Rule of law under attack in Hong Kong

Domestic News

Democratic legislation, the rule of law, freedom of speech, a liberal education system, and life as it has generally been known in the former British Colony are eroding rapidly under Beijing's encroachment.

A graphic from Xinhua’s Hong Kong Facebook page. Jonathan Cheng comments on Twitter: “The massive NO NEED TO BE AFRAID towering over the city is a nice touch.” (The large characters read 唔使驚 — Cantonese for “don’t be afraid” that would be pronounced wú shǐ jīng in Mandarin.)

“Friday was, for observers concerned about the state of human rights in Hong Kong, one of the most depressing days in some time, and also sadly symbolic of the New Hong Kong,” writes Anthony Dapiran, Hong Kong–based lawyer and chronicler of the city’s protests: “In the course of just one day, we saw: the education system under attack, the legislature under attack, the rule of law under attack and, finally, the truth itself under attack.”

These are the events Dapiran refers to:

Education system under attack

A controversy emerged on May 14 when about 52,000 candidates in Hong Kong attended the city’s Diploma of Secondary Education (HKDSE) exam, a standardized college entrance test. In the test’s history section, examinees were asked if they agreed with the statement “Japan brought more good than harm to China in the period between 1900 and 1945.”

Beijing and its supporters in Hong Kong were outraged. Hong Kong’s education bureau announced (in Chinese) today that it had launched an investigation into the local Examinations and Assessment Authority (HKEAA), which set the offending exam, while various figures from Hong Kong’s pro-Beijing establishment condemned HKEAA for “hurting the feelings of the Chinese people.”

See Jiayun Feng’s story on SupChina for details.

Legislature under attack

“The Beijing-led coup in our Legislative Council continued,” writes Dapiran:

[T]his past Friday, LegCo president Andrew Leung (梁君彥 Liáng Jūnyàn) ordered (pan-democrats say without proper legal basis) that the pan-democrat house committee chair Dennis Kwok (郭榮鏗 Guō Róngkēng) — who had been accused by Beijing of facilitating a filibuster — be replaced with a pro-Beijing member, thus enabling the government to steamroller through its legislative agenda before the September elections.

Top of the government’s list? The National Anthem Law, which will make “insulting” or parodying the Chinese national anthem a criminal offense in Hong Kong punishable by up to three years jail.

Rule of law under attack

A 21-year-old man was sentenced to four years in jail for rioting on Friday, for his participation in protests outside Hong Kong’s Legislative Council on June 12, 2019. Dapiran comments: “It is difficult not to compare his sentence — at 48 months — to that of a pro-Beijing antagonist who went on a vicious knife attack at a suburban Lennon Wall, stabbing and hospitalising three people, one critically injured. He was sentenced to only 45 months jail.”

Truth under attack

One of the Hong Kong protesters’ Five Key Demands is an independent inquiry into police behavior, which the government has rebuffed because the city’s Independent Police Complaints Council was carrying out its own investigation:

Well, the much-ballyhooed IPCC report was finally issued on Friday, and, to the surprise of precisely nobody, was a complete whitewash.

But most galling was the manner in which Lam presented the findings: in front of a vast backdrop of images of fiery destruction from last year’s protests, emblazoned with the slogan “The Truth About Hong Kong”. (Paging Mr. Orwell!)

Read Dapiran’s whole note on Hong Kong’s depressing Friday, or see the links below for details on these stories: