, the combination of bloody crackdown and white terror has only stiffened Hong Kong people’s resolve to defend the freedoms that they have grown up with.

They see this struggle as the “last stand” because they are fast losing even the basic freedom – the freedom from the fear of getting beaten by police officers and gangsters, and the fear of getting fired for simply saying “Go, Hongkongers (香港人加油)!”

Stand with Hong Kong

We don’t know how the protests will unfold. What the determined Hong Kong people have achieved so far is to fully expose the lie that Beijing has kept its promises to Hong Kong.

If there is anything left to “one country, two systems,” it is the people of Hong Kong themselves – it is their will to keep defending their freedoms at huge personal costs.

The world’s democracies should stand with them. Hong Kong protesters have called on the US Congress to pass the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act. Protestors have called for international condemnation of police abuses, and for closer monitoring of the less visible white terror. Hong Kong people have called for closer international monitoring of the right to protest – they should not have their heads and limps broken under arrest. Hong Kong women have called for protection of their dignity – they should not be subject to strip search and sexual assault by the police. Hong Kong’s medical staff have called for international humanitarian assistance. They should not be denied access to injured and they should not themselves be arrested. Hong Kong’s social workers have called for attention to similar humanitarian concerns. They should not be arrested for providing social service to protestors.

Stand with Hong Kong!

Thank you.



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Why “no retreat”? Beijing’s whole-of-society repression is coming

I am reposting Sebastian Veg’s excellent analysis on this issue:

A shortened version in The Guardian: Beijing’s game plan for stifling the Hong Kong protests is now clear – Manipulation of public opinion and pressure on the region’s businesses, universities and judiciary are part of the strategy https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2019/aug/14/beijing-tactics-crush-hong-kong-protests

A longer version: Beijing’s Strategy of Corrosion https://vegsebastian.wordpress.com/2019/08/15/hong-kongs-liquid-protesters-and-beijings-strategy-of-corrosion/


“Beijing should rely first and foremost on the Chief Executive, the Hong Kong government, and One Country Two Systems, second on the Hong Kong police and judiciary, third on patriotic forces in Hong Kong, and fourth on the overwhelming majority of HK people who desire peace and stability. Zhang’s statement lays out a multi-pronged strategy. The Hong Kong police have been tasked with suppressing demonstrations at any cost. A previous commander was brought back out of retirement, in an implicit acknowledgment of previous missteps, but presumably to enforce even harsher methods. On August 12, police were forced to recognize that plainclothes offices had infiltrated protesters. Similarly, the judiciary will come under further pressure from the prosecution, using politicized charges and expedited procedures.

Next, patriotic forces will be mobilized to reunify the extremely disunited pro-establishment camp: businesses will face disproportionate retaliation or boycott if they do not actively oppose the protests; universities and public institutions in Hong Kong will be brought back under control through internal discipline. This will raise the cost of sympathizing and participating for ordinary protesters. Indeed, pro-establishment politicians immediately lined up behind Beijing’s wording, putting an end to calls for Lam’s resignation or an independent inquiry. Finally, Beijing has engaged in a battle to turn public opinion in Hong Kong against the movement and isolate the “violent extremists” from the “patriotic silent majority,” especially by highlighting the economic impact of protests. Depictions of the protests as instigated by “foreign forces” were stepped up.”

Mike and my analysis on Why Beijing Doesn’t Need to Send in the Troops in Foreign Affairs:


Beijing does not only use force to control Hong Kong; it adopts a whole-of-society approach. It used this approach to shut down the 2014 Umbrella Movement, and it will likely do the same to deal with the current anti-extradition protests.

To silence the streets, organizers of the protests—who were calling for “genuine universal suffrage”—were arrested and sentenced to up to 16 months in jail for “inciting nuisance” and “inciting others to incite nuisance.” To cleanse the civil service, law enforcement, judicial institutions, and university councils, Beijing used its handpicked chief executive, who has overwhelming authority over appointments and promotions within the Hong Kong government, to fill these positions with loyalists. To curb the power of Hong Kong’s elected Legislative Council, the government banned some opposition candidates from running for office and disqualified others after they had been elected. And to further undercut the courts’ lingering independence, the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress took the unusual step of issuing a binding interpretation of local oath-taking requirements while a case to remove legislators who had disrespectfully stated their oath was still pending.

Beijing’s Liaison Office in Hong Kong’s Western District—the instrument of Communist Party control—does not intervene only at the top levels of the Hong Kong government. Its influence reaches deep into all 18 of the city’s administrative districts. It has internal offices for each of the district councils, and each district has representatives of the Liaison Office. These representatives busily attend and organize local functions to buy loyalty. They also mobilize support for Beijing’s favored candidates in elections. Junius Ho, widely accused of being the mastermind behind the mob attacks in Yuen Long, won his legislative seat in 2016 after his opponent withdrew from the race, citing anonymous threats.

See Willy Wo-lap Lam’s analysis of President Xi Jinping’s instruction to use harsh measures short of sending in the PLA to end the protests 習總在北戴河有關「特區平亂」的指示- 嚴刑峻法 寸土不讓


See my earlier analysis of how Beijing reined in HK in the aftermath of the 2014 Umbrella Movement.

See what has already happened to Cathay Pacific: Cathay Pacific CEO Rupert Hogg resigns amid Hong Kong protest row — and Beijing’s CCTV announced the news before HK



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In the face of increasingly lethal repression, use strikes and boycotts


Beijing does not have to send out Chinese troops because Hong Kong’s police are cracking down hard on the protesters.

Police actions on Sunday have caused particularly bloody injuries. Officers disguised as protesters beat up arrested protesters, leaving several with fractures. Police fired on protesters escaping into a train station with pepper spray at close range. Police shot one woman in her right eye with a rubber bullet. Police beatings left one man with a brain bleed.

Medical workers have since complained that the police “attempted to murder Hong Kong citizens.” Police are also credibly suspected of colluding with criminal gangs who have assaulted protesters and reporters.

Still, increasingly lethal repression is unlikely to end this “last fight for Hong Kong.” If Chinese forces roll into Hong Kong, protesters will “go home to sleep” – but strikes and boycotts, which are less vulnerable to physical suppression, will persist.


Beijing has issued an ultimatum to Hong Kong by labeling the months-long anti-extradition protest a “color revolution,” and by airing videos of Chinese troops and police practicing riot-control in Hong Kong-like urban settings. Those threats are unlikely to deter further protests.

If Beijing views the challenge from Hong Kong as a “battle of life and death,” so do protestors: some carry a death note in their backpacks.

And some Hong Kong youth see the anti-extradition struggle as a “last stand.” Beijing has incrementally eroded Hong Kong’s political and civil liberties for two decades. The proposed extradition bill would further undercut the city’s independent judiciary, the last firewall that protects Hong Kong from the mainland’s questionable criminal justice system.

The peaceful marching of one million on June 9 and 2 million on June 16 did not move the government. Young protestors have escalated their actions in response to government indifference. On the handover anniversary on July 1, protestors stormed and vandalized the Legislative Council building. On July 21, they defaced the national emblem outside Beijing’s Liaison Office; on August 3 and 5, they threw the national flag into the harbor in the tourist district of Tsim Sha Tsui. On August 3 and 4, teenage girls tossed bricks at police stations.

If the authorities had agreed to formally withdraw the extradition bill and open an independent investigation earlier in June, it could have avoided this escalation. Instead, the authorities have used excessive and illegitimate force to beat up and arrest protestors. Police officers have hit protestors with batons and aimed their guns with rubber bullets at protestor’s heads. They have charged at least 44 protestors with rioting, which carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in jail. And since July 21, organized gangsters have been mobilized to attack black-clad protestors with wooden sticks, metal rods, and knives.

But this repressive strategy, instead of stopping the protests by arresting the roughly 1000 “violent protesters,” has only inflamed dissent. Among the 589 arrested so far include not just protestors, but also journalists, medical volunteers, and NGO observers. Indiscriminate and illegitimate police violence has only enlarged popular support for the protests, even among moderate professional groups like civil servants, finance employees, accountants, architects, surveyors, and flight attendants.

What intensified police and thug violence may achieve is to convince protestors to adjust their protest methods. On social media, protestors are discussing dispersed methods such as strikes and boycotts, which are less vulnerable to physical arrests and attacks. The general strike on August 5 successfully mobilized 350,000 people, and may be repeated. There is also talk of weekly consumer boycotts targeting pro-Beijing businesses.

For protestors, there is no retreat. They may “go home to sleep” if the PLA does roll into Hong Kong, but they will persist with different protest methods.

See related posts on dispersed protest methods: How to keep the struggle alive; the need for sustainable protest tactics; strikes and boycotts in other world cases

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What happens now that Beijing has called the protests a ‘color revolution’?


By Michael C. Davis Victoria Tin-bor Hui

August 10 at 6:00 AM

The Hong Kong government had described some of the early protests in Hong Kong as a “riots.” On Wednesday, Zhang Xiaoming, director of the Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office of the State Council, said the protests have taken on “color revolution characteristics,” warning that “the central government will not sit back and do nothing.”

Wang Zhimin, head of Beijing’s Liaison Office in Hong Kong, added that the crisis has evolved into a “battle of life and death.” An anti-riot drill across the border in Shenzhen and earlier troop drills by the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) garrison in Hong Kong suggest that Beijing has a close eye on Hong Kong.

What do these escalations in rhetoric mean? Here’s what you need to know.

The “color revolution” label is complicated

Zhang pointed out that the protest slogans had shifted to “Reclaim Hong Kong, Revolution of Our Times.”

Hong Kong’s massive protests began in May and called for the government to formally withdraw an extradition bill that would have required Hong Kong authorities to turn over accused offenders to mainland criminal justice.

Protesters now want an independent investigation into police abuses and are calling on the Hong Kong government to drop riot charges and reopen the debate over democratic reform — which the government set aside in 2015.

But unlike color revolutions in Ukraine, Georgia and elsewhere, people in Hong Kong are not fighting for some abstract ideals that they have never experienced. Instead, they are defendingthe freedoms and autonomy that they have grown up with. If they also aspire to democracy, that is because it had been guaranteed to them.

Protesters march near the skyline of Hong Kong in July. (Kin Cheung/AP)

Protesters refuse to give up on earlier promises

The 1984 Sino-British Joint Declaration, which set the stage for Hong Kong’s return to China in 1997, promised the city a high degree of autonomy and a system based on democracy, human rights and the rule of law. The 1991 Basic Law, Hong Kong’s mini-constitution, provides for the “ultimate aim” of “universal suffrage” in the selection of the chief executive and the Legislative Council.

However, Beijing undermined this vision from the start by delaying democratic reform and assigning itself the ultimate power to interpret the Basic Law, overriding the local courts, which were supposed to be “independent” and “final.” Hong Kong’s Legislative Council is structured to keep directly elected legislators in perpetual minority so that the chief executive is guaranteed enough votes to push through any bills.

Masked protesters and academics have explained that “reclaiming Hong Kong” means a return to the former Hong Kong with the rule of law, an impartial police force, an independent judiciary and an unfettered free press. “Revolution,” they argue, is not a new term — pointing to the 2014 “Umbrella Revolution.” The rallying cry then was “I want genuine universal suffrage.”

Beijing may have several ways to intervene

The shift in rhetoric suggests Beijing sees the ongoing protests as an existential threat. The Basic Law clearly states that PLA troops stationed in Hong Kong are for defense only and “shall not interfere in local affairs.” When reporters asked about PLA deployment, Beijing spokesperson Yang Guang replied on July 28 that “The Basic Law has clear statements on that question, and I have nothing to add.”

But Article 14 also states the Hong Kong government may ask for “assistance from the garrison in the maintenance of public order and in disaster relief.” With a chief executive chosen by a 1,200-person selection committee that generally defers to Beijing, the central government in China can easily direct the local government to request PLA assistance.

Article 18 of the Basic Law provides a bypass option. During war or “by reason of turmoil within the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region which endangers national unity or security and is beyond the control of the Region,” the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress can declare an emergency and apply “the relevant national laws.”

Labeling the protest a “color revolution” gives Beijing a route to stage a military intervention.

As we detail in our Foreign Affairs article, Beijing has other means before resorting to this nuclear option. First and foremost, officials have expressed full support for the Hong Kong police to “punish violent and unlawful acts” by “radical” protesters.

Under the Public Order Ordinance, demonstrations are “unlawful” if the police refuse to issue a “no-objection notice” — essentially, a permit. Such refusals were rare for two decades since the 1997 handover, but the police have repeatedly used this card in recent weeks and have arrested hundreds of suspected protesters. Police appear to be charging many with the vaguely defined crime of rioting, which could carry a maximum sentence of 10 years.

Police officers have become less restrained

Police officers in recent weeks have routinely fired tear gas, pepper spray, beanbags and sponge grenades. Police have also fired rubber bullets at head level. They have fired tear gas at and arrested not just black-clad protesters but also medical volunteers, social workers, elected councilors, reporters and passersby.

They have been accused of colluding with gangsters who indiscriminately beat up locals with wooden sticks and metal rods at the suburban Yuen Long train station on July 21. A week later, the police indiscriminately charged with batons and tear gas at crowds in the same station, leading to headlines likening the police to thugs.

To date, the gangsters who attacked train passengers and protesters alike have not been charged; only two dozens have been investigated and released on bail. This biased enforcement of the law and tolerance of lawless attacks on protesters has turned a wide sector of traditionally conservative Hong Kong residents against the police. Various professional groups — including financial sector workers, accountants, architects, airport staff and civil servants — have staged their own rallies.

A recent poll shows that 79 percent of the Hong Kong public want an independent investigation into police abuses. Addressing this one demand could readily de-escalate the tensions. But Beijing officials have made it clear that this would not happen before they have put an end to the “color revolution.”

All these developments suggest Hong Kong’s protests have become entrenched. So far, the deafness of authorities in Hong Kong and Beijing and the indiscriminate nature of repression have only radicalized protesters and widened their circle of support.

Michael C. Davis is senior research scholar at the Weatherhead East Asia Institute at Columbia University and global fellow at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, DC.

Victoria Tin-bor Hui, associate professor in political science at the University of Notre Dame, is the author of “Hong Kong’s Umbrella Movement: The Protests and Beyond.”



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Why Beijing Doesn’t Need to Send in the Troops

Will China Crush the Protests in Hong Kong?

Why Beijing Doesn’t Need to Send in the Troops

A protestor throws a rock at a police station in Hong Kong, August 2019Kim Kyung Hoon / Reuters

For five months, Hong Kong has seen waves of massive protests and violence in the streets. And for five months, the local authorities, with the backing of Beijing, have responded in increasingly draconian ways—from wielding batons and firing lethal shots at protesters to jailing them on rioting charges—that have succeeded mostly in inflaming public sentiment. The situation has devolved into a stalemate, featuring escalating protests and brutal clashes between police and demonstrators. The question on everyone’s mind is if and when the Chinese government will resort to more aggressive means—including use of the military—to end the unrest for good.

The protests began in February in response to a proposed law that would allow Hong Kong to extradite residents of the territory to the Chinese mainland, tearing down the last firewall protecting Hong Kong from Beijing. Although Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam agreed to “suspend” the extradition bill on June 15, residents have continued to press their demands, calling for the formal withdrawal of the bill, an independent investigation into police abuses, the dropping of riot charges against protesters, and the introduction of democratic reforms.

On July 21, after activists defaced the national emblem outside of Beijing’s Liaison Office in Hong Kong’s Western District, the spokesperson for China’s Ministry of National Defense accused the protesters of “challenging the central government’s authority” and violating the principle of “one country, two systems”—the term used to describe Beijing’s model for ruling Hong Kong since assuming sovereignty over the territory in 1997. The protesters’ “radical” actions, he said, were “intolerable.” Then, on July 31, the Chinese military garrison in Hong Kong released a video showing Chinese troops practicing anti-riot drills. In one scene, the troops shouted that “all consequences are at your own risk!” Together, these messages were widely seen as a threat to deploy troops from China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA). Some commentators in the United States have even raised the prospect of another Tiananmen Square.

Yet a military intervention is unlikely. Beijing has greatly benefited from Hong Kong’s ostensible autonomy, enshrined in the 1984 Sino-British Joint Declaration and the 1990 Hong Kong Basic Law, which established the formula of “Hong Kong people ruling Hong Kong.” This arrangement has allowed the city to become the leading financial center of Asia and an important link between the Chinese and global economies. Beijing has a strong incentive to preserve the façade of autonomy in Hong Kong.

What’s more, it already has a tool kit, honed during the 2014 protests known as the Umbrella Movement, to keep Hong Kong in check. Rather than cracking down with its military, the mainland authorities are likely to step up other repressive measures to end the protests and restore comprehensive control without undermining an arrangement that serves them well. Beijing, in other words, doesn’t need to turn to what commentators call the “nuclear option”: it hopes to achieve what it wants at lower costs with tools it has used before.



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Support Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act (S.1838/H.R.3289)

We have all been following the urgent developments in Hong Kong over the past couple months. Hong Kong protest leaders have come to Washington to petition for prompt passage of the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act. Academic, expert and NGO colleagues have come together to prepare a letter supporting this urgent plea. At the following link you will find both the letter and the current list of signatories:
At the end of the letter and list you can see the section where you can add your name to the list of signatories. Your support will be greatly appreciated. You are also encouraged to pass the letter on to invite other colleagues to sign on. For this petition, we are signing as concerned people affiliated with universities or other professional or NGO organizations whose opinion reflected in the letter should be of interest to members of Congress. The situation in Hong Kong is developing quickly and we will want to get this letter to Congress in mid-August before the end of the current recess.
Please note: the two signature campaigns are different; you are welcome to sign both.
Also, letter from Hong Kong’s 22 progressive professional groups:

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An extended conversation on the anti-extradition movement (with background info)

Rob Precht conducted an extended interview with us on July 30.



Error: I meant “aversion to violence” when I said “immunity to violence.” Many apologies!




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What Hong Kong’s student activists can teach the world and what they can learn from other struggles

first appeared in https://blogs.lse.ac.uk/highereducation/2019/07/10/what-hong-kongs-student-activists-can-teach-the-world-and-what-they-can-learn-from-other-struggles/

July 10th, 2019

Hong Kong’s recent anti-extradition protests have taken on the air of the last standagainst the erosion of the territory’s freedoms. In addition to repeated millions-strong peaceful marches through Hong Kong’s business districts, several hundreds of university and secondary-school students stormed the Legislative Council on the 22ndanniversary of Hong Kong’s handover to China on 1st July.

The world is still trying to make sense of what the Chief Executive, Carrie Lam calls an “extremely violent” act. International observers are puzzled: why would the same young activists who self-organize to clean up streets and recycle garbage at every protest, have vandalized the Legislative Council (LegCo) building? How should we comprehend the seeming turn to violence – the damage to physical property, if not human life?

Protestors take pride in that the recent anti-extradition protests are leaderless in contrast to the Umbrella Movement of 2014. The last episode had a joint leadership of the Occupy trio (Professors Benny Tai and Chan Kin-ming along with Rev. Chu Yiu-ming), the Hong Kong Federation of Students composed of university students, and Scholarism formed of secondary students. At the time, some of the “rowdies” (as the last Governor and current Oxford university dean, Christopher Patten calls them) complained that this leadership structure did not represent all the protestors. The putative leaders tried to achieve consensus on what to do beyond staying at the Occupy sites, but were unsuccessful.

The current wave of protests has taken on a decentralized decision-making structure. Official student unions and various civil society groups coordinate protest acts, but no one takes leadership. One reason is to avoid arrests as the Umbrella leaders were sentenced to jail. Another reason is to transcend internal differences over strategies and tactics that could paralyze the movement again. Individual protestors and different groups are left to decide for themselves if they want to legally follow marching routes or to illegally gather outside government offices; actions are coordinated on Telegram chat groups and other social media platforms, and by protestors on the spot.

The decision to storm the LegCo building was made by a vote among masked protestors who had gathered there. In the immediate aftermath, televised scenes of vandalism led some fellow-protestors to agree with the government’s condemnation of violence. Yet, it is remarkable that the division is not as widespread as originally feared. Even moderate protestors, who disagree with the extensive physical damages, are generally sympathetic.

This is especially so after it emerged that four of the young protestors were prepared to take the ultimate form of protest – suicide. By 1st July, three young people had committed suicide. (A fourth person killed herself on 3rd July.) When pro-democracy legislators advised protestors that breaking into the building could land them a 10-year jail sentence, they expressed their wish for a symbolic suicide; they could make a bigger statement if they died from storming into the Legislative Council than jumping from the top of a high-rise building. They were saved when fellow-protestors dragged them out shortly before the police arrived to clear the site.

The more important question is thus, not why otherwise self-disciplined student activists would resort to vandalism, but why they are willing to risk their careers, even their lives? Government voices blame liberal arts education for turning universities and secondary schools into hotbeds of dissent. They should instead examine why Hong Kong’s young people are convinced that the government has robbed them of their future and the meaning of life.

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The limit of ‘leaderlessness’ and need for sustainable protest tactics

[Boycott lists at the bottom]

First appeared in https://www.hkcnews.com/article/21921/extradition_bill-fugitives_bill-fugitive_law-21958/the-limit-of-leaderlessness-and-need-for-sustainable-protest-tactics

See also A leaderless movement, or leadership decentralized but coordinated?

Author: Victoria Hui | Publish Date: 08.07.19

The storming of the Legislative Council on July 1 suggests both the strength and the limit of the self-consciously leaderless anti-extradition protests.

The unprecedented vandalization of the Legco building won international attention, but some supporters are disappointed by the focus on violence. In contrast to pictures of disciplined peaceful protests on June 9 and 16, what made it to headlines in print and broadcast media on July 1 were images of protestors breaking into and vandalizing the legislature.


When interviewed by the New York Times, Bloomberg, BBC, and Al Jazeera, I suggested that Hong Kong’s young people were imitating the Sunflower Movement of Taiwan, where all charges against protestors for breaking into the legislature were ultimately dropped. I also explained that the police had set a trap to lure protestors by withdrawing from the building at around 9pm. Nevertheless, it was not easy for protesters to counter the Chief Executive Carrie Lam’s well-planned media strategy. She held a press conference at 4am Hong Kong time so that her condemnation of this “extremely violent” act could make it to international evening news.

The introduction of violence, even though it was limited to physical properties rather than human lives, also risks dividing the opposition. The anti-extradition protests had drawn 1 million to swamp Hong Kong’s business districts on June 9, 2 millions on June 16, and another half a million on July 1. This danger is captured by the New York Times’ July 1st story entitled “Hong Kong Protestors Storm the Legislature, Dividing the Movement.”

It emerged a day later that the dramatic storming act was not as divisive as some had feared. A commentary in the Stand News explains this best: “Even if the movement has not splintered, it still faces condemnation by the mainstream and runs the risk of hollowing out support.” If popular opinion has not turned against the protestors, half of the credit should be attributed to an interview by a Stand News reporter. “(但縱使運動沒有分裂,依然要面對主流的責難,式微的危險。 結果輿論不至逆轉,一半可歸於一個原因──立場姐姐的訪問。)This opinion piece tells of the chaotic process that produced the decision to storm the Legco building by protestors who were on site overnight. It also refers to an interview of a young girl among those who had retreated from the building but decided to return to drag out four protestors who had insisted on staying behind in an act of martyrdom. Her statement that “we are all very scared, but we are more scared that we may lose them tomorrow” brought tears to even conservative supporters.

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Hong Kong’s protesters are not ‘radicals.’ They just want to be heard.

Featuring Hana Meihan Davis, Washington Post, July 3

The images out of Hong Kong on Monday dominated news coverage worldwide: shattered glass, masked demonstrators, rows of riot police.

A small group of protesters broke into the Legislative Council building — and the act was enough to eclipse a record-breaking 550,000-person demonstration just blocks away. Many rushed to denounce the demonstrators for their radicalism. The group had splintered from the annual July 1 march, which this year marked the 22nd anniversary of Hong Kong’s handover from Britain to mainland China. But those pointing fingers are missing the point. Instead of echoing China’s language, critics should be asking why so many young Hongkongers felt compelled to take this desperate step in the first place.

Monday needs to be understood as what it was: a group of heartbroken yet determined individuals willing to give up everything for the survival of their home. The majority pro-Beijing legislature — whose job is to pass, amend or repeal proposed laws such as the controversial extradition bill that triggered this new wave of protests — has proved its inability to respond to the will of the people.

Read more at https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2019/07/03/hong-kongs-protesters-are-not-radicals-they-just-want-be-heard/

A police officer patrols outside the Legislative Council in Hong Kong on Tuesday. (Vincent Yu/AP)

See also

Hong Kong has nothing left to lose (link)

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How Hong Kong’s protesters harnessed the city to make their case to the world

Featuring Hana Meihan Davis

June 21 at 6:50 PM

On Friday, for the fourth time in two weeks, protesters took to Hong Kong’s streets, responding to the government’s failure to withdraw a controversial extradition bill. Since there was no large space for the protesters to gather, Hongkongers had to be strategic. They peacefully surrounded and shut down the branches of power that most threatened their sovereignty: the legislature and the police.

In a city with limited room that has been defined by three decades of protest, the spaces that do exist are politicized in a way that is seldom seen anywhere else. It is impossible to read urban protest in Hong Kong without also noticing the city’s urban design. These demonstrations are no exception. The city itself has become a player in these protests, folding around demonstrators a in way that conveys their very message: that Hong Kong has a unique, immutable identity.

The images that have emerged from last Sunday’s march — of a “sea of black” filling a six-lane thoroughfare, sidewalks, overhead pedestrian bridges and alleyways — evoke a sense of togetherness that was born in the tight corridors of space winding around high-rises. They reflect the stubbornness that has made Hong Kong’s protesters so resilient to the obstacles in their way and remind viewers of Hong Kong’s distinctness from both China and the Western world.

Hong Kong was not designed to have expansive civic squares or wide boulevards like Washington, Cairo or Beijing. It was certainly not meant to backdrop large occupations. The way Hong Kong grew upward and inward should have impeded political sit-ins and rallies of dissent. Yet the precise physical barriers meant to stifle protest have instead given them even more poignancy.

More : https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2019/06/21/how-hong-kongs-protesters-harnessed-city-make-their-case-world/

Protesters march through the streets in Hong Kong on June 16. (Kin Cheung/AP)

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A leaderless movement? Or leadership decentralized but coordinated?

first appeared in https://www.hkcnews.com/article/21468/extradition_bill-fugitive_law-香港-21468/a-leaderless-movement-or-leadership-decentralized-but-coordinated

Both local and international media have hailed the anti-extradition protests in Hong Kong as being leaderless. There seems to be a confusion over being leaderless and having a decentralized network of leaders.

The world is impressed that a leaderless movement could mobilize 1 million to take to the streets on June 9, tens of thousands to blockade the legislative council on June 12, and 2 millions on June 16.

AP Photo

Young protestors are cheering the seemingly leaderless nature of this massive show of people power.

During the umbrella movement of 2014, there were criticisms of the then multigenerational leadership. It was composed of the Occupy Central trio, the HK federation of college students, and Scholarism formed of secondary school students. The joint leadership set up a center stage at the main occupy site in Admiralty. As the occupation dragged on without any results, the movement splintered. Impatient radicals championed the slogan that  “there is no big stage; there are only the people.”

This time around, protestors are self-consciously leaderless. This is not just because they carried over their sentiments from the umbrella movement, but also because any leaders would surely be subject to arrests. All the leaders of the Umbrella movement were convicted with sentences ranging from a couple of months to 16 months.

Appearing leaderless has a sound logic. Advocates of nonviolence do suggest that a successful movement does not need a single leader like Martin Luther King or Nelson Mandela or Mahatma Gandhi. Indeed, they warn that any iconic leaders are sure to be jailed or assassinated.

This does not mean that there should be no leaders. The most sustainable movements have a network of smaller groups and layers of leaders. Local leaders are known only to activists but not to the authorities. Even when some leaders are arrested, there are simply too many leaders for the police to identify and imprison all of them.

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Hong Kong’s extradition protests are yet another crisis of the government’s own making

With the extradition bill, Hong Kong finds itself in another of its long parade of crises. If these crises have one thing in common, it is that they are all self-inflicted.

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Hong Kong’s protests are about more than democracy: the Hongkonger identity

featuring Hana Meihan Davis, Washington Post, Global Opinion, June 13, 2019

A sea of dark hair and yellow umbrellas. Plumes of tear gas enveloping the crowds. Policemen armed with rubber bullets and batons. Makeshift barriers of bamboo and brick.

The images emerging from Hong Kong over the past week recall the Umbrella Movement of 2014, but are even more striking. The demonstrations are about more than a controversial extradition bill, more than the threat to Hong Kong’s rule of law, and more even than the fight for human rights. Hong Kong is rallying for its identity.

…what Hongkongers are fighting to protect is the elements of their identity that are unique: a “Chinglishness” shaped by history, a pride that speaks to a certain lack of fear and a sense that being a Hongkonger unifies beyond all else.

…In her elegy “Dear Hong Kong,” Xu Xi writes: “Once upon a time in Hong Kong, ‘national’ meant ‘foreign with Chinese characteristics’. Today, we are Chinese with foreign characteristics.” Ultimately, this means that Hong Kong will not be boxed in by mainland China. As the protests this week and the ongoing fight for human rights have proved, this “Hong Kongness” is a fiery identity that will not be silenced without noise

Continue to read at https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2019/06/13/hong-kongs-protests-are-about-more-than-democracy/


[photo credit: http://tcthirdculture.com/tc-insider/hongkonger-whats-name/%5D

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Hong Kong’s ‘Last Stand’? How to Keep the Freedom Struggle Alive

First appeared in Globe Post: https://theglobepost.com/2019/06/13/hong-kong-last-stand/

International media describe the recent protests in Hong Kong against the extradition bill as the “last stand.” Martin Lee, the father of Hong Kong’s democracy movement, also refers to “the last fight for Hong Kong.”

There was the air of the “last stand” during the clashes between protestors and the police outside of the Legislative Council building on Wednesday, June 12. Some young protestors seemed to set aside their personal safety and possible long jail terms as they dashed at riot police in full gear marching forward to clear protestors.

It also sounded like the “last stand” when protestor after protestor repeated the message that “we don’t think the government will withdraw the extradition bill, but we are not going to let Hong Kong die without a fight.”

However, protestors should make sure that the recent protests do not mean the last stand, but the beginning of another chapter in Hong Kong’s decades-long struggle for democracy and freedom.

Keeping up Pressure

The Civil Human Rights Front called for a general strike so that supporters could turn out at the Legislative Council building on Wednesday. However, the Front requires a permit from the police and the police would not issue another permit for more protests. What should determined protestors do to keep up the pressure? Equally important, given that the police fired rubber bullets as well as tear gas on Wednesday, what could ordinary people do to continue to protest without risking physical injuries and arrests?

Studies of civil disobedience point out that “methods of dispersal,” when protestors launch stay-aways, strikes, and boycotts, can be as effective as “methods of concentration,” when protestors gather at central locations.

The best payoff of mass demonstrations is to demonstrate people power. The 1-million strong demonstration on Sunday, June 9, has already galvanized local and international support. For next steps, protestors should think more about “methods of dispersal.” People on strike do not necessarily have to come to the Legislative Council building to make an impact.

Targeted Economic Boycott

Other worldwide cases illustrate that targeted economic boycott could be just as effective but much safer. This was how blacks in South Africa successfully fought the anti-apartheid struggle.

Hong Kong’s business elites are overwhelmingly pro-Beijing for that is where the money is. But the “follow the money” logic also gives Hong Kong’s humble citizens some ability to sanction tycoons, since these figures make their fortunes not only from lucrative contracts with Beijing but also from the everyday purchases of millions of ordinary Hong Kong citizens. A targeted consumer boycott might make businesses rethink their continued collusion with the government.

During the Umbrella Movement of 2014, protestors circulated a list of pro-establishment businesses for boycott and urged supporters to go to local mom-and-pop shops instead. It was unfortunate that this potentially more effective tactic was not taken seriously then. Occupation of busy streets captured the world’s attention, but it was not sustainable for long because many people had to go back to work or to school.

[See my discussion of targeted boycott during the Umbrella Movement.]

Civil Disobedience

Now that the government is determined to clear protestors to prevent Occupy 2.0, protestors have to find other civil disobedience tactics to keep the momentum. Gene Sharp, the architect of nonviolent action, listed 198 noncooperation methods.

The general strike could be expanded. It could be more effective if civil servants can be convinced to join. It would be particularly helpful if individual police officers could be persuaded by relatives and friends to not fire at protestors. Protestors themselves could also update the list of pro-establishment businesses for targeted boycott and pro-democracy businesses for targeted support.

When young people feel that there are alternative nonviolent methods to keep the fire burning, they do not have to hurl bottles and barricades at the police, which only gives the government the perfect excuse to crack down harder. It is also bad optics when international media show pictures of clashes rather than disciplined people power.

The current fight against the extradition bill does not have to be the “last stand” if protestors find alternative methods of civil disobedience to keep up the pressure.

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The proposed extradition law could open the door to extradition to China

Originally appeared in Monkey Cage, Washington Post, May 11, 2019

By Michael C. Davis

Debate over Hong Kong’s proposed extradition law devolves into a scuffle in the legislative council

This law could open the door to extradition to China, and that’s the problem.
[source; Globe and Mail; see also HKFP]

Fights broke out Saturday in the Legislative Council of Hong Kong as lawmakers debated an extradition measure that would allow transfer of criminal offenders to face charges in mainland China.

On its face, the proposed amendment to Hong Kong’s Fugitive Offenders Ordinance and the Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters Ordinance would allow ad hoc extradition to any jurisdiction where Hong Kong lacks an extradition agreement, something the government claims that it is routine practice. Hong Kong has mutual extradition agreements with 20 jurisdictions and provides legal assistance to 32 others.

However, local and foreign rights lawyers are concerned that the measure would include extradition to mainland China. Legal expertsspeculate Beijing hopes to open the door to extradite corrupt Chinese officials who flee to Hong Kong, as well as perhaps catching local activists in the dragnet.

The government in arguing for the measure has cited the recent case of Tong-Kai Chan, who fled to Hong Kong after killing his girlfriend in Taiwan over an alleged affair, and could go free if not extradited to Taiwan. But it’s not clear why this one case would justify the drastic overhaul.

The Taiwan Mainland Affairs Counsel, however, has indicated that Taiwan would not accept transfer of Chan to Taiwan under this legislation because of the wider risk of extradition to the mainland for its citizens in Hong Kong.

In a complex legislative maneuver, to ensure the measure passes, the pro-Beijing majority in the Hong Kong council usurped the authority of the pan-democratic member presiding over the bills committee. This maneuver and the pro-establishment effort to ram the bill through set the stage for Saturday’s brawl.

The bill raises a number of concerns:

1. The bill undercuts the protection of Hong Kong’s rule of law 

The “one country, two systems” framework for Hong Kong’s return to China in June 1997 recognized that these two legal systems have a huge gap in protection of human rights and the rule of law. Beijing guaranteed Hong Kong would have a high degree of autonomy — including human rights and rule of law protections that do not exist in Chinese laws. The only mainland laws that apply in Hong Kong are a handful of laws added to Annex III of the Hong Kong Basic Law addressing issues such as national symbols, nationality, diplomacy and sea boundaries.

These legal gaps remain largely in place two decades later, and the two governments thus far have failed to reach an extradition agreement. The mainland system often ignores human rights and the rule of law, and includes a number of laws that restrict basic freedoms. Global rankings for freedom and the rule of law demonstrate the difference: Hong Kong ranked 16 and China 82 out of 116 countries on rule of law, for instance.

The nonpartisan legal adviser to the Legislative Council, a career government servant, has taken the unusual step of openly raising these concerns. In his view, extradition to the mainland should require a special agreement that more clearly addresses Hong Kong concerns with basic freedoms and due process of law.

2. The proposed bill fails to exclude the extradition of Hong Kong residents to mainland China

A prominent member of Beijing’s Basic Law Committee, Professor Albert Chen of the University of Hong Kong, points out that most jurisdictions under extradition agreements typically do not extradite their own citizens. The possibility of extradition to the mainland especially worries many Hong Kong residents.

The extradition proposal has already caused one local resident at risk to flee Hong Kong. In late 2015, bookseller Wing-kee Lam was arrested while visiting neighboring Shenzhen, China. Months later, Chinese officials sent him back to Hong Kong, ostensibly to collect evidence. But Lam then refused to return to the mainland. He recently moved to Taiwan, claiming it would no longer be safe for him in Hong Kong.

3. The Hong Kong government has failed to defend the territory’s autonomy

The government claims that the chief executive would serve as a gatekeeper to review requests for extradition to the mainland. But a Beijing-friendly Election Committee chooses Hong Kong’s chief executive, making the person in this role vulnerable to pressure from Beijing. In 2005, when Beijing disapproved the performance of Hong Kong’s first chief executive after the handover, he effectively had to resign. To many in Hong Kong, the Beijing liaison office in the Western district has undue influence on what goes on in Hong Kong.

The Hong Kong government has argued that it would allow extradition only in cases where the individual’s basic human rights were protected, and the decision would be subject to judicial review. Chen, however, noted that this puts Hong Kong courts “in a difficult and invidious position.” One worry, perhaps, is that the court may come under simultaneous pressure in the same case from both Beijing and the Hong Kong government.

Despite its commitment to defend the autonomy promised under the “one country, two systems” framework, the Hong Kong government has a history of enabling interference from Beijing. In other recent cases, the Hong Kong government has prosecuted protesters, expelled pro-democracy legislators and banned political parties — actions many in Hong Kong see as moves on Beijing’s behalf.

This bill has also generated much international concern. Foreign governments have recognized Hong Kong as a separate territory for customs and trade since 1997, distinct from mainland China. The U.S. provides for such recognition under Hong Kong Policy Act, for instance. The recent U.S. State Department report on human rights in Hong Kong raised concerns about the erosion of basic freedoms.

The US-China Economic and Security Review Commission also weighed in this past week to argue that “The extradition bill could pose significant risk to U.S. national security and economic interests in the territory,” allowing “Beijing to pressure the Hong Kong government to extradite U.S. citizens under false pretenses.” The same Commission in its 2018 report had worried that Beijing interference had endangered autonomy, calling Hong Kong’s distinct trading status into question.

In a recent press interview, the U.S. consul general in Hong Kong suggested that this extradition legislation will only intensify U.S. doubts about the continued viability of Hong Kong’s special status under the Hong Kong Policy Act.

Michael C. Davis is a professor of law and international affairs at Jindal Global University and currently a senior fellow at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, where he is affiliated with the Asia Program and the Kissinger Institute. Formerly a professor at the University of Hong Kong, he has written on Hong Kong and Asia for the Journal of Democracy

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The end of the umbrella movement but the beginning of a new chapter in Hong Kong’s democracy movement

Postscript: The 1-million strong protest on June 9 and the 2-million strong protest on June 17 have proven this observation.

Nine core leaders of Hong Kong’s Umbrella Movement were convicted on April 9 and sentenced on April 24. This last batch of prosecutions is widely seen to mark the end of the city’s largest civic disobedience in history. Yet, the closure of one chapter only leads to the beginning of another chapter in Hong Kong’s long walk to democracy.


Originally appeared as “There’s a new chapter in Hong Kong’s struggle for democracy and autonomy,” Monkey Cage post, Washington Post, May 2, 2019 (https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2019/05/02/theres-new-chapter-hong-kongs-struggle-democracy-autonomy/)

What happened to the Umbrella Movement leaders? And what is Beijing trying to do? By Victoria Tin-bor Hui

On April 9, a Hong Kong district court convicted nine core leaders of the 2014 Umbrella Movement of conspiracy to commit public nuisance. On April 24, the court handed down prison sentences of up to 16 months.

To some in Hong Kong, this batch of prosecutions marks the end of the city’s largest demonstration of civil disobedience. Others see a further chapter opening in Hong Kong’s struggle for freedom and democracy, as new attacks emerge on promises of political autonomy guaranteed in the 1986 Sino-British Joint Declaration and the Basic Law.

Here’s a look at the political fallout since the Umbrella Movement.

1. Who are the “Occupy Nine?”

The accused “Occupy Nine” include the trio who started the “Occupy Central with Love and Peace” movement to demand genuine universal suffrage in choosing Hong Kong’s chief executive: Hong Kong University law professor Benny Yiu-ting Tai, Chinese University sociology professor Kin-man Chan and the Rev. Yiu-ming Chu.

Six others — lawmakers Tanya Chan and Ka-chun Shiu, political leaders Raphael Wong and Wing-tat Lee, and student leaders Sau-yin Cheung and Yiu-wa Chung — joined the center stage when “Occupy Central” morphed into the “Umbrella Movement.”

Foreign correspondents came up with the name when protesters opened yellow umbrellas to shield themselves from police tear gas and pepper spray on Sept. 28, 2014. Protesters then occupied major thoroughfares in Admiralty, Causeway Bay and Mongkok for 79 days, until early December 2014.

Citing “serious” obstruction and the “extensive” duration of the protests, the government charged members of the group with various crimes: conspiracy to cause public nuisance; inciting others to cause public nuisance; and inciting people to incite others to cause public nuisance.

The original trio received 16-month jail terms. Tai and Chan were imprisoned immediately, but Chu’s sentence was suspended for two years, in recognition of his age and his lifetime of public service. Legislator Shiu and activist Wong received eight-month terms and Tanya Chan’s case is on hold, pending treatment for a brain tumor. The others received suspended sentences or community service.

2. The aftermath of the Umbrella Movement

Foreign diplomats and NGOs like Amnesty International voiced concerns related to Hong Kong’s freedoms of speech and assembly. In addition to the “Occupy Nine” sentencing, there have been other examples of measures to erode the rule of law in Hong Kong.

In early April, the Hong Kong government proposed to amend the Fugitive Offenders Ordinance and the Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters Ordinance to allow extradition from Hong Kong to mainland China. Critics are worried: China’s Communist Party is above the law, and those arrested in China are often tortured and forced to make televised confessions.

This happened to Wing-kee Lam, one of five Hong Kong booksellers Chinese officials seized in 2015 for selling gossipy books about China’s leaders. In 2016, mainland security officers escorted him back to Hong Kong to retrieve subscribers’ data — and he then refused to return to China. Fearing the pending extradition law, Lam fled to Taiwan on April 26.

In September 2018, the Hong Kong government rolled back a provision of Hong Kong’s Basic Law by ceding to mainland jurisdictionparts of the West Kowloon high-speed railway terminal. Mainland officials later arrested a Hong Kong permanent resident who was in the mainland area of the station, alleging he was involved in a property case in Shenzhen, China.

Last fall, the Hong Kong government banned the pro-independence Hong Kong National Party. Chief Executive Carrie Lam submitted a report to Beijing when Chinese officials requested details. Many in Hong Kong criticized this move as contradicting the Basic Law promise that Hong Kong would run its own internal affairs. The Hong Kong government also refused to renew the visa of Financial Timesreporter Victor Millet, who had hosted a talk by the party’s founder Andy Chan at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club.

The government also disqualified six pro-democracy legislators who had won seats in the 2016 elections to the Legislative Council (LegCo). They were accused of improper language in their oath of office. To make sure that local judges had no choice but to grant the government’s disqualification requests, Beijing issued a binding interpretation of the Basic Law.

With the disqualifications, LegCo has become a rubber stamp for Lam, the chief executive, to push through any budget requests or legal measures, including the extradition amendments.

3. Hong Kong’s struggle for autonomy will likely continue

Beijing and Hong Kong officials may have hoped to deter further activism with the above measures. Yet the sentencing of university professors and young activists may be backfiring. In the aftermath of the Umbrella Movement, going to jail has become a badge of honor.

When jailed leaders called for a mass demonstration against the extradition law on April 28, 130,000 protesters turned out.

In response to the charges that the “Occupy Nine” incited nuisance, supporters declared on social media and wore T-shirts with the hashtag “I was not incited.” A Chinese University study estimates that 1.2 million people out of a population of 7.2 million participated at various times and in various forms in these protests — it would be a high order to incite that many people. Indeed, journalism scholars Francis L.F. Lee and Joseph M. Chan report that it was the police tear gas that motivated nearly 60 percent of those they surveyed to join the movement.

It’s likely the convicted leaders and their supporters won’t simply give up. In their view, the promise of “one country, two systems” has become “one country, 1.5 systems.” They are fighting for their own future.

The government may have inadvertently forged unity among opposition leaders by putting them in the same courtroom docks. Traditional democrats, the Occupy Central trio, student leaders and radical activists had bitter disagreements during and after the Occupy campaign. Now that they share the same experience of mass arrests, court trials and imprisonment, they have acquired a new sense of common cause.


When young people and esteemed professors (including the Yale-trained Sociologist Kin-man Chan who is well-known for his work on civil society in China) are handcuffed and imprisoned for preaching nonviolent civil disobedience, the injustices are obvious. In response to the charges that the “Occupy Nine” incited nuisance, supporters declare that “I was not incited to occupy.”

D46m_gYUEAApghY [source]

Activists believe that history will absolve them. This sentiment is reflected in the banners that supporters made for the “Occupy Nine.” One banner is adopted from what the early-twentieth century intellectual Duxiu Chen wrote to his friend who was jailed by the then suppressive Nationalist Party: “My conduct has nothing shameful; the way of Heaven will shine” (行無愧怍天道昭昭). The second banner is taken from Tang dynasty poet Du Fu who was defending 4 reformed-minded colleagues: “[Others’ ridicules will not affect how your fame] will flow like rivers for ten thousand generations”  (不廢江河萬古流).





Joshua Wong, another young student leader who has been in and out of jail, decries that the “one country, two systems” model has been diminished to “one country, 1.5 systems.”

It is sometimes argued that all is well in Hong Kong, no less because Beijing has not sent in the tanks to quell dissent. But it is in fact a genius stroke to send in the bullet train rather than the bullet. While the latter is certain to cause alarm, the former has achieved what Hongkongers dub “cooking a frog in warm water.” To Hong Kong people, it is little comfort that the city is still freer than the rest of China when the rule-of-law firewall between China and Hong Kongis breaking down.




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Beijing May Rein in Hong Kong, but Cannot Impose ‘Umbrella Amnesia’

[first appeared on Global Post]

“This trial is the final showdown between memory and amnesia,” declared Ka-chun Shiu, one of the “Occupy Central Nine” who are put on trial this week for their leadership roles in the Umbrella Movement in Hong Kong in 2014.

This belated trial of Occupy leaders four years later is intended to mark the beginning of the end of the Umbrella Movement. The nine are variously charged for conspiracy to cause public nuisance, inciting others to cause public nuisance, and inciting people to incite others to cause public nuisance. Each charge carries a maximum sentence of seven years in prison. The accused – including the Occupy Central’s original trio Benny Yiu-ting Tai, Kin-man Chan, and Reverend Yiu-ming Chu, student leaders Tommy Sau-yin Cheung and Eason Yiu-wa Chung, lawmakers Tanya Chan and Ka-chun Shiu, and political leaders Raphael Ho-ming Wong and Wing-tat Lee — are widely expected to be convicted and jailed.

A Beijing representative, Chen Zuoer, complained in November 2016: “The price of committing an offence was too low in some situations in Hong Kong… Taking the Occupy Movement as an example, how many movement leaders were brought to the court up until now? Why were they not in the court?” In two-years’ time, the Hong Kong government is finishing up its assignments.

Beijing hopes to finally stifle Hong Kong’s democracy movement by jailing pro-democracy leaders and disqualifying them for running for public offices. However, Beijing’s heavy hands can only have at most short-term effects because it cannot impose amnesia on Hong Kong.

It is often said that dictators can lock up physical bodies, but not individual thoughts. Beijing has defied this expectation after the Tiananmen crackdown of 1989. Today’s mainland Chinese either do not know about Tiananmen or defend repressive measures as necessary evils that have contributed to China’s millennial rise. Journalist Louisa Lim dubs today’s China “the People’s Republic of Amnesia.”

Beijing officials have repeatedly lamented that the sovereignty of Hong Kong has been duly returned but the hearts of Hong Kong people have not. Beijing has deployed the same two-pronged policy to impose Umbrella amnesia: while repression is intended to silence pro-democracy forces, economic growth and “patriotic education” are hoped to win over the hearts and minds of the majority.

Yet, just as Hong Kong people have insisted on “never forgetting” Tiananmen for nearly three decades, they will likewise never fall for the Umbrella amnesia.

Overseas parliamentarians and international NGOs call on the Hong Kong government to drop the charges against the “Occupy Central Nine” to demonstrate to the world that Beijing’s promised policy of the rule of law under the “one country, two systems” model is still alive and well. There is little chance that Hong Kong’s hand-picked government would heed this advice. If Hong Kong’s judges (some are still willing to stand up for judicial independence) issue any verdicts and sentences not to Beijing’s liking, the Department of Justice will surely appeal for heavier sentences — as it did with younger Umbrella Movement leaders last year. Most importantly, the central government has the last resort of issuing a decision to stamp its will on local courts – as it did to disqualify “localist” legislators two years ago.

Thus, the only uncertainty about this trial is the length of the jail sentences.

If Beijing wishes to repress the calls for democracy with show trials and heavy jail terms, it will likely be disappointed. Precisely because so many pro-democracy leaders are persecuted for nonviolent civil protest, going to jail has become a badge of honor. Experiences around the world show that the prison serves only to harden opposition leaders.

If Beijing also hopes to buy off the majority by promoting economic growth and increasing housing and other social welfare benefits, it will see only limited results. While this sugar coating has been massively effective in binding mainland Chinese to the Chinese Communist Party, it has failed to infest the Tiananmen amnesia in Hong Kong and will not create a new Umbrella amnesia.

If Beijing intends to make Hong Kong people love the motherland with “patriotic education,” it will only intensify anti-Beijing sentiments. It was the introduction of “national education” in 2012 that politicized teenagers such as Joshua Wong who later ignited the Umbrella Movement in 2014.

The more Beijing emphasizes “one country” over “two systems,” therefore, the more Hong Kong people reject its campaigns to hypnotize them into amnesia.

Last week, the US-China Economic and Security Review Commission recommended a review of the “US treatment of Hong Kong and China as separate customs areas.” The Hong Kong government responded by insisting on Hong Kong’s status as a separate customs territory.

If Hong Kong remains different than other Chinese cities these days, it is not because it still enjoys the promised “high degree of autonomy,” but because Beijing cannot impose amnesia on Hong Kong people as it can on mainland Chinese.


See also: Beijing’s plan to rein in HK almost complete and 20 years ago, China promised Hong Kong ‘1 country, 2 systems.’ So much for promises.

The Occupy Central Nine [source]

Ka-chun Shiu [source]

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Beijing’s Plan To Rein In HK Almost Complete

Originally appeared at VOHK (http://www.vohk.hk/2017/08/17/beijing-plan-to-rein-in-hk-almost-complete/), republished at East Asia Forum (http://www.eastasiaforum.org/2017/09/01/beijing-reins-in-hong-kong/), quoted by Quartz (https://qz.com/1377749/a-part-of-hong-kong-is-effectively-becoming-mainland-chinese-territory/)
Three young student leaders of the Umbrella Movement put to jail.Three young student leaders of the Umbrella Movement put to jail.

By Victoria Hui –

Storms have taken over Hong Kong in recent weeks: the disqualification of four more legislators on July 14, the jailing of 13 land rights activists on August 15, the additional sentencing of 3 student leaders of the Umbrella Movement on August 17, and the cessation to mainland authorities of jurisdiction in the West Kowloon train station by next year.

We knew that the storms were coming. Still, we are shaken by the severity. Beijing is increasingly brazen about violating the “one country, two systems” model and replacing it with de facto direct rule.

In the aftermath of the Umbrella Movement in December 2014, Chen Zuoer, the president of Chinese Association of Hong Kong and Macao Studies and the former deputy director of the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office, vowed to rein in “Hong Kong’s governance”. He declared a struggle against all the societal forces behind the protest, “from the street to the law courts, to the Legislative Council, to inside the government, and to universities and secondary schools, etc.” (“街頭轉到了法庭,轉到了立法會,轉到了政府內部,轉到了中學大學等”).

By August 17, 2017, he could declare “mission accomplished.”

The Umbrella Movement was fueled by anger over the erosion of Hong Kong’s much cherished freedoms – the rule of law, the independent judiciary, the impartial police, the free press, and the neutral civil service.

The rallying cry of the movement, “we want genuine universal suffrage,” did not come into fruition.

If Hong Kong’s protestors saw that they could not hold on to freedoms without democracy, Beijing’s officials seemed to learn that they should stifle freedoms if they want to deny democracy. Chen thus called for an all-out struggle against all pillars of Hong Kong’s freedoms. (See The “freedom without democracy model” is broken.)

It was the easiest to control the government. All it took was to anoint the ‘trusted’ Carrie Lam as the new Chief Executive. According to Zhang Xiaoming, chief of Beijing’s Liaison Office in Hong Kong, the Chief Executive has “overriding power” over not just the executive, but also the legislative and judicial branches, seemingly putting the chief executive above the law. The Chief Executive’s overwhelming authority on appointments and promotions has then made it easy to manage not just the civil service and the police, but also the department of justice and the courts.

HKU alumni protest against management.

To control universities, the former Chief Executive C. Y. Leung stacked university councils with pro-regime figures. The loyal councilors would then duly appoint the right candidates to top positions. Thus, Johannes Chan was denied promotion as a pro-Vice Chancellor at the University of Hong Kong, and Rocky Tuan was appointed as the new Vice Chancellor at the Chinese University of Hong Kong.

To control the legislature, the government first barred the independence advocate Edward Leung from running in the election at all. To get rid of two other localists, Yau Wai-ching and Leung Chung-hang of Youngspiration, who managed to slip through, C. Y. Leung asked the court to bar them from re-taking their oath. The duo had displayed a “Hong Kong is not China” flag during their swearing-in ceremony in October.

Before the court issued a verdict, Beijing issued an interpretation of the Basic Law which was used to retroactively disqualify any legislator-elect who made revisions or additions to the formal oath. The intervention was a sign of how much Beijing distrusted Hong Kong courts at the time. Faced with a strident and binding Beijing interpretation, the court fully complied with Beijing’s intention to expel the first two opposition legislators from the Legislative Council.

The department of justice sought to disqualify four more legislators: Democracy Groundwork’s Lau Siu-lai, Demosisto’s Nathan Law, the League of Social Democrats’ Leung Kwok-hung (Long Hair) and architectural sector lawmaker Edward Yiu. With Beijing’s wishes so clearly laid out, the court issued the desired verdict with retroactive effect going back to the day of swearing-in.

Has Beijing now reined in the last independent branch of government – the traditionally staunchly independent Hong Kong courts? (See more on Judge Yeung below.) It would be a good research topic to examine the impact of the Chief Executive’s “overriding power” over judges. It is worth noting that, in November 2016, Chen Zuoer sounded an unmistakable complaint about judges in a closed-door meeting. He was quoted to have said: “The price of committing an offence was too low in some situations in Hong Kong… Taking the Occupy Movement as an example, how many movement leaders were brought to the court up until now? Why were they not in the court?”

13 land activists sentenced to jail.

The 2014 White Paper had already admonished courts to guard national security. Throughout 2015 and 2016, pro-regime voices repeatedly complained that judges released the majority of protest-related defendants or gave very lenient sentences to the convicted few. It is true that the common law has historically been sensitive to the free speech rights of public order defendants.

It was in this context that the Department of Justice appealed against the light sentences of community service to 13 land rights protestors who had stormed into the legislative council building in June 2014, and 3 student leaders who had clambered over the fence set up to close off the “Civic Square” in August 2014. By August 2017, the Court of Appeal could be trusted to comply with the government’s wishes. It handed down jail terms of 8 to 13 months in the former case and 6 to 8 months in the latter case. While the land rights case involves less known activists, the “civic square” case includes the well-known former student leaders Joshua Wong, Nathan Law (also one of the disqualified legislators), and Alex Chow, who were instrumental in sparking the Umbrella Movement.  (In translation: The Occupy sentence review – why Hong Kong’s appeal court jailed Joshua Wong, Nathan Law & Alex Chow)


There will surely be more prison sentences for other political cases in pending. (See here for a list of concluded and pending umbrella-related cases.)

Chen Zuoer has thus splendidly accomplished the goal of striking down pro-democracy forces in a short span of only two and a half years.

Somehow, for Beijing, it is not enough to avert democracy and stifle freedoms in order to fully rein in Hong Kong. The planned West Kowloon railway station will give final jurisdiction to mainland authorities. Hong Kong people are told that this is a done deal with no room for negotiation over better arrangements that would not violate Hong Kong’s autonomy.

With the “one country, two systems” model gone 30 years ahead of schedule, Hong Kong is fast becoming just another ‘mainland’ Chinese city. When the Chinese trains roll into West Kowloon under mainland jurisdiction in Fall 2018, Hong Kong will become a part of the greater Shenzhen.

Beijing has broken the promises of “Hong Kong people ruling Hong Kong” under “a high degree of autonomy” for 50 years.

The one promise that Beijing has kept is that the PLA would not fire a shot in Hong Kong. It is a genius stroke to send in the train instead of the bullet.

What keeps Hong Kong distinct is what cannot be locked up: the yearning for democracy and freedoms and the commitment to fight for them among the city’s youngest.

Victoria Hui is Associate Professor in Political Science, University of Notre Dame.

Photos: CitizenNews pictures



See also my related commentaries

at VOHK http://www.vohk.hk/victoria-hui/

20 years ago, China promised Hong Kong ‘1 country, 2 systems.’ So much for promises. (Washington Post)

What the current political storm spells for Hong Kong’s freedoms (HKFP)

打壓不會輕易落幕 好戲在後頭 (The struggle to rein in HK’s freedom is not over and more is yet to come) (Ming Pao)

沒有民主, 香港怎能在「風雨中抱緊自由」(“Without Democracy, How Could Hong Kong Embrace Freedom in the Storms )? (BBC Chinese)


Judge Yeung, one of the judges on the Court of Appeal, was seen hanging out with the Chief Executive, the Minister of Justice, a representative of Beijing’s liaison office in Hong Kong, and anti-umbrella lawyers at a X’mas party in 2015. (判刑法官曾出席反佔中組織活動)





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When HK’s most committed young people lose freedom for fighting for freedom, going to jail becomes an honor

When HK’s most committed young people lose freedom for fighting for freedom, we know that HK’s long-standing “freedom without democracy” model is dead.

When lower courts mete out community service but government prosecutors appeal to give harsh jail terms to young activists, we know that the judiciary is not independent and that the executive now exerts overwhelming influence on judges.

Student leaders who started the Umbrella Movement are given 6 to 8 months of jail terms after a government appeal. Government prosecutors said that the attempt to storm the civic square deserved jail terms rather than just community service. At a public rally last night, they urged supporters to keep on with the fight while they still have freedom. (In Pictures: Continue fighting for Hong Kong if we are jailed, says Joshua Wong as democracy activists face prison)20863382_1383429835102600_5962623827713374268_o


Harsher sentences were handed down to thirteen protestors convicted of storming the legislative council in 2014 over a development project in northeastern New Territories. Protestors said the project had more to do with government-developer collusion than genuine development. A lower court took into account their “noble causes” and gave them community service. Government prosecutors appealed and the Court of Appeal complied, giving jail terms of between 8 and 13 months.  (Protesters who stormed Hong Kong’s Legislative Council given jail terms after prosecutors pushed for tougher sentences)



In addition, the courts have also given harsh multi-year sentences to protestors convicted of throwing stones and bottles at police officers during the “fishball riots.”

What happens when a repressive regime sends the most committed young people to jail in large numbers? Going to jail is no longer a shame but an honor. When we look around at other movements around the world, the prison is like a political boot camp, toughening and radicalizing young people who will come out more determined than ever.

The Court of Appeal seems to have an extreme definition of “violence,” treating the students’ efforts to 重奪/seize/take back civic square counts as violence (which had been fenced in only in the summer before the outbreak of the umbrella movement). There is a deep concern that any bodily contact with the police, esp. if the protester is bigger and the police officer is skinny, would count as violence in the future. (上訴庭判詞保守 陳文敏質疑「暴力」定義推到盡)



The producer of a documentary on the 1967 riots (Vanished Archives) is drawing parallels between the British colonial government’s repression of leftwing protestors then and the Beijing/HK government’s repression of pro-democracy protestors today. (當政治凌駕法律    重看「六七暴動」案例)

It would be a mistake to think that the latest wave of repressive sentences would silence the youthful generation.

The parents of the convicted write open letters saying that they are proud to have such publicly spirited children.

示威判囚被質疑司法成了政治工具 入獄年青人父母以子女為榮


周永康母聞判激動落淚 父:我好驕傲

何潔泓:不對自己的理念有任何悔意;  何潔泓遭囚13月 母深夜fb感言:你是我的驕傲,你沒有錯


黃浩銘爸爸:我有你呢個仔 我真係感覺一生嘅榮幸


See also

Land Justice Alliance/土地正義聯盟



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Why the muted outrage? The danger of ‘demobilization’

The “one country, two systems” model is finally killed by the disqualification of four more legislators and the application of mainland laws when the HK section of the high speed railway opens.

Since last week, pro-democracy voices have been wondering why the public responses have been so mute.

This is not because there is no public outrage. The problem is that HK politics has entered the phase of demobilization.

Demobilization is common in contentious politics. What the Umbrella Movement achieved was unprecedented mobilization of hitherto unconcerned citizens. What the perception of failure has created is the opposite — demobilization of once mobilized individuals and groups. Like other cases around the world, demobilization has come with bitter infighting, defection, disillusion, and heightened repression. In the aftermath of the umbrella movement, different opposition groups have bitterly blamed one another for the perceived failure. (Tilly and Tarrow, Contentious Politics, pp. 35, 122, 144)

Once a movement has entered the phase of demobilization, it becomes very difficult to restart mobilization. HK people were motivated to join the umbrella movement then because they were hopeful that people power could change politics — they could cite the successful cases of massive protests bringing down Art. 23 legislation in 2003 and national education in 2012. Now, people are pessimistic because Beijing is dictating everything and is willing to issue new decisions whenever things do not go its way. Thus, just when mass protests are more necessary than before, people are not taking the time  to fight a seemingly lost cause. (See, e.g., 香港還有希望嗎?)

What to do? The most important lesson from other cases is: Don’t give up.
Here are lessons from other movements:
  • Lesson 1: Plan a strategy
  • Lesson 2: Overcome atomization and fear and futility; create unity; mobilize broad participation
  • Lesson 3: Target pillars of support; create cracks in the regime
  • Lesson 4: Resist violence
  • Lesson 5: let regime repression backfire
  • Lesson 6: Don’t give up! You haven’t lost if you haven’t given up.

Contentious politics is, after all, the art of the impossible. (See related posts: forceful nonviolencefallacy; hunger strike)

We know that the disqualified legislators will keep fighting on:





The rest of us could turn to everyday forms of resistance under tightening domination. (See James Scott’s Weapons of the Weak):

  • doing what everyone is best at and upholding professional values in our daily routines — after all, if the civil service still maintains some semblance of neutrality and the media still show signs of press freedom only because many individuals have insisted on professionalism in their daily jobs
  • donate to the disqualified legislators and vote for them and their allies in by-elections
  • support civic groups and media organizations that uphold HK values
  • buy from mom-and-pop shops instead of chains or businesses controlled by pro-Beijing forces — see  boycott ; 撐小店大聯盟
  • help out each other in daily lives to strengthen the sense of civic community and counter the regime’s divide-and-rule efforts
  • do whatever one can think of to live in truth and to sustain HK’s core values



【守護公義基金】 恒生銀行 788-006039-001

小麗民主教室 https://www.facebook.com/siulai.hk/

Demosisto: https://www.facebook.com/demosisto/

Long Hair: https://www.facebook.com/hklsd/  支持社民連:www.lsd.org.hk/donate

姚松炎 Edward Yiu https://www.facebook.com/Dr.EdwardYiu/

Observations of the muted outrage:

Joseph Zen: Why didn’t people come out in force? (那何市民沒有成群出來,作出更強烈的抗議)

連番廢黜議員 集會人數黯然 https://thestandnews.com/politics/連番廢黜議員-集會人數黯然/






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R.I.P. ‘one country, two systems’ — if mainland law applies along the high speed railway

It is reported that the HK government will formally announce next Tue. that it will lease an area inside the West Kowloon Terminus to mainland authorities where mainland laws are applied.

The arrangement is reminiscent of colonial-era extraterritorial concessions .

Pro-democracy voices have widely decried the proposal for blatantly violating the Basic Law.

Ronny Tong, once a democrat but now serves on the Executive Council, said that “It is stated very clearly in Article 18 that mainland laws cannot be implemented on Hong Kong land… unless you put [the laws] in Annex III,” adding that it would be even more worrisome if mainland laws become Hong Kong laws through Annex III. (See Mainland enclave in Express Link station ‘not compatible with Basic Law,’ says Exco member)

Alan Leong, a Civic Party veteran, believed that “If you mourn Liu Xiaobo, ask for release of Liu Xia [on the train], I am sure you will be arrested.” In response, Priscilla Leung, a pro-government politician, said the public should not speak of political issues on the train. (See the same story)

Joshua Wong is worried that mainland security officials would then be able to snatch dissidents and lock them up under mainland laws right at the heart of HK. He was referring to the awkward smuggling of the book seller Lee Bo across the border on mainland boats last year.

We should recall that Hong Kong’s post-handover generation first came of age when they mobilized to stop the plan to build the rail link in 2010, with the much celebrated “satyagraha walk.” See Hong Kong protesters fail to halt bullet-train link from Chinese mainland.



The satyagraha protest/苦行反高鐵



More analyses:

‘Rail link plan will rob HK of its protection’

Partition layout of Express Rail Link West Kowloon Terminus customised according to mainland authorities

今天割地 明天還有什麼不可割讓!

Badiucao’s cartoon:




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R.I.P. the rule of law with disqualification of legislators

As of June 30-July 1, Martin Lee, dubbed the father of Hong Kong’s democracy movement, still remarked that the rule of law was under assault but still standing strong.

Today, democrats mourned the death of the rule of law after the court disqualified 4 legislators with retroactive effect to the day that they first took the oath on October 12, 2016.

The four disqualified legislators are Democracy Groundwork’s Lau Siu-lai, Demosisto’s Nathan Law, the League of Social Democrats’ Leung Kwok-hung (Long Hair) and architectural sector lawmaker Edward Yiu.


This ruling came after the court barred two legislators-elect, Sixtus Baggio LEUNG Chung-hang and YAU Wai-ching, from re-taking their oaths last Nov. The duo had displayed a “Hong Kong is not China” flag during their initial swearing-in ceremony.

What is at stake?

The rule of law: 1) Beijing issued an interpretation of the Basic Law in November 2016 right before the conclusion of judicial proceedings re: Leung and Yau. The interpretation was seen as direct interference with the judiciary’s independence. 2) Today’s ruling follows the NPCSC decision and is retroactive to the day when the 4 legislators first took the oath on Oct. 12, 2016. Retroactivity fundamentally violates the rule of law. 3) In following the NPCSC decision, the court also undid the electoral choices of HK people who cast their votes for these disqualified legislators.

Legislative oversight of executive actions: The regime’s plan is to deprive the minority pro-democracy legislators of their veto power. The government is bound to hold by-elections to fill vacated seats. If there is only one seat per district in the by-elections, the pan-dems would win, as what happened in the New Territories East by-election last year. However, the disqualification of 5 directly elected legislators (and one chosen from a functional constituency) by now means that some districts will have two vacated seats. Given their outsized resources and mobilization capabilities, the pro-establishment camp expects to win the second seat. This would eliminate the democrats’ veto power for the rest of the term, allowing the regime to change the rules of the game, push through the co-location of customs on the high-speed railway line (news suggests that Beijing will hold sovereignty over the tracks and platforms on HK territory), and most likely the Article 23 national security bill.

Pro-democracy legislators complained that the regime has declared a war on HK’s electors and vowed to “end business as usual” at the legislature.

Four more Hong Kong lawmakers disqualified over oath-taking controversy, tipping Legco balance of power

Disqualifications mean voters can no longer monitor the government, ousted lawmaker says

Democracy protesters thought they were shielded by the justice system — until Beijing turned it against them

Govt ‘declaring war’ on HK people: opposition

Protest against disqualification of lawmakers



Screen Shot 2017-07-15 at 12.07.15 AM




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RIP Liu Xiaobo

Liu Xiaobo’s charter 2008 is, in essence, a blueprint to move China closer to the HK system. Beijing has killed the “one country, two systems” model along with Liu XB.

Yet, one should never forget that “you can’t kill an idea!

See Perry Link’s translation of the Charter 08. See also “I have no enemies“.

My tribute to Liu XB: China’s dream for constitutionalism is as old as Chinese history (Chapter 1: The China Dream: Revival of What Historical Greatness? (277 KB)

Picture: Hong Kong people paid respect to Liu outside Beijing’s Liaison Office in the Western District immediately after the news of his death.


Hundreds gather at vigil in Hong Kong to mourn Nobel laureate Liu Xiaobo

Memory of Liu Xiaobo 15 July (Saturday) 7 pm,From Chater Garden, Central District Hong Kong to Liaison Office, Western District Hong Kong

In Pictures: Hongkongers march through city centre in memory of Nobel laureate Liu Xiaobo


The empty Nobel chair will never be filled (source: Heiko Junge/AFP/Getty Images):


China’s conscience: Liu Xiaobo’s death holds a message for China


Liu Xiaobo artwork hits world streets in latest form of protest; Badiucao’s “Sea you Liu Xiaobo”


China says Taiwan remarks on dissident Liu ‘very dangerous

How the HK press covers Liu’s death: News of Liu Xiaobo’s death buried in Hong Kong’s pro-Beijing papers

(source of visual )


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Protests vs celebrations on the HKSAR’s 20th anniversary

A short version is posted on Washington Post’s Monkey Cage newsletter:

20 years ago, China promised Hong Kong ‘1 country, 2 systems.’ So much for promises.

See also

Why we fight for Hong Kong’s freedoms

Joshua Wong Hong Kong’s youth must fight for a free future: The real question is what happens in 2047, when ‘one country, two systems’ expires

Pomp & protests during Xi Jinping’s visit

Hong Kong handover: The protest symbols China’s scared of

Incoming leader Carrie Lam leads handover anniversary flag-raising while police remove protesters

Hong Kong protesters arrested for democracy protest ahead of Xi’s visit

Black bauhinia: Activists cover handover monument in protest of China President’s Hong Kong visit

Joshua Wong was the teenage face of the Umbrella Movement in Hong Kong 3 years ago. During the Chinese president’s visit, he led another pro-democracy protest.


The extended version:

When Beijing and Hong Kong officials celebrate the 20th anniversary of Hong Kong’s handover with fireworks and fanfare on July 1, 2017, many citizens will mourn the erosion of Hong Kong’s autonomy in street protests.

Why are there such contrasting sentiments in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR)?

  1. What has happened in Hong Kong since the handover in 1997?

To understand Hong Kong’s uneasy relations with Beijing today, we should begin with the Sino-British Joint Declaration of 1984.

When London and Beijing announced the Sino-British Joint Declaration regarding the future of Hong Kong in 1984, they promised the “one country, two systems” model to insulate Hong Kong from mainland China with “Hong Kong people ruling Hong Kong” under “a high degree of autonomy.”

The Joint Declaration came as a relief to deeply worried Hong Kong people, many of whom had fled from political turmoil in mainland China. The drawn-out negotiations had created bank runs and rapid depreciation of the Hong Kong dollar. To reassure Hong Kong people, Beijing put on a charm offensive to win over hearts and minds, promising that there would be “horse-racing as usual, dancing as usual” after the transfer of sovereignty. (See Sino-British Joint Declaration on Hong Kong ‘no longer has any realistic meaning’, says Chinese Foreign Ministry; China Dismissal of U.K. Treaty Renews Doubts About Its Word; We still recognise Hong Kong treaty as legally binding but Britain cannot interfere, Beijing official maintains)

The Tiananmen movement of 1989 fundamentally altered Beijing-Hong Kong relations. For Hong Kong people, the sentiment of “today’s Tiananmen, tomorrow’s Hong Kong” drove them to provide moral and material support for student demonstrations across China. For Beijing, it was a shocking realization that Hong Kong people cared about democracy beyond money and decadence.

From then on, Beijing’s policy toward Hong Kong sharply shifted from reassurance to control.

The Basic Law, Hong Kong’s mini-constitution, was promulgated in this tense environment in 1990. The Basic Law was supposed to implement the Joint Declaration’s liberal guarantees. Instead, it reflected Beijing’s imperative of control. The Chief Executive was to be selected by a 900-member (later expanded to 1200-member) Election Committee dominated by pro-regime representatives. The Legislative Council was to keep pro-democracy members elected from geographical constituencies in check by pro-regime members from functional constituencies. (See How China Holds Sway
Over Who Leads Hong Kong)

Most importantly, the Standing Committee of China’s National People’s Congress retained final interpretation power over the Basic Law (a power that they would use five times over the past 20 years).

  1. What happened with the Umbrella Movement of 2014?

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We are all localists –真 . 本土 anyone who identifies with and defends HK’s core values/freedoms

[updated on Sep. 4, 2016–Pleased that my favorite localists won hands down in the Legislative Council elections.]

We Are All Localists!

Originally posted on Voice of Hong KongMARCH 10, 2016.

With supplementary information after the commentary. See also Fishball protest.

“There are no more pan-democrats. There are only pan-localists,” Wong Wing declared on his Commercial Radio public affairs programme “Our Way Out” (人民大道中) on March 8, 2016.

I agree with his conclusion but not the rationale. Wong suggests that the pan-democrats have been forced to become localists by the dramatic rise of Edward Leung Tin-kei, a Hong Kong University student and spokesperson for Hong Kong Indigenous.

It is a common argument after the Legco by-election in New Territories East geographical constituency on February 28 that the localists have become a third force that will contend with the traditional pro-democracy and pro-establishment camps. Although Leung did not win a seat, he rose from being an unknown figure to capturing 66,524 votes or 15% of the overall votes. Alvin Yeung of Civic Party won the election with 160,880 votes, narrowly beating Holden Chow of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong who secured 150,329 votes.

As Leung is most likely to take over votes from the pan-democrats in the general Legco elections in September, Wong argues that the pan-democrats are now compelled to win back support by becoming more like the localists.

Meanwhile, three slightly older localist groups, the Civic Passion, Hong Kong Resurgence Order and Proletariat Political Institute, have declared a joint platform to field candidates in all five geographical constituencies in the general elections, scheduled for September 4. Curiously, the coalition excludes the Hong Kong Indigenous. Chin Wan of Hong Kong Resurgence Order even plans to run in New Territories East, where Edward Leung had contested.

When asked if older localist groups are harvesting from their hard-won ascendance, Edward Leung is diplomatic, expressing confidence that both he and Chin Wan could win in the multiple-seat elections.

However, a deeper question is if various self-proclaimed “localist” groups really sleep in the same bed. Edward Leung’s position is simultaneously overlapping with but also contradictory to the raison d’être of the older groups’ platform.

When it was disclosed that Edward Leung is a mainland immigrant, the pro-establishment camp sneered. This is because the older localist groups define a localist as someone who was born and raised in Hong Kong. They have aggressively campaigned against the influx of mainland immigrants.

Leung’s supporters retort that anyone who identifies with Hong Kong’s distinctive values is a localist. One’s birthplace is unimportant. After all, the Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying was born in Hong Kong but has been accused of sacrificing Hong Kong’s interests. Compared with the older group’s emphasis on exclusive ethnic identity, Hong Kong Indigenous holds a more liberal and inclusive civic identity. As such, only the young localists deserve the label while the older groups should be properly called “nativists.”

All the self-labeled “localists” reject the notion that there is a split among them. Yet, if Leung has been repeatedly asked if the older groups are trying to ride on the back of their success, then these groups are probably seen as opportunistic “nativists” by Leung’s supporters and bystanders. It will be easy to confirm if the electorate sees the older groups as “localists” or “nativists”: If Chin Wan runs against Edward Leung as he said he would, then we can observe if he wins a similar vote count or if he loses by a large margin. (Dr Horace Chin Wan-kan opens district office in Tai Wai)

Once we see that there are two overlapping but divergent lines under the “localist” label, it is easy to see that the Hong Kong Indigenous is not entirely at odds with the long-standing pan-democratic camp. After all, the pan-democrats can point out that they have been fighting for the same cause: upholding Hong Kong’s separate system under “one country, two systems,” resisting China’s encroachment into Hong Kong, and preserving the city’s unique values and institutions. Indeed, resistance to “mainlandization” of Hong Kong was the key campaign theme in the last Legco elections in 2012 (see 赤的疑惑 ).

Thus, the pan-democrats are in fact “localists.” It is just that they are not “nativists.”

Non-establishment parties should form a pan-localist camp

What the “localists” have succeeded in monopolizing is the label. In politics, symbolism matters as much as substance. Wong is right that the pan-democrats should reclaim the lost ground. And the best way to do so is to form a pan-localist camp.

HKU law professor Benny Tai urges all non-establishment groups to unite against the pro-establishment camp in the general Legco elections. There should instead be a coalition of pan-localists.

There is no doubt that the pan-localists are deeply divided, especially over the wisdom of calling for Hong Kong independence and responding to police violence with violence. However, it is only by working together that they would have a chance at winning enough seats to effectively control the Legco agenda. For traditional localists, they should welcome the entry of new localists into the game play of nonviolent legislative resistance. For the new localists, they should see that taking control of Legco is a more effective means to defend Hong Kong’s interests than throwing bricks at the police (see “fishball protests“).

All hope is on the younger pan-localists. Alvin Yeung and Edward Leung seem to have developed some mutual respect during the by-election. (楊岳橋梁天琦握手) Young people declared during the umbrella movement that they were fighting for their future. Young pan-localists need to work together toward a shared future.

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Fishball Violent Protest and the Call for Independence –Why Not “Forceful Nonviolence”?

[Updated on May 6, 2016 ]

See also “We are all localists

[for an abridged version, see Voice of Hong Kong ]

Protestors threw bricks and glass bottles etc during clashes with the police on Feb. 8-9 (the first and second days of the Lunar New Year).

The premise of this blog post: the focus is on what methods are more effective (called “pragmatic nonviolence”); the issue if the use of violence is morally right or wrong (called “principled nonviolence”) is set aside.

Painstaking research shows that nonviolent resistance is far more likely to succeed than violent resistance.  See, most of all, Chenoweth and Stephan’s award-winning research which shows a success rate of 53% for nonviolent struggles v. 26% for violent struggles: “Peaceful Protest is Much More Effective Than Violence for Toppling Dictators“; Chenoweth’s TED talk; the Freedom House’s report on how nonviolent resistance is the path to durable democracy; Col. Bob Helvey’s conversion to nonviolence as a force more powerful.  (More references under “after occupy” and “The fallacy that nonviolence has not worked”, some are pasted below.)

Edward Leung Tin-kei of HK Indigenous is plain wrong in asserting that “a bloody path of violence is inevitable during the pursuit of democracy, as seen in the history of every democratic place around the world.” Those who advocate violence have the burden to do thorough homework. 

Other pro-democracy groups debate the effectiveness of the turn to violence. See 激進派本土派辯抗爭策略 袁彌明:堅持非暴力 梁天琦重申無底線Meanwhile, new HKU student union chair also disavows violence (孫曉嵐形容自己現時的抗爭底線是不傷害他人身體,亦不會用學生會的名義帶領同學這麼做。) 

Long Hair may be out of favor with “localists” now. But he is right that violent resistance could not be effective in HK. Listen to Long Hair on Commercial Radio (社民連 梁國雄).  On the same program, Centaline’s boss Shih Wing-ching admits that he had thrown rocks during the 1967 riots. However, in general, Hong Kong people would not support violent struggle unless they are pushed to the cliff. (See 施永青:中國人逼到走投無路先會革命)  This argument is supported by scholarly research.

One of my favorite books in teaching contentious politics is Jeff Goodwin’s No Other Way Out. The title is self-explanatory. Fishball protestors clearly saw that they had no other way out this time. (See 抗爭者的眼神告訴我 他們在絕地求生A ‘rioter’ is born in Mong Kok) However, it is noteworthy that a book  that examines armed revolutionary movements in the 20th century draws this conclusion: “As both a repertoire of contention and a motivating ideal, [armed] revolution seems to have lost much of its popular appeal and influence.” [p. 298]  “Perhaps the central reason for the increasing prevalence of nonviolent or unarmed protest, however, is the general expansion of most states’ infrastructural power.” [p. 296] Infrastructural capacity refers to a state’s “institutional capacity to penetrate its territories and logistically implement decisions.” [p. 38]

Indeed, violence has a slim chance only when resisters are confronted with an infrastructurally weak state that cannot patrol every inch of its territory (as when the CCP was fighting against the KMT during the civil war). Violence has next to zero chance in the face of an infrastructurally strong state.  Although Che Guevara succeeded in Cuba, his efforts to spread armed struggles elsewhere failed miserably. More recently, a long list of armed struggles have transited to nonviolence. (See Journal of Peace Research-2013-Dudouet

Some commentaries draw analogies with the Arab Spring and Taiwan’s 228 incident. Ominously, both are cases of failure. (Never underestimate the little guy: What the Mong Kok clashes have in common with the Arab Spring)

The fishball protest represents radicalization in the aftermath of the nonviolent umbrella movement. When nonviolence is seen as having failed, it is not surprising that some people are radicalized.  (年輕人對武力抗爭看法改變】戴耀廷公開信:暴力抗爭在香港沒有出路 : “當「和平、理性、非暴力之路」不通,有些人「理性地」選擇走上「暴力之路」”. But note Hong Kong’s unrecognised mini-victories) This dynamic of perceived failure leading to radicalization and marginalization of moderate voices is again thoroughly analyzed by Goodwin. (See The ‘Third Way’ To Nowhere)

However, did the umbrella movement fail to achieve its goal (genuine universal suffrage in 2017) because the movement was nonviolent? See my analysis of why the umbrella movement failed in the Journal of Democracy (also “The fallacy that nonviolence has not worked”). 

Is nonviolence inherently weak (“和理非非”) so that protestors have to resort to what they call “forceful resistance”? (旺角衝突後,進步民主派的集體失語從改良到革命)  This is ignorance of what nonviolence is about.  NV is “a form of warfare — the only difference is you don’t use arms.” (Rosenberg 12)  Nonviolence is “a method of political conflict, disruption, and escalation.” Around the world, nonviolent resisters call themselves “warriors”.  As Kurt Schock explains what nonviolence is and is not (NV Schock):

  • It is active; not inaction, submission, passivity, not passive resistance
  • It is nonviolent; but not anything that is not violent
  • Not limited to legal actions
  • Not limited to negotiation or compromise
  • Not James Scott’s everyday forms of resistance/weapons of the weak/disguised resistance
  • Not pacifism; it is pragmatic/strategic nonviolence, not principled nonviolence
  • Not spontaneous people power: it takes planning, organizing, strategizing 
  • (See “Peaceful protest has failed us?” (“after occupy“–scroll down)

It is also a mistake to think that the “forceful” approach succeeded in reducing the number of mainland tourists in 2015. The radicals claim credit and the conservatives blame them. In fact, the situation has not seen much improvement in areas close to the border, see「一周一行」實施近一年 上水居民稱水貨客問題仍存在. Jewellery stores in Mongkok have suffered more. Yet, the decline in mainland visitors was overdetermined by a whole string of economic factors: mainland tourists’ interest in other destinations, the strength of the HK dollar at a time when other currencies were depreciating, and, most of all, China’s slowing economy. One only needs to look at Macau and see dramatic reduction in mainland tourists without anti-mainland protests. (See Hung Ho-fung’s China Boom.) 

Although the official narrative charges that the protest involved a premeditated plan, post-mortem analyses suggest that most protestors were acting spontaneously, out of anger after one police officer fired two shots. (Ambrose Lee labels Mong Kok protesters as ‘beasts’ who have lost their sense of rationality 97後首次定性「暴亂」,旺角示威者:「這是第一次,但不會是最後一次 ) Here is another scholarly insight: No form of resistance could be effective if it is spontaneous. The lack of organization is also the real cause for the umbrella movement’s failure. (See “what went wrong“.)  Nonviolent action requires more than occupation of busy streets; it takes planning, organizing, and strategizing.

Why violent resistance tends to fail? Because of the simple logic of balance of firepower: The state enjoys the comparative advantage in violent confrontations. In contrast, even the most armed security forces could be confused when confronted by disciplined nonviolence. (It is like 以柔制剛.)

One key reason why violent protests are more likely to fail than nonviolent protests is that violence backfires on those who wield it. HKI’s Edward Leung recognizes that the violent protests have backfired. (梁天琦 見到民情好大反彈,示威者都要思考,針對國家機器的同時,如何減少對無辜市民的影響,但覺得難指導每一個示威者。) People Power’s Erica Yuen notes that the police use of tear gas against nonviolent protesters motivated more people to arrive to show support on Sep 28, 2015, but few people turned out in Mongkok this time. (袁彌明指雨傘運動警方發射催淚彈後金鐘擠滿人群,而旺角當日則沒有大批群眾支援。In this episode, protestors’ violence has backfired more than the police’s use of excessive forceIt is particularly unwise to attack reporters.(See “police and thug abuses–the lesson of backfire” and “escalation by protestors can also backfire“.)  (Freedom of the press only way to protect protesters’ rights, says Journalists Association梁天琦指不認同示威者襲記者但不會「切割」示威者可打壓記者?梁天琦:真係好難答黃之鋒撐傳媒:排拒客觀報導只會令警更暴力記者採訪被警察盤問「如何看港獨」 律師:市民可保持緘默). 

Another key reason is that success is more likely when those who wear blue jeans can neutralize those who wear blue uniforms. How do unarmed protestors have a chance against the regime’s full coercive might? Only when those who wield the gun defect to your side or at least refuse the order to shoot. This is why nonviolent movements are often symbolized by protestors handing out flowers to police officers. Attacking police officers, even those who are abusive, only helps to rally support for the regime. (Former Law Society chair goes so far to suggest shooting protestersA police officer who suffered injuries still expresses concerns for young people (“雖然今次俾年輕人打,但不會放棄對年輕人的工作,希望大家多關心年輕人的問題“) Many police officers complain about why only a handful of traffic police were assigned to the protest site (旺角騷亂警隊新貴引爆前線怨氣 ) , which triggered one of them to fire 2 live shots, which then angered protestors who escalated their actions. (There is unconfirmed report that the authorities made such an arrangement on purpose to serve as a bait to provoke protestors, following the script of “Ten Years.” See 那夜旺角是不是政府的陰謀,還重要嗎?)

There is still some chance to win over the police. Let me copy from the post “HK risks descending into a police state“:

It is also worth considering Srdja Popovic’s advice–focus the ire on the CY Leung government and try to win over police officers, even one at a time. … Popovic’s message:

“we, together, are the victims of the system. And there is no reason …to have war between victims and victims. One victims are in blue uniforms, other victims are in blue jeans, but there is no reason for that blood in the middle of those two columns. So we picked up four or five headlines in the news with that message, and we know that it produced results within the police.” (A Force More Powerful)

“From the beginning, Otpor had treated the police as allies-in-waiting. Otpor members delivered cookies and flowers to police stations (sometimes with a TV camera in tow). Instead of howling at police during confrontations, Otpor members would cheer them.” (Tina Rosenberg, “Revolution U,” Foreign Policy, 2/16/2011)

Most of all, nonviolence is a force more powerful because success depends on the extent of popular participation. In this game of winning hearts and minds, nonviolence attracts while violence repels.As Long Hair points out in the radio program, Che Guevara was turned in by the very peasants he wished to liberate. This insight is even more relevant in the HK context. I have long observed that even Gandhi would look like a radical in very conservative HK. Recall that Occupy Central once wondered if they could mobilize even 100,000 supporters as of early June 2014. Given what I have been hearing from family and friends and strangers during the Lunar New Year week, the turn to violence has significantly alienated the less-than-committed, driving even those who hate the CY Leung regime to support the crackdown. (See survey results by The Third Side 新思維發表民調「旺角警民衝突.」The best outcome from this episode is the radical flank effect: if democracy supporters are prepared to take more forms of nonviolent action to avoid further descent into violence.  The danger is that radicals may be convinced that it is futile to mobilize popular support and pursue what they think is right(「勇武」真的不需要民心?— history shows that the “vanguards of revolution” with no basis in popular support could only perpetuate dictatorship (see the Freedom House report). (梁 天 琦 : 出 身 與 本 土 無 衝 突: 本民前相信「以武制暴」,但社會輿論仍反對暴力,梁天琦隨即反駁:「輿論有用咩?」更以美國獨立做例子,指要帶來真正改變往往靠少數人「喺前面衝」。他指香港獨立值得一場公投,但被問及公投理念與「少數人帶領」相違背,梁就指「所以我咪走出嚟參選」,出選是為希望強化香港人主體意識。)

Director Chow Kwun-Wai of “Self-Immolator” in the film “Ten Years” says: Violence could be counterproductive (“幫倒忙”、“好心做壞事”) and that would lead to tragedy. (新聞透視 本土與港獨 at 13 min.)

See Almost 70 percent of Hongkongers still support peaceful protests, according to CUHK poll

It is worth noting that Chin Wan, who now advocates “forceful resistance,” once promoted “joyful resistance” :快樂抗爭就是懷抱歡喜心,直面痛苦,啟發思想,集結龐大民眾,以人民總量令到壓迫者畏懼,宣揚民眾的快樂生活方式而使到壓迫者愧疚而信服,從而達致彼此的解放。」 See also 杜耀明书评:在文化战场上快乐抗争–介绍陈云著《终极评论,快乐抗争》

Hong Kong’s future looks increasingly grave. (The blog post on the erosion of freedoms has grown to be intolerably long.) However, the way out is not to resort to violent acts in the next protest, but to think about other forms of nonviolent resistance that have been proven to be effective in other difficult cases. (See “Civil Resistance: A First Look“; see also “after occupy” and “the fallacy that nonviolence has not worked”. )

It is not too late to think about “forceful nonviolence.”



People Power issues a pamphlet advocating class boycott, work strike, and general boycott《從舉傘到三罷》

[May 5, 2016] Dalai Lama urges Hong Kong not to quit democracy fight, says pro-independence activist after visitThe Hong Kong Indigenous member, who previously stated his group had no boundaries in its protest methods, said the Tibetan activists tried to persuade him to adopt non-violent means. Also 4港青年印度演讲 向流亡藏人介绍香港政情

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District Council Elections — Reflecting a Divided Hong Kong

[Updated on Dec. 31, 2015]

The results are seriously mixed, reflecting the deep division among Hong Kong people. The high turnout rate of 47% captures intensified mobilization by both pro-umbrella and anti-umbrella forces, overturning the traditional wisdom that higher turnouts should benefit the pro-democracy camp.

Regarding the division:

Chan Kin-man said previous studies indicated that 60 per cent of Hongkongers were pro-democracy supporters. However, he said, various polls showed that only 40 per cent at most backed the Occupy protests and objected to the Beijing-decreed political reform model. “It is a very big drop from 60 per cent to 40 per cent. The supporters we lost are mostly moderates and the grass roots,” he said. “Their preferences are crucial in district council polls as they are the most active voters.” (A new term for Leung in 2017 will make Hong Kong more radical, says co-founder of Occupy protest movement)

Some heavy weights of the pro-democracy camp won (James To) while others lost by small margins (Albert Ho and Frederick Fung); some new umbrella soldiers won (Wong Chi-ken, Yeung Suet-ying, Chui Chi-kinwhile others lost; some heavy weights of the pro-establishment camp won (Starry Lee, Leung Mei Fun, Wong Kwok-hing) while others lost (Chung Shu Gun and Elizabeth Quat). (Umbrella soldiers’ win eight seats as veteran politicians suffer surprise defeat ; Winners and losers in the 2015 Hong Kong District Council ElectionsWhat’s the message from the district council election?two pan-democratic big guns defeated and three new pro-Occupy candidates win seats區議會民選議席分佈最新結果大佬表現差傘兵有驚喜 泛民失守葵青 奪沙田一半議席 港人思變渴求新面孔)

Most results are extremely tight — the smallest winning margin involves only 3 votes. Where pro-democracy candidates competed against one another, they lost to pro-establishment candidates (Albert Ho’s and Frederick Fung’s cases). Apparently, fake umbrella troops could do the trick too (假傘兵鎅票成功 兩區泛民以些微票數敗予民建聯). (See below on fake umbrella troops). However, where pro-regime candidates competed against among themselves, pro-democracy candidates did not benefit (制派內訌選區 勝算不減 建制無間道:中聯辦調動組織票 防民主派漁人得利).

Among candidates who are simultaneously legislators and district councillors, the pro-establishment camp fares better than the pro-democracy camp:


Umbrella soldiers won 8 seats. Newbies more often lost than won overall — yet, we should note that they ran in strong-holds of the pro-establishment camp and they lost with surprisingly narrow margins. Younginspiration fielded 9 candidates and one won. (Younginspirations’ statement) The winners claimed that they did not focus on the umbrella movement in their campaigns. (黃子健及楊雪盈:參選跟佔領運動無關). How did they win?

Pro-democracy newbies defeat veteran pols: Why they won

Not through first-time voters, but through the tested recipe of getting to know local residents 傘兵勝出靠「入屋」 街坊連屋企鎖匙都畀埋佢

今屆一大特點就是傘後成立的年輕人參政組織,以政治素人身分,在地區工作時間很短,但卻交出亮麗成績,表示新一波的政治覺醒已發生了。(傘兵經營社區 新一波覺醒可期)

一班區選素人的心願  一則拯救家園的寓言

Disabled Yip Wing’s victory over DAB’s Quat was no fluke

Clarisse Yeung promotes “Good Day Wanchai”, a community platform to inspire civic participation in the district ; How an artist became a district councilor; 楊雪盈:我們提倡「公民平台」讓街坊參與區議會的決策,以及綠色、永續的生活方式楊雪盈淚謝大坑街坊

Facebook fail cost me district council seat, says pro-Beijing veteran Chris ‘Tree Gun’ Chung“Our supporters thought, ‘you will win even if you are sleeping, right?”




How CY blew his chance with young people

Wen Wei Pao’s take 「傘兵」自爆內幕露出真面目


The pro-democracy camp won 21 more seats than the last time, taking 125 seats overall. Out of 226 coordinated candidates, 105 won. Democrats garnered more support in the Central-Western District, effectively debunking any talk of backlash after the occupy movement. The Democratic Party won 43 seats, 4 fewer than the last time. Against expectations, pan-democrats who exposed lead water scandal lost in major affected estates (村民唔係咁諗之關於鉛水啟德泛民慘敗). Civic Party and the Association for Democracy and People’s Livelihood grabbed more seats than the last time. In contrast, more radical parties People Power, League of Social Democrats and Civic Passion did not win any seats and lost by wide margins. (黃洋達承認區選失敗向支持者致歉 強調熱血公民會堅持抗爭路線 ; 熱狗全軍盡墨分析) Neo-democrats, who broke away from the Democratic Party, fielded 16 candidates and won 15 seats. (16人出選僅1人落敗 新民主同盟大勝!) A lot of post-election analyses say that the results demonstrate the rise of localism in HK politics. It is worth noting that “localism” is not at all a new/post-umbrella phenomenon. Nor is it homogeneous. The label spans a wide spectrum in HK as elsewhere. All the pro-democracy forces assert local interests in terms of defending the HK part of the “one country, two systems” model. The radicals are more “nativist” in their campaigns to drive out mainlanders. The success of Neo-democrats may show that they strike the right balance for pro-democracy voters –positioning between traditional democrats (who are criticized for compromising with the Liaison Office) and radicals (who are criticized for advocating “the use of force against police violence” during the umbrella movement and staging anti-mainlander campaigns after). Note also that Neo-Democrats candidates have done solid local work in their respective districts (深耕社區 守護本土. (A new Democratic Progressive Party Of Hong Kong seems to follow Neo-Democrats’ line 成立香港民進黨 楊繼昌:香港人價值優先)

Some pro-democracy candidates gained more than 1,000 votes over the last round: 多區泛民得票大升 票又從何來?

新同盟小將贏大佬 全靠「格食格」兼「內鬥」

公民黨支援少 街站自搭 物資放家 油尖票王余德寶 數百元津貼打天下


The pro-regime Democratic Alliance for the Betterment of HK won 119 seats, but 17 fewer than the last time. The equally pro-regime Federation of Trade Unions kept the same number of 29 seats. Also, Eight winning councillors acknowledged as Chinese state enterprise employees

Some ways that the pro-establishment camp used to register new voters and canvass for votes:

Districts with police quarters witnessed dramatic increases in pro-establishment votes 紀律部隊投票激增 建制派得益

Pro-Beijing camp ran candidates to snatch votes from ‘umbrella soldier’, ex pan-dem claims ; 區選背後的故事 — 他找我𠝹楊雪盈票,我答應了…【區選黑幕】曾參與區選前泛民獲邀「鎅票」 以拖延戰術打亂對方部署

Fujian Association is suspected of copying personal info when they promoted voter registration earlier【電話催票選民資料何來?】

How the Liaison Office has helped the DAB raise huge funds over the years 張曉明帶挈 民建聯全年收入再破億 創歷史新高 十年吸金7.4億

Handouts: 馮檢基直言陳穎欣在區選中,策略是一個字「派」!按馮的觀察,陳獲得比以往多四至五倍的競選資源支持,以物質「搶」票,更以日日派飯盒籠絡長者,甚至向長者指「你幫馮檢基手喎,對唔住,冇飯盒畀你」,可以對手是衝著馮檢基而來。(馮檢基親解落敗原因 建制「省港旗兵」嚇親佢)


民建聯最年輕當選者 邵天虹

Why various pro-establishment candidates gained 1,000 votes compared with earlier elections (considering that winning candidates tend to get about 2000 votes)? 票從何來?】多區泛民票不減仍連任失敗 同區民建聯得票升逾千馮檢基落選,𠝹票以外yellowred-11_KzAqG_1200x0

Overall, the pro-establishment camp still controls far more seats than the pro-democracy camp, thus maintaining dominance in all District Councils. (All district council governing seats go to pro-Beijing camp; trading with pan-dems ‘disallowed’十 八 區 會 正 副 主 席 敲 定 嚴 禁 與 泛 民 「 交 易 」Many districts were not even contested, with pro-establishment candidates automatically elected. (See below.)


