June12, 3-Year Anniversary: Remembrance of Hongkongers’ Shattering Pain and Loss

Who would have thought that a long distance love-affair-turned-homicide would pull Hong Kong into the whirlpool of a perfect storm in 2018, amid the muddling of “One Country. Two Systems?”Revision of the Fugitive Offenders Ordinance tipped off a series of fierce protests, the city suddenly plunged into the biggest political and humanitarian crisis in history. The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) would enact Hong Kong National Security Law later, and overhaul the electoral system. It gave Hong Kong’s autonomy a huge blow, causing the society to nosedive into a bottomless black hole. Hongkongers have somehow managed to pull through the past 3 years. What agony did they experience? What did they lose? Disturbance before the storm In 2018, the HKSAR government launched a local legislative procedure for the joint checkpoint “co-location” scheme for the XRL, Guangzhou-Shenzhen-Hong Kong Express Rail Link, a high speed railway line connecting Hong Kong and Beijing. Many Hongkongers were concerned that Hong Kong government was giving away its own land, destroying ‘One Country Two Systems” by allowing China to have a customs post in the heart of its territory. Unexpectedly, an overseas homicide deepened the fear that Hongkongers had against the CCP’s interference to Hong Kong’s legal system. The murder case of Poon Hiu-wing planted the seeds for this deepened fear. On February 17, 2018, Hong Kong male Chan Tung-kai traveled to Taiwan with his now deceased girlfriend, Poon Hiu-wing. Suspicious of his girlfriend’s infidelity, Chan strangled Poon to death, then disposed her mutilated body in New Taipei City before he absconded back to Hong Kong. Once the murder was exposed, Taiwan Shilin District Prosecutor’s Office repeatedly requested the Hong Kong government’s mutual legal assistance. Their efforts were fruitless. At the end of the year, the prosecutor’s office had issued a 37.5-year arrest warrant against Chan. The Mainland Affairs Council of the Republic of China (Taiwan) had criticized Hong Kong for never responding to the mutual extradition request sent by Taiwan. The Hong Kong government (HKGov) had also refused to meet the Taiwan officials. A year later, HKGov used the homicide to push forward the “Amendment of the Fugitive Offenders Ordinance” and the “Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters Ordinance,” with only 20 days of public consultation. The draft was read twice at the Legislative Council by April 3, 2019. However, the Bill Committee could not elect its chairperson after its establishment. The Pro-Beijing DAB party, convened a special internal meeting. They passed the Chairperson role to their most senior legislator Shek Lai-chien. The Pro democratic camp refused to recognize Shek. The two parties scuffled repeatedly with each other in the chamber. On May 24, the Legislative Council passed a government motion to abolish the Bills Committee, and pushed the draft for a direct second reading on June 12, 2019. Even though the authorities had revised the content of the draft, opposition remained vocal. HKGov responded to public assemblies by deploying police against protesters. On June 9, the Human Civil Rights Front held “Defend Hong Kong, No Extradition to China” Rally. It was reported that 1.03 million people participated, reaching a record high, including those for the 1989 Solidarity with Beijing Students Movement. However, HKGov issued a press release the same evening to affirm that the second reading of the draft would be held as scheduled. The government also pointed out the draft had effectively dispelled doubts, claiming it was welcomed by all stakeholders. The adamant wording made Hongkongers hysterical. In the following morning, some protesters gathered and protested outside the Legislative Council. After the demonstration ended, they clashed with the police, who shot canisters of pepper spray and fired tear gas bombs. Many were arrested. The authorities mobilized 5000 armed police to guard the vicinity of the Legislative Council. On the stroke of midnight, citizens spontaneously headed to Tamar Park to “stargaze and picnic,” while waiting for the conference in the morning. Police increased stop and search; you would have thought Martial Law was enforced in Tamar Park. The rebound of Hongkongers At 8 a,m. on June 12, 2019, a large number of citizens rushed out from Tamar Park to Harcourt Road and Lung Wo Road. At noon, they occupied the entire Admiralty Road. At around 3.30 p.m., protesters ran into the demonstration area of the Legislative Council, throwing bricks and debris at the police. Police in return fought back by firing rubber bullets, bean bag rounds and tear gas bombs. Without prior warning, riot police threw at least 4 tear gas grenades at the demonstration area, causing over a thousand protesters to run into the Citic Building next door, to take shelter. Some protesters were trapped by the glass door. It almost caused a stampede. Horrific screams and cries for help echoed in the lo

June12, 3-Year Anniversary: Remembrance of Hongkongers’ Shattering Pain and Loss

Who would have thought that a long distance love-affair-turned-homicide would pull Hong Kong into the whirlpool of a perfect storm in 2018, amid the muddling of “One Country. Two Systems?”

Revision of the Fugitive Offenders Ordinance tipped off a series of fierce protests, the city suddenly plunged into the biggest political and humanitarian crisis in history.

The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) would enact Hong Kong National Security Law later, and overhaul the electoral system. It gave Hong Kong’s autonomy a huge blow, causing the society to nosedive into a bottomless black hole.

Hongkongers have somehow managed to pull through the past 3 years. What agony did they experience? What did they lose?

Disturbance before the storm

In 2018, the HKSAR government launched a local legislative procedure for the joint checkpoint “co-location” scheme for the XRL, Guangzhou-Shenzhen-Hong Kong Express Rail Link, a high speed railway line connecting Hong Kong and Beijing. Many Hongkongers were concerned that Hong Kong government was giving away its own land, destroying ‘One Country Two Systems” by allowing China to have a customs post in the heart of its territory.

Unexpectedly, an overseas homicide deepened the fear that Hongkongers had against the CCP’s interference to Hong Kong’s legal system. The murder case of Poon Hiu-wing planted the seeds for this deepened fear.

On February 17, 2018, Hong Kong male Chan Tung-kai traveled to Taiwan with his now deceased girlfriend, Poon Hiu-wing. Suspicious of his girlfriend’s infidelity, Chan strangled Poon to death, then disposed her mutilated body in New Taipei City before he absconded back to Hong Kong.

Once the murder was exposed, Taiwan Shilin District Prosecutor’s Office repeatedly requested the Hong Kong government’s mutual legal assistance. Their efforts were fruitless. At the end of the year, the prosecutor’s office had issued a 37.5-year arrest warrant against Chan.

The Mainland Affairs Council of the Republic of China (Taiwan) had criticized Hong Kong for never responding to the mutual extradition request sent by Taiwan. The Hong Kong government (HKGov) had also refused to meet the Taiwan officials.

A year later, HKGov used the homicide to push forward the “Amendment of the Fugitive Offenders Ordinance” and the “Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters Ordinance,” with only 20 days of public consultation.

The draft was read twice at the Legislative Council by April 3, 2019. However, the Bill Committee could not elect its chairperson after its establishment. The Pro-Beijing DAB party, convened a special internal meeting. They passed the Chairperson role to their most senior legislator Shek Lai-chien. The Pro democratic camp refused to recognize Shek.

The two parties scuffled repeatedly with each other in the chamber.

On May 24, the Legislative Council passed a government motion to abolish the Bills Committee, and pushed the draft for a direct second reading on June 12, 2019.

Even though the authorities had revised the content of the draft, opposition remained vocal.

HKGov responded to public assemblies by deploying police against protesters.

On June 9, the Human Civil Rights Front held “Defend Hong Kong, No Extradition to China” Rally. It was reported that 1.03 million people participated, reaching a record high, including those for the 1989 Solidarity with Beijing Students Movement.

However, HKGov issued a press release the same evening to affirm that the second reading of the draft would be held as scheduled. The government also pointed out the draft had effectively dispelled doubts, claiming it was welcomed by all stakeholders. The adamant wording made Hongkongers hysterical.

