Let’s Discover the Traits of the Tiger, and Use the Year of the Tiger to Fight for Freedom

Commentary Today we begin the celebration of Lunar New Year and welcome in the Year of the Tiger. I want to begin by wishing all Mandarin-speaking friends gong xi fa cai, and Cantonese speakers gong hei fat choy. Over the past decade, I have been increasingly critical of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), as it has unleashed a major crackdown on everyone who displays anything other than absolute loyalty to Xi Jinping and the Party. The intensification of repression in China has included some of the most severe atrocity crimes—genocide and crimes against humanity—as well as a nationwide campaign of persecution against Christians, the dismantling of Hong Kong’s freedoms and autonomy, increased repression in Tibet, continued persecution of Falun Gong, the disappearance of human rights defenders, including lawyers, and the shutdown of whatever limited space previously existed for civil society, independent media, citizen journalism, and dissent. In response to these appalling developments, I have been involved in helping to establish several initiatives—from the China Tribunal into forced organ harvesting to the Uyghur Tribunal into genocide, from the UK Conservative Party Human Rights Commission’s two inquiries and reports on China’s human rights crisis, in 2016 and 2020, to the foundation of Hong Kong Watch. And I have been privileged to play a small part in the Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China (IPAC), the Stop Uyghur Genocide campaign, the China Democracy Foundation, the International Coalition to End Transplant Abuse in China (ETAC), and Tories for Tibet. As a result, I know I am not popular in Beijing. In 2017, I was perhaps the first Westerner to be publicly refused entry to Hong Kong, the city that had once been my home and where I had begun my career as a journalist and activist. I then found myself a target for the CCP’s intimidation efforts, receiving anonymous, threatening letters postmarked from Hong Kong at my home address in a sleepy suburb of London. Such letters were also sent to my neighbors, my mother, and my employers. Such tactics are typical of the CCP in China—putting pressure on dissidents by threatening them directly and trying to get neighbors, relatives, and employers to silence them—but the idea that the regime thought this would work in London is bizarre. And they did not stop there. At least five different British Members of Parliament on five separate occasions have been lobbied by the Chinese Embassy in London, specifically asking them to shut me up. Then in October 2018, I was the target of a torrent of screaming verbal abuse by a CGTN journalist, Kong Linlin, at the Conservative Party Conference. After screaming at me, she physically assaulted my friend—an incident that was caught on camera and went viral. She was subsequently convicted in a British court of common assault. More recently, the intimidation attempts moved into the digital realm, with fake email accounts being set up in my name and absurd emails sent to parliamentarians, journalists, and others by my impersonator. I am not the only one to be subjected to this—British MPs Tom Tugendhat, chair of the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee, Sir Iain Duncan Smith, former leader of the Conservative Party, Nus Ghani, Lord David Alton, and my friend and colleague, IPAC Co-ordinator Luke de Pulford have all experienced a similar email campaign. On a visit to Canada late last year, I received for the first time a more specific threat—an email that made reference to the exact hotel where I was due to stay in Vancouver. Compared with previous threats, this was more concerning because it indicated specific knowledge of my precise location. I received security advice that made me take this seriously, and I took appropriate precautions. Why am I sharing all this now? For four reasons. First, around the world governments, parliamentarians, the media, and the public are finally starting to wake up to the dangers of the CCP. Xi’s regime is not only increasingly repressive at home, it is also increasingly aggressive abroad, but its “wolf-warrior” diplomacy is losing friends and its long-standing infiltration, influence, intimidation, and espionage operations to subvert democracies are finally being exposed. The recent decision by Britain’s intelligence agency M15 to warn Parliament about the activities of the CCP’s United Front Work Department, and specifically one of its operatives, Christine Lee, is very welcome, if rather late in the day. Detail of an MI5 Security Service Interference Alert (SSIA) identifying Christine Lee as “an agent of the Chinese government” operating in the British Parliament, issued by the Office of the Speaker of the House of Commons on Jan. 12, 2022 (House of Commons/PA) My experiences are just one tiny illustration of the much bigger and wider threat that the CCP poses around the world. To understand the scale and range of the CCP’s tactics abroad, you would do well to read Clive Ha

Let’s Discover the Traits of the Tiger, and Use the Year of the Tiger to Fight for Freedom

Commentary

Today we begin the celebration of Lunar New Year and welcome in the Year of the Tiger. I want to begin by wishing all Mandarin-speaking friends gong xi fa cai, and Cantonese speakers gong hei fat choy.

Over the past decade, I have been increasingly critical of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), as it has unleashed a major crackdown on everyone who displays anything other than absolute loyalty to Xi Jinping and the Party. The intensification of repression in China has included some of the most severe atrocity crimesgenocide and crimes against humanityas well as a nationwide campaign of persecution against Christians, the dismantling of Hong Kong’s freedoms and autonomy, increased repression in Tibet, continued persecution of Falun Gong, the disappearance of human rights defenders, including lawyers, and the shutdown of whatever limited space previously existed for civil society, independent media, citizen journalism, and dissent.

In response to these appalling developments, I have been involved in helping to establish several initiativesfrom the China Tribunal into forced organ harvesting to the Uyghur Tribunal into genocide, from the UK Conservative Party Human Rights Commission’s two inquiries and reports on China’s human rights crisis, in 2016 and 2020, to the foundation of Hong Kong Watch. And I have been privileged to play a small part in the Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China (IPAC), the Stop Uyghur Genocide campaign, the China Democracy Foundation, the International Coalition to End Transplant Abuse in China (ETAC), and Tories for Tibet.

As a result, I know I am not popular in Beijing. In 2017, I was perhaps the first Westerner to be publicly refused entry to Hong Kong, the city that had once been my home and where I had begun my career as a journalist and activist. I then found myself a target for the CCP’s intimidation efforts, receiving anonymous, threatening letters postmarked from Hong Kong at my home address in a sleepy suburb of London. Such letters were also sent to my neighbors, my mother, and my employers. Such tactics are typical of the CCP in Chinaputting pressure on dissidents by threatening them directly and trying to get neighbors, relatives, and employers to silence thembut the idea that the regime thought this would work in London is bizarre.

And they did not stop there. At least five different British Members of Parliament on five separate occasions have been lobbied by the Chinese Embassy in London, specifically asking them to shut me up. Then in October 2018, I was the target of a torrent of screaming verbal abuse by a CGTN journalist, Kong Linlin, at the Conservative Party Conference. After screaming at me, she physically assaulted my friendan incident that was caught on camera and went viral. She was subsequently convicted in a British court of common assault.

More recently, the intimidation attempts moved into the digital realm, with fake email accounts being set up in my name and absurd emails sent to parliamentarians, journalists, and others by my impersonator. I am not the only one to be subjected to thisBritish MPs Tom Tugendhat, chair of the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee, Sir Iain Duncan Smith, former leader of the Conservative Party, Nus Ghani, Lord David Alton, and my friend and colleague, IPAC Co-ordinator Luke de Pulford have all experienced a similar email campaign.

On a visit to Canada late last year, I received for the first time a more specific threatan email that made reference to the exact hotel where I was due to stay in Vancouver. Compared with previous threats, this was more concerning because it indicated specific knowledge of my precise location. I received security advice that made me take this seriously, and I took appropriate precautions.

Why am I sharing all this now? For four reasons.

First, around the world governments, parliamentarians, the media, and the public are finally starting to wake up to the dangers of the CCP. Xi’s regime is not only increasingly repressive at home, it is also increasingly aggressive abroad, but its “wolf-warrior” diplomacy is losing friends and its long-standing infiltration, influence, intimidation, and espionage operations to subvert democracies are finally being exposed.

The recent decision by Britain’s intelligence agency M15 to warn Parliament about the activities of the CCP’s United Front Work Department, and specifically one of its operatives, Christine Lee, is very welcome, if rather late in the day.

Epoch Times Photo
Detail of an MI5 Security Service Interference Alert (SSIA) identifying Christine Lee as “an agent of the Chinese government” operating in the British Parliament, issued by the Office of the Speaker of the House of Commons on Jan. 12, 2022 (House of Commons/PA)

My experiences are just one tiny illustration of the much bigger and wider threat that the CCP poses around the world. To understand the scale and range of the CCP’s tactics abroad, you would do well to read Clive Hamilton and Mareike Ohlberg’s book “Hidden Hand: Exposing How the Chinese Communist Party is Reshaping the World.”

Second, my experiences pale into insignificance compared with the threats to Chinese, Hong Kong, Tibetan, and Uyghur exiles, who face a much more serious physical threat and the emotional struggle of knowing that their relatives back in China may be in danger if they speak out against the CCP. But if the CCP is prepared to go as far as to threaten Western activists and parliamentarians in their own homes and in democratic societies, it does not take much imagination to understand how much further they may go to silence those it regards as its own people in exile.

The third reason for sharing thisand for doing so at this timeis that we must never, ever give in. The threats I have received only embolden me to continue and to redouble my efforts. If anything, I regard them as a badge of honor. And it also shows me that far from being the confident, strong superpower it wants us to believe it is, in fact the CCP regime is weaker and more insecure than we may realize.

A regime that resorts to trying to silence critics abroad is not a superpower. A regime that puts at the top of the agenda in a meeting with a British MP a request to shut me upwhen also on the agenda for that meeting were global challenges and issues such as climate change and tradeis not a secure regime. A regime that is so scared about an article due to be published about Hong Kong that it calls an MP to ask him to pressure me to withdraw the article pre-publication is cowardly and paranoid. A regime that spends time and money sending letters to my 80 year-old mother in the English countryside in the hope that she will reprimand her son is one worthy of ridicule. My mother, by the way, laughed at the letters and told me she had given up trying to tell me what to do 30 years ago.

In this Year of the Tiger, the free world should rediscover the characteristics of the tigerfearlessness and courageand stand up to the butchers of Beijing. The age of kowtowing is over. The example of Lithuania, a small but plucky nation that understands from its own history the value of freedom and has stood up to the CCP with remarkable courage, should inspire us, as should Taiwan. Other democracies should stand with them, and together we should build a “United Front” for freedom to counter the CCP’s United Front.

Let us use this Year of the Tiger to fight back, to defend our freedoms at home and to speak out for the peoples living under CCP repression within China’s borders. As the Winter Olympics open in Beijing on Feb. 4Games that a criminal regime such as Xi’s should never have been allowed to hostlet us use them to shine a spotlight on the CCP’s crimes and generate maximum embarrassment for the CCP.

Epoch Times Photo
British Conservative Party MPs Nusrat Ghani (C), Sir Iain Duncan Smith (R), and UK director of the World Uyghur Congress Rahima Mahmut at a demonstration call on the British Parliament to vote to recognize alleged persecution of China’s Uyghurs as genocide and crimes against humanity, in London, on April 22, 2021. (Justin Tallis/AFP via Getty Images)

The fourth reason for writing at this time is to say that I love China, its culture, history, and diverse peoples. Throughout history China has contributed so much to the world. My fight is not with China or its peoples, but with the CCP—and we should always differentiate between the two. Beijing and its proxies accuse me of being “anti-China.” The CCP’s wumaos earn their fifty cents every day on Twitter leveling this charge. But on the contrary, it is because I am deeply pro-Chinaas a countrythat I want its diverse peoples to be treated with dignity and respect, and granted the basic freedoms and rights that I enjoy. In that sense, it is the CCP and its repressive, mendacious character that is “anti-China.”

We should never confuse criticism of the CCP with anti-China or anti-Chinese racism. Such racism exists and, tragically, is increasing, and we should always call it out, condemn it, and counter it. But the CCP is increasingly setting a trap for us, suggesting that criticism of the Chinese regime is akin to racism. Nothing could be further from the truth, especially when that regime is itself shaped by a deep racism that has had genocidal consequences for the Uyghurs, Kazakhs, other Muslim minorities, and Tibetans, among others. It is possible to be genuinely anti-racist and anti-CCP at the same time, and it is imperative that we are.

I first went to China at the age of 18, to teach English for six months in Qingdao. I made many friends there, went back to teach in a hospital during my summer holidays as a university student, lived in Hong Kong for the first five years after the handover, and travelled widely throughout China until I was no longer able to. I have very fond memories of making dumplings in Qingdao at Lunar New Year, and of celebrating the festival in Hong Kong during my years there. I look forward to the day when I can return to China and Hong Kong, when they are free, to celebrate Lunar New Year with my friends in liberty and without fear.

Let us use this Year of the Tiger to redouble our efforts to work for that goal. Let us not allow the CCP to intimidate us. It is said that the Year of the Tiger symbolizes “recovery” and “growth.” After the COVID-19 pandemic, the whole world needs that. But let it not only be an economic recovery and growth. Let us work for a recovery and growth in values, especially freedom, democracy, and human rightswhich I hope the diverse peoples living under CCP repression today will one day enjoy.

Happy Lunar New Year.

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.


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Benedict Rogers is a human rights activist and writer. He is the co-founder and chief executive of Hong Kong Watch, senior analyst for East Asia at the international human rights organization CSW, co-founder and deputy chair of the UK Conservative Party Human Rights Commission, and member of the advisory group of the Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China (IPAC), the International Coalition to End Transplant Abuse in China, and the Stop Uyghur Genocide Campaign.