Despite the pro-establishment camp’s dominance, the results still mean bad news for CY Leung. It is rumored that the Liaison Office wants the pro-establishment camp to win more seats than the last round if CY Leung is to run again in 2017. (【壹錘】建制贏幾多有利CY連任?) CY’s response is to coopt newbies by appointing them to advisory committees. (CY: I will invite young election candidates to join committees劉鳴煒邀約見面 青年新政梁頌恒:政府若只想招安無意思) Global Times says that It’s increasingly significant to work on Hong Kong youth.” Albert Chan:

“the pro-establishment District Council election in Hong Kong is organized and controlled by the state apparatus of the Chinese Communist Government. I participated in District Council election since 1985, and won seven consecutive elections between 1985 and 2008.  I can say that I have seen the transformation of elections in Hong Kong. After half a million people marched on the street in 2003, the Chinese Government formed the Central Coordination Group for Hong Kong and Macau Affairs. This Group was headed by the former Vice-President of the People’s Republic of China, Zeng Qinghong.” (Letter To Hong Kong: Albert Chan)

Suspicions raised over Liaison Office interference with social worker elections

For a taste of pro-democracy vs. pro-Beijing voices online, see comments on the Economist’s story A new force emerges in Hong Kong’s politics

If the District Council elections mark the first test of city’s political sentiment after Occupy protests, the results are so mixed/divided that all parties and groups will be forced to completely rethink their plans for the Legislative Council elections next year. It seems that some districts are deeply divided, some are more  pro-democracy, and some are more pro-regime. Three things are clear: 1) the pro-democracy camp has to catch up on registering new voters. 2) Pro-democracy voters want their representatives to stand firm on HK’s interest but without going overboard. 3) Across the entire spectrum, committed young candidates are favored over older candidates who have served multiple terms.

‘Vote Them Out’ Versus ‘Let Pan-Democrats In’

Favourites fall, ‘Umbrella soldiers’ march, and Hong Kong’s future looks as uncertain as ever

No surprise wins, but much learning on the election campaign trail

The district election X factor: age, platform, or just a new face?

Pan-Democratic Force Gains Strength From ‘Localist’, Occupy Movement

‘Not a bad thing’ more young people aspire to join politics after Occupy – Chief Sec.

Pan-Democratic Force Gains Strength From ‘Localist’, Occupy Movement

How the Occupy protests shaped the District Council elections

How Beijing’s radical policy triggered a backlash from HK voters

How localism and ‘umbrella soldiers’ thrived in district polls

Potential candidates for 2016 ‘super district councillor’ emerge as incumbents lose or retire

Pro-Beijing camp ran candidates to snatch votes from ‘umbrella soldier’, ex pan-dem claims

What the political landscape might be like in 2016

The establishment won a battle this time but may lose the war 區選結果大有可能讓泛民政治路線調整

泛民要打拼 黨務就要年輕化




下屆區選應發起眾籌,參選全港所有地區 拉長戰線 建制派就非牢不可破

順民者昌 逆民者亡





Can opposition groups reach the halfway mark in LegCo?

More charts at  2015區選 資訊圖合集

Before the general elections, there will be a by-election for the Legislative Council seat vacated by Ronny Tong. Can traditional democrats, umbrella soldiers and radicals agree to support only one candidate? (Umbrella soldier’ group invites Civic Party to hold a primary for coming LegCo by-electionPro-democrats to cooperate in New Territories East by-election明年新東補選 泛民有暗湧青年新政為何公開提出新界東初選?; Younginspiration vs. Civic Party 所謂「同路人」的二元劃分)

Election fraud?

Fake candidates and ‘vote-snatching’: a new era of electoral fraud for Hong Kong?

Complaints flood election body in wake of district pollsThese included hundreds of elderly people being brought to polling stations and coached which candidate to vote, according to Ming Pao Daily.

Gov’t initiates consultation to enhance voter registration system

Vote planting 種票停不了?民建聯小花涉送禮氹改地址

Seniors were registered or changed addresses for them without their knowledge  長者選民參加建制議員活動疑「被搬屋」改地址

Pro-establishment camp take seniors to polling stations, arousing suspiction of vote manipulation  Elderly people bussed to polling stations by ‘volunteers’ ;九龍選戰】慈雲山建制疑出「金絲帶」車輛接送長者投票;  民建聯助選團 一對一扶院舍老人入票站神秘女「人肉速遞」長者投票 見記者即丟低輪椅伯中港牌車載院舍長者投票 票站分發身份證

Some people received voter registration notices for strangers–vote planting suspected【區選】選民收不明來歷投票通知書 康怡有懷疑種票個案

Private cars are mobilized by the pro-establishment camp to take voters to a polling station in Yuen Long 【區選 ‧ 八鄉南】原居民黎偉雄 vs 朱凱迪 大批私家車接送長者投票

Pre-ticked ballots are found in Tun Mun 屯門友愛南被發現派發預先Tick好選票

A voter has a DAB candidate’s no. written on the palm 「掌心雷」寫明候選人編號

Middle-aged women help canvass for votes for the pro-establishment camp新界選戰】泛民資源懸殊 天水圍大媽團助建制拉票

Joshua Wong:  “I will mainly be at the places with more elderly care centres – a lot of community groups and student organisations… are monitoring the situation [for] vote rigging.” (HKFP)

Wen Wei Po reports that the Hong Kong Police Inspectors’ Association Chairperson Ngo Chi-hang distributed four posters featuring pictures of disciplinary forces engaged in frontline law enforcement work, including one of the pro-democracy Occupy movement.  The posters ask the force and their friends and their families to “cast a ballot you will not regret”, vote for “a candidate that contributes to the prosperity and stability of Hong Kong, and only let “someone who does real work for the society” onto the Council. (HKFP)

A watchdog on the elections「解構區議會系列」研究

[Jan. 21, 2016] The govt rules out requirement of proof of address 政府完成選民登記諮詢 不要求地址證明 稱為免打擊市民登記意欲

[Dec 31, 2015] Sai Wan community group to open ‘shadow district council’ office to monitor local affairs

I hope HK’s politicians and voters will correct the sexism in electoral politics:

The pro-regime DAB successfully redeployed the strategy using young beautiful women to defeat pro-democracy veterans 區選裏的新人上位與「小花策略」

Beauty and the ballot: the former queens who would be councillors

Beauty is no guarantee of victory in district polls 

Housewives voted against young female candidates (因為游蕙禎,我背叛了太太)

Nakade Hitsujiko used young sexy ladies in his campaign and promised to promote local sexy dancers


Written before the results:

Most analysts suggest a very difficult fight in the upcoming District Council elections on Nov. 22, 2015. The aftermath of the umbrella movement has not really boosted the chances of pro-democracy candidates. The election results could have rippling effects on the Legislative Council elections next year.

[Nov. 22, 2015] Election watch 

The voting rates are higher this year at approx. 47%. “The key battleground of Lok Tsui in Tuen Mun saw a 50% voter turnout – 3,955 voted out of a total of 7,877 eligible voters.” “Raymond Wong says that there are two possibilities for the high turnout: either the pro-Beijing camp has organised their voters very well, or the Occupy protests last year successfully rallied the public.” (HKFP)

What is at stake? HKFP Explainer: District Council election day ; 重奪區議會(足本版) ; 尋找區議會的…… ; 區議會係乜東東 每區坐擁1億5千萬

Live Standnews區選直擊】各區選情速遞; but beware of fake standnews site

CY Leung had trouble finding the slot to insert his ballot (RTHK)

[Nov. 22, 2015] Hong Kong’s pan-dems face uphill fight to retain Legco super seats amid strategic competition in district councils

With the pro-Beijing camp seeking to demolish the pan-democrats’ all-important hold on one-third of the seats in Legco, which enabled them to vote down the government’s electoral reform package in June, it is critical for the pan-democrats to hold on to the three super seats.

[Nov. 10, 2015] Pan-Democratic Camp Fighting Uphill Battle In District Council Polls

… the pro-democracy political parties presented about 200 candidates… They will compete in around 250 constituencies. … ideally, they should field a candidate in every one of the over 430 constituencies. The situation reflects the difficulties of the pro-democracy groups. They do not have the resources to support their candidates in grassroots services; and not enough young professionals are willing to accept the sacrifices of long-term constituency work without much prospect of advancing beyond a District Councilor position.  On the other hand, their counterparts in the pro-establishment camp have good chances of receiving appointments to important advisory committees, and positions in the government as political assistants and even deputy secretaries.

The pro-Beijing united front has been building a resourceful and increasingly sophisticated grassroots network and electoral machinery since 2003, and its effectiveness has been proven… the pro-establishment camp now controls a majority in all district councils and captures the bulk of the funding offered by the government for services at the district level. In contrast, the pro-democracy groups now hold about 85 seats in all the district councils, and they cannot influence the decision-making processes. Their limited resources available have been further handicapped by the fact that they can hardly secure resources from their district councils and the business community. This explains the pessimism in the pro-democracy camp.


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Not a Christian Movement

[Updated on May 6, 2016]

This is a long overdue post. Seeing a high school friend at a Christian tent on the first anniversary finally motivated me to get the job done. (See reflections one year on.) Here is her t-shirt that says “shouldering the cross” on the back:


Given that I teach at a Catholic university whose motto is “God, country, and Notre Dame,” many people have asked me if the Umbrella Movement is a Christian movement. My colleague Daniel Philpott argues that the third wave of democracy was a Catholic Wave, so is the wave hitting HK? Other colleagues have read about Christian participation in the movement and have asked about Christianity-motivated reasons. I have been saying “no” for a year. The umbrella movement is a Eurasian movement, a cross-class movement, and a social media movement; but, no, it is not a Christian movement.

It is understandable why people are tempted to connect HK’s democracy movement to Christianity because some democracy leaders are Christian and because Christian groups are conspicuous at many protests. Thus there were these stories about the movement:

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Reflections One Year On

[updated on Oct. 17, 2015]

My commentaries to commemorate the first anniversary

What the current political storm spells for Hong Kong’s freedoms (HKFP)

打壓不會輕易落幕 好戲在後頭 (The struggle to rein in HK’s freedom is not over and more is yet to come) (Ming Pao)

沒有民主, 香港怎能在「風雨中抱緊自由」(“Without Democracy, How Could Hong Kong Embrace Freedom in the Storms )? (BBC Chinese)

The anniversary

The one-year anniversary of the firing of tear gas passed with little incident on Sep. 28. People Power tried to break through to Harcourt Road but was easily stopped by the solid barricades and huge police presence. (‘Open the roads!’ – Tensions flare at Admiralty protest, a year since mass rallies) The theme of the gathering was anti-political persecution — and volunteers are invited to sign up (全民反政治打壓集會」; call for volunteers). On Sep. 27, Pro-democracy Mong Kok protesters march back to Admiralty for Occupy commemoration. Artifacts and street art from the movement are exhibited until Oct. 16. (其後:雨傘運動中的物件 Hereafter: Objects from the Umbrella MovementProtest street art on display ).


See also photos by HKFP.

Events, talks and protests planned for the one-year anniversary of Hong Kong’s Umbrella Movement

Younger protestors made a dire warning that Sep. 28 should not be treated as a celebration or a holiday: The Umbrella Movement one year on: In between commemoration and celebration ; Hong Kong activists mark Occupy protest anniversary and set sights on next battleground ; 紀念?不,是念記!黃之鋒:唔想9.28成節日冀政壇有轉變】. Rowdies even argued that a failed movement should not be commemorated: 失敗的「雨傘革命」,根本不需要記念!

Umbrella supporters don’t seem to know that many other movements made a conscious effort at making protests festive. Why? Fear is often a key impediment to mobilization. By making participation fun, organizers could get more people to join potentially risky protests. It is no coincidence that protests around the world often have rock concerts. Another lesson from other movements is that focusing on “failure” makes people lose heart — thus it is important to claim small victories so that people are motivated to carry on. (See another post for a more comprehensive discussion; and How Can a Movement Increase Participation?)

In any case, the mood was hardly festive at the commemoration. The emphasis was put on remembering the firing of tear gas, as exemplified by the moment of silence and these posts: 特區差人準備開槍一幕,要忘記,難了… ;  香港人永遠不會忘記


The mood was best summed up as “there was less passion (anger stirred up by the firing of tear gas) and more perseverance (少了一份激情, 多了一份堅持” — a phrase I heard on radio news afterwards.

According to the cartoonist of Mr and Ms HK people: 1年前,那股憤怒,那珠淚水,那份衝動,還記得嗎?還是已經忘記了,回到了營營役役的生活?那把一起撐的傘還在嗎?(Mr and Ms HK People


No need for democrats to wallow in gloom


[Oct. 23, 2015] Gov’t inspectors shut down Hong Kong’s ‘Occupy Hotel’

There have been a lot of reflections on the lessons learned.

See also the weakness of organization in What Weng Wrong? Insights from “Almost a Revolution”

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If “It’s the economy, stupid!”…

[updated on Oct. 17, 2015]

It is often argued that Hong Kong is an economic city, not a political city: “Let’s focus on making money and set aside democratic aspirations.” Well, the HK government now gets what it wished for!

It is certainly true that many HK people care about making money above all else. Indeed, it is not coincidental that many “winners,” who have benefited from HK’s growing integration with the mainland economy, tend to be pro-establishment. In contrast, young people who have nothing to lose tend to be pro-democracy. But what happens when the “winners” lose in a “made-in-China” stock market crash? Worse, what happens when those traditional regime supporters blame the visible hands of the state rather than the invisible hands of market forces for their losses (cf. the causal mechanism of “attribution” in theory of contentious politics)? In trying to stabilize the Shanghai and Shenzhen stock exchanges, mainland investors are moving money out of the HK stock exchange, thus further driving down HK stock prices and hurting its traditional supporters. Whether or not Beijing could stabilize the mainland stock markets, HK’s smaller investors are sure to suffer. Meanwhile, HK as an international financial center could regain its advantage over Shanghai and Shenzhen (after all the talk “that HK is becoming just like Shanghai and Shenzhen” or “that HK is to be surpassed by Shanghai and Shenzhen”).  If Beijing would learn from HK on how market forces work, there could be some silver linings in the long-term.

As if one made-in-China crisis is not enough, the HK government is suddenly confronted with another crisis that touches on a wide spectrum of HK people:  Tainted water saga reveals how China SOEs do business in HK. More on the water crisis below.

[July 31] China stocks post worst monthly fall in 6 years

[July 27] China stocks plunge, suffer biggest one-day loss since February 2007 Shanghai ends at 2-week low in biggest daily drop in 8 years, Shenzhen and Hong Kong tumble ; China’s support measures crumble as Shanghai stocks dive 8.5 per cent in biggest daily drop for 8 years

[August 24] From Asia to Wall Street: China’s stock market meltdown goes global in one of the worst trading days for eight years. “What we witnessed [on Monday] was an absolute meltdown on China stocks and the search for a safe haven continues,” said Stephen Innes, a senior foreign exchange trader at Oanda. (Frantic selling batters Shanghai and Hong Kong equity markets)

[August 28] The Economist’s cover story: The Great Fall of China


The Chinese stock market: officially sanctioned prices? Illustration: David Simonds/The Observer


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