A former pro-democracy lawmaker in Hong Kong says people have become “distressed” and “disillusioned” as some fear the city has lost important freedoms.
Widespread pro-democracy protests that shook Hong Kong in 2019 have largely subsided, in part due to the outbreak of Covid-19 and the adoption of a controversial national security law last year.
Emily Lau, a former member of the Democratic Party of the Hong Kong Legislative Council, said that some Hong Kongers now fear that “we have probably lost our freedom of speech, assembly, freedom of demonstration, perhaps not forever, but for many, many years. “
Beijing circumvented Hong Kong’s legislature to implement a national security law last year. Last month, China approved sweeping changes to Hong Kong’s electoral system that critics said would deter democratic politicians.
These movements followed months of pro-democracy protests in 2019 that sometimes turned violent. Chinese and Hong Kong authorities have said the changes will protect national security and curb anti-Chinese movement in the semi-autonomous region.
‘Rights and freedoms’
Hong Kong is a former British colony that was returned to Chinese rule in 1997. The Sino-British Joint Declaration, signed before Hong Kong’s return, said the city would have “a high degree of autonomy”, including legislative and independent judicial power.
“Rights and freedoms, including the person, speech, press, assembly, association, travel, movement, correspondence, strike, choice of profession, academic research and religious beliefs will be guaranteed by law in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region,” the statement said. .
But critics of China – which includes pro-democracy activists and governments such as those in the United States and Britain – have accused China of undermining Hong Kong’s autonomy.
Dozens of pro-democracy activists in Hong Kong have been arrested and charged under national security law. But Lau said, “I refuse to be intimidated into silence.”
“We want China to keep its promises in the Sino-British Joint Declaration and the Constitution,” she said, adding that she and other activists were not seeking to overthrow the Hong Kong government or the central government in Beijing.
The Constitution is Hong Kong’s mini-constitution, which lays down the principle of “one country, two systems” used to govern the city.
Beijing, for its part, has said that Hong Kong’s national security law and electoral changes are in line with the “one country, two systems” framework.