In the following morning, some protesters gathered and protested outside the Legislative Council. After the demonstration ended, they clashed with the police, who shot canisters of pepper spray and fired tear gas bombs. Many were arrested. The authorities mobilized 5000 armed police to guard the vicinity of the Legislative Council.

On the stroke of midnight, citizens spontaneously headed to Tamar Park to “stargaze and picnic,” while waiting for the conference in the morning. Police increased stop and search; you would have thought Martial Law was enforced in Tamar Park.

The rebound of Hongkongers

At 8 a,m. on June 12, 2019, a large number of citizens rushed out from Tamar Park to Harcourt Road and Lung Wo Road. At noon, they occupied the entire Admiralty Road. At around 3.30 p.m., protesters ran into the demonstration area of the Legislative Council, throwing bricks and debris at the police. Police in return fought back by firing rubber bullets, bean bag rounds and tear gas bombs.

Without prior warning, riot police threw at least 4 tear gas grenades at the demonstration area, causing over a thousand protesters to run into the Citic Building next door, to take shelter. Some protesters were trapped by the glass door. It almost caused a stampede.

Horrific screams and cries for help echoed in the lobby. The clashes continued after the sun had set, forcing the Legislative Council to postpone the second reading of the draft.

There were injuries—81 protesters and 22 police officers were injured during the clashes—two protesters were critically injured and 32 protesters were arrested. The large scale conflict was just the tip of the iceberg for the anti-extradition movement.

HKGov later defined the clash as a riot. Chief Executive, Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor made a televised speech on the same evening, strongly condemning someone for initiating a riot. Three days later on June 15, Lam suddenly announced that she would “suspend” the amendment. She also said it was very saddening the amendment had caused contradiction in the society.

Lam, however, said that she had good intent all along. She also believed the police had shown restraint during dispersal.

During the announcement of the suspension, Hongkonger Leung Ling-kit wore a yellow rain jacket with the words “Evil Cops are Cold Blooded. Carrie Lam killed Hong Kong” written on it. A huge white banner was hanging above a work platform outside Pacific Place.

Around 9 p.m., Leung suddenly climbed the scaffolding, but got into difficulty. By the time firemen arrived to rescue, Leung’s clothes became loose; he fell and landed on the ground. Unconscious, Leung was sent to the hospital and later it was announced that he had died.

Leung Ling-kit became the first person to die since the outbreak of the movement. The words on his forehead, “Five Demands” later became an important saying of the movement.

On June 16, the Civil Human Rights Front held another march and called out the five demands: 1) withdrawal of the extradition amendment, 2) no prosecution of the protesters, 3) independent investigation of the police officers who were responsible for opening fire, 4) withdraw the definition of demonstration as riot, 5) Carrie Lam to step down.

The number of people attended the rally far exceeded the number at the June 9 rally.

The police had to open up all six traffic lanes on Hennessy Road; they also opened up small side streets and alleyways to further ease the foot traffic. The line reached Arsenal Street at 10 p.m. The organizer later announced, that 2 million and one people attended the march. Police, however, said there were only 330, 800 participants at the peak of the event according to the original route.

While crowds of protesters were still sardined on the streets, HKGov released a statement that it had ceased all proceedings of the amendment. Carrie Lam also apologized to the people of Hong Kong. Lam promised that she would accept criticism wholeheartedly.

Unfortunately, the general public didn’t seem to favor Lam’s delayed apology; as she didn’t respond to the public requests of withdrawing the amendment and changing the characterization between demonstration and riot, her apology was received as insincere.

Tsunami of violence was getting more vicious

Following the unresponsiveness to the public’s deadline, the academic community and the public escalated their movement on June 21, 2019, including besieging the police headquarter, and launching non-cooperation campaigns.

Some netizens organized a crowdfunding campaign before the G20 Summit, advertising the Anti-extradition’ campaign on all major newspaper front pages globally, hoping that the readers would lobby their local governments, to speak for Hong Kong during the summit.

The crowdfunding campaign raised over 5 million HKD in just half a day.

A large number of citizens responded to an online appeal to petition at 19 foreign consulates in Hong Kong before the summit started to gain overseas traction.

By July 2019, the movement had undergone a drastic shift, including localized protests, which brought the protests and message posting on “Lennon Walls” into every district of Hong Kong. Protests and demonstrations happened almost weekly. It became the norm for Hongkongers. After the Sheung Wan demonstration on July 21, there was an incident of white tee-shirt clad attackers beating civilians inside Yuen Long MTR station. The incident focussed the movement and intensified the clashes between protesters and police.

From August that year, protests held by local civil organizations always ended with violent suppression by the Hong Kong Police.

Also in August, protesters twice paralyzed the Hong Kong International Airport. On August 18, HCRF organized another large-scale peaceful assembly attended by over 1.7 million people. On the evening of August 23, during the “Road to Hong Kong Human Chain Connect event,” a 60-kilometer long human chain trailed across Hong Kong. The organizer said over 210,000 citizens participated.

At the end of August, the violence between protesters and police escalated to a new high.

On the evening of August 31, 2019, about 100 members of the Special Tactical Squad and riot police stormed into Prince Edward MTR Station, platforms and train compartments; they indiscriminately beat and attacked whoever they saw. This Prince Edward Incident was labeled as “Yuen Long Attack 2.0,” which aggravated more protests. Carrie Lam later announced to withdraw the extradition amendment, but still refused to hold an independent investigation of the police. Her decision did not help to calm the situation.

On October 1, (CCP’s National Day), protesters called for “Blossom In Six Districts.” Fierce demonstrations broke out all over Hong Kong. That was when Tsuen Wan Secondary School student, Tsang Chi-kin, got shot by the police—the bullet almost hit Tsang’s heart.

Three days later, Carrie Lam announced the implementation of the Emergency Law and enacted the Anti-Mask Law, which triggered more intense clashes.

With the new launch of the “Three Strikes” campaign in November 2019, the intensity rose in each subsequent protest. Protesters also battled with the police inside the campus of the Polytechnic University of Hong Kong and the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Many people were hurt and arrested.

Dead Silence before devious moments

By the end of the 2019 the prolonged clashes slowly became static. The 2019 district council elections took over the hype of the movement, when it made a historic record high by of getting 2.94 million votes. The pro democratic parties won over 86 percent of the seats. Pro Beijing parties, DAB and the rural committee party lost by a landslide.

In addition, the United States announced the passage of the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act. It was used to sanction many Hong Kong and CCP officials for violating human rights.

After the election, Hongkongers continued to fight for their “Five Demands.” Pro democratic camps hoped to take advantage of their victory in the district council elections to win over half of the seating in the Legislative Council Election in 2020. To prepare, they held a pro-democracy primary to choose the best candidates. They hoped to gain many seats in the Legco and to force the government to respond to the five demands. The primary elections were deemed illegal by HKGov.

Covid-19 broke out in China at the end of December 2019. The epidemic spread rapidly. It Infected Hong Kong and all over the world in January 2020. Hong Kong switched its focus to virus prevention. The pandemic in Hong Kong subsided around May of 2020. Protests also became active once again. But the number of people attending dipped, compared to the past protests.

The National People’s Congress of the Communist Party of China passed a bill in the third meeting, authorizing the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress to formulate the Hong Kong National Security Law and the HKGov gazetted the bill on June 30, 2020. It only took 41 days for the law to be brought into effect. Hongkongers knew nothing about the draft. The CCP had been criticized for moving Hong Kong towards ‘One Country. One System.”

Later the U.S. passed the Hong Kong Autonomy Act, cancelled the recognition of the special treaty for Hong Kong and officially sanctioned many local and CCP officials.

The Hong Kong Police used the National Security Law to arrest political figures, including Chung Hon-lam, Jimmy Lai Chi-ying, Agnes Chow Ting. Other well-known figures such as Nathan Law Kwun-chung, Ted Hui Chi-fung announced that their exile due to the National Security Law. They were subsequently deemed wanted by the Hong Kong Police.

The mass arrests triggered various countries to relax their immigration restrictions and residence policies for Hongkongers.

This phenomenon led Hong Kong to a new wave of migration following the 1989 June 4 massacre in Tiananmen Square and the handover of Hong Kong to China in 1997.

According to government census data, the cumulative net outflow of people has exceeded 130,000 in just three years. The Immigration Department recorded a net outflow of 142,000 Hongkongers in the first quarter of 2022.

The lengthy political persecution

HKGov has used the National Security Law to suppress opposition, and at the same time has faced accusations of conspiring with the CCP to extradite Hongkongers to China.

On August 23, 2020, 12 anti-extradition protesters who were previously arrested, reportedly tried to escape to Taiwan on a speedboat. They were arrested by the Chinese Coast Guards, stirring local and international concerns. Hong Kong Police were accused of summoning the Government Flying Service for urgent assistance in the early hours. They sent two planes to monitor the movement of the speedboat traveling from Sai Kung to open water.

Both planes had police officers on board. The planes only returned after confirming that the speedboat had been stopped and the people on it were arrested by Chinese Coast Guards.

The authorities allegedly had prior knowledge of the escape plan and informed Chinese law enforcement, to conspire extradite of the 12 Hongkongers.

On the morning of January 6, 2021, police conducted a mass arrest of organisers of the pro-democracy primary election, citing subversion of state power. It was the largest arrest since the implementation of National Security Law. The arrests shocked the global community. The court later had to conduct a 4-day-marathon hearing to process all bails. The defendants were subjected to inhuman treatment during their detention, and the court was widely criticized. The 46 defendants had only completed the processing of being handed over to the High Court for trial or sentencing, at the beginning of June 2022.

It is expected that the earliest court day will now be in mid 2023, which would mean the defendants will have been imprisoned before trial for over two years.

Secretary for Security Chris Tang Ping-keung said in a written reply to the Legislative Council, that as of February 28, 2022, a total of 10,277 people involved in the anti-extradition movement had been arrested. They are aged between 11 to 94. Of the 10,277 people prosecuted, 1,172 people had been convicted.

Under the National Security Law, a total of 175 people had been arrested, of whom 112 people (64 percent) and 5 companies had been prosecuted. Eight people who had completed their trials had been convicted, 78 people were still remanded for trial, while 59 people were granted bail.

According to the judiciary figures, as of the end of March 2022, all-level courts had received about 2,100 cases relating to the anti-extradition movement, of which over 1700 cases (83%) had been closed. The vast majority (94%), which were handled by the Magistrates’ Court had been closed.

What did the tsunami sweep away?

The 3-year long movement had impacted the way people think of “One Country. Two Systems.” and “Hongkongers governing Hong Kong.” The regime continues to suppress civil society.

Many things that people were once accustomed to suddenly were cast away. Everything from media freedom, civil organizations, creative freedom, as well as the mutual trust among Hongkongers, were gone at a stroke.

Citizens began to self sensor and snitch on each other because of enforcement of the National Security Law and the activation of outdated regulations against civilians.

For instance, a clothing store in Tai O received complains because a banner of a well known saying by Chairman Mao Zedong was hung outside the shop, “Revolution is not a crime. Liberation has reason.” Police accused the shop of violating the National Security Law, but later claimed that it didn’t involve criminal elements.

DAB Legislator Eunice Yung Hoi-yan accused exhibitions at M+ Gallery of violating the National Security Law and demanded a review.

This March 2022, pro China online media accused Hong Kong Public Opinion Research Institute (HKPORI) of deliberately inciting hatred, citing a questionnaire on the Russia-Ukraine War. HKPORI later canceled the research result announcement, condemning the pro-China media for distorting the facts and claiming its report was entirely taken out of context.

The authorities have used legal means to purge the “disobedient” media outlets. Radio Television Hong Kong (RTHK),was reformed at the beginning of 2022. Leung Ka-wing, Director of Broadcasting Department was terminated early. After running for 26 years, pro-democracy newspaper Apple Daily was searched and its assets were frozen by the government. It was forced to cease operation on June 24 2021.

In December 2021, Hong Kong Police arrested the then and former executives of Pro democracy news outlet, Stand News. The assets of its parent company, valued at 61 million HKD were frozen overnight. Other pro-movement news outlets such as HKC News, DB Channel also announced their departure at the beginning of this year.

The National Security Law had caused a series of closures among civil groups. As of the end of 2021, at least 50 political groups and trade unions had been forced to disband. In August 2021, the Civil Human Rights Front and the Education Association of Hong Kong also announced their disbandment. In the same month, Hong Kong Police accused Hong Kong Alliance of being foreign agents, and demanded information submission of the alliance’s operational details. By September 9, 2021 seven members of its standing committee were arrested, all within a period of 48 hours. They were charged with inciting subversion of state power, Police also froze 2.2 million of their assets. Later on, HK Alliance decided to disband after internal voting. Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions (HKCTU) followed suit shortly after.

At the end of March 2022, police arrested multiple management executives of Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions (HKCTU), claiming they had failed to provide income details according to the Societies Ordnance, as well as contact details of its foreign and overseas groups.

In May 2022, Hong Kong Police arrested five trustees of the disbanded “612 Humanitarian Funds” for collusion with foreign powers.

Political tsunami and the future

This movement campaign had been described as the most serious political and humanitarian crisis since the birth of Hong Kong and the handover. Is Hong Kong autonomy dead?

The European Union issued an annual report on May 20, 2022 in which it states: Hong Kong has taken “an authoritarian turn” with its fundamental freedoms further deteriorating in 2021.

In  a recent interview with CNBC, Chief Executive Carrie Lam criticized western media outlets’ attempts to paint Hong Kong as “just another Chinese city.” She said that this is an absolute misunderstanding of “One Country, Two Systems.” The remark made her feel uneasy, stressing that Hong Kong’s autonomy and rule of law are perfectly intact, denying “two systems will expire by 2047.”

Poon Hiu-wing’s mother, who lost her beloved daughter, was heavily criticized by many Hongkongers, for assisting the pro-China members to attack Hongkongers, with her pleas for help from the party who supported extradition that ruined Hong Kong. Hongkongers blamed Poon’s mother for dragging the entire generation of Hongkongers into the political whirlpool.

Mrs Poon once said, that she had been deceived by the initial rhetoric words by Starry Lee Wai-king and Chow Ho-ding. She begged Hongkongers’ to forgive her for trusting the wrong people. Mrs Poon recently sent an open letter to Carrie Lam, urging her to extradite murderer Chan Tung-kai to Taiwan before Lam ends her term. Mrs Poon urged Lam to do what is right. However, Lam has not responded, neither did chief executive elect, John Lee.

Chief Executive elect John Lee Kai-chiu will take office from July 18, 2022. It is expected that he would be the executioner for China and continue degrading Hongkongers’ freedom. CCP leader Xi Junping said during his recent meeting with Lee, “I can affirm Lee’s unshakable stands on patriotism for the country and love for Hong Kong. Lee is proactive and responsible. Despite many challenges, the practice of One Country and Two Systems in Hong Kong will still reach globally recognized success.”

We can predict the trajectory of how Beijing would govern Hong Kong; but whether John Lee will be able to carry out the orders or become just an additional CCP puppet and usher Hong Kong into another turmoil, we can only wait and see.

Terence Tang

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