Gabriel Yiu: Is there cause for celebration on the 25th anniversary of Hong Kong’s handover to China?

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      July 1st marks the 25th anniversary of Hong Kong’s handover to China.

      Under the auspices of celebrating the “mighty achievement” of Hong Kong’s true return to its motherland, it is reported that Chinese president Xi Jinping will make a historic visit to Hong Kong to mark the momentous occasion.

      The underlying message of his presence and celebration is that for most of the past 25 years, Hong Kong has not been fully governed by Beijing, despite the promise of a high degree of autonomy enshrined in Basic Law, the “mini-constitution” of Hong Kong. However, due to the strong leadership of President Xi, Hong Kong is now genuinely returned to its motherland, thus the great cause for celebration.

      The Hong Kong government has gone to great expense in promoting its 25th anniversary handover and this “New Era” for Hong Kong, spending big money overseas with large scale sponsored activities ranging from curated exhibitions and advertising campaigns to hosting luxurious banquets for government officials and the community at large.

      Over the past two years, Hongkongers and the world have seen Hong Kong’s rapid degeneration into a police state. With the Chinese Community Party’s declaring that the United Nations registered Sino-British Joint Declaration as merely a “historical document”, the Chinese government has effectively nullified any autonomy, basic human rights, and freedoms guaranteed under “One Country Two Systems”.

      In Hong Kong currently, many pro-democracy activists and former legislators are facing persecution, and news of further arrests and crackdowns are emerging constantly. Only a handful of pro-democracy politicians and activists are able to leave the special administrative region, for a life of exile overseas.

      All pro-democratic candidates who participated in the primary nomination of the 2020 Legislative Council election have been arrested, or have arrest warrants issued for them, and have been charged with “conspiracy to subversion” under the city’s new National Security Law. The charge carries a maximum sentence of life in prison. At this time, most of these people are still in jail, with many who have been held in captivity for over a year before trials have even begun.

      With electoral changes in Hong Kong initiated by the National People's Congress to “amend electoral rules and improve the electoral system” to ensure that only “patriots” can govern Hong Kong, there was only one candidate for the recent election of its chief executive. The legislative council is likewise filled with “patriots” endorsed by the central government.

      At the same time, media tycoon Jimmy Lai has been arrested and his Apple Daily, the loudest media voice critical of the government, shut down and the assets were seized. Other media sources and human rights organizations with public trust in Hong Kong are being forced to close. Most of the media pundits who dared to scrutinize the government have either disappeared or have left Hong Kong. The press freedom that Hongkongers have enjoyed throughout their lives has been eradicated, seemingly overnight.

      Initially, the Hong Kong government used pandemic measures to forbid Hongkongers from gathering and rallying on the streets. However, even “parties” of a single person by themselves on the streets have been charged for violating the social gathering restriction order by the police.

      The terms “Liberate Hong Kong” and “Revolution of Our Times”, two pro-democracy slogans, have been declared by the government as an expression of subversion and completely banned by the National Security Law. In today’s Hong Kong, people who hold up a piece of white paper on the street could be arrested by police.

      Over the past two years, hundreds of thousands of people have left their homes, friends, and communities in Hong Kong in tears. The exodus even includes those who supported the government’s suppression. These so-called “blue ribbon” folks may express love for the CCP and applauded the crackdown of the pro-democracy movement but in the end, they understood that the One Country Two System that safeguards Hongkongers’ freedom and human rights is no longer there, and they do not want to see their children brainwashed by the CCP’s patriotic education.

      Rita Fan, former speaker of the Hong Kong Legislative Council and member of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress, recently gave this advice to the people of Hong Kong:

      “The last 25 years have taught all Hong Kong residents a very good lesson: don’t talk about democracy, don’t talk about the value of human rights; the fact is, our basic rights are to be able to do some work and have a reasonable expectation of some remuneration, and that the amount of remuneration could give us a steady life, and maybe even a little growth. If this cannot be achieved, whatever democracy we may discuss is useless.”

      In light of the deterioration of human rights and freedom in Hong Kong, the government of Canada has expressed concerns and condemnation on many occasions.

      In Canada, anyone with conscience would be devastated to see the huge dissolution of Hong Kong’s civilized society into a totalitarian crackdown of basic human rights and freedom, and to witness the jailing of dissidents, including the most moderate ones. The 25th anniversary of Hong Kong’s handover marks the end of human rights and freedom and the complete alteration into a police state.  

      Unless one is completely ignorant of events transpiring in recent years or has been brainwashed, how could anyone put on a smile in the face of blatant propaganda and find any cause to celebrate this so-called New Era for a police state in Hong Kong? 

      Gabriel Yiu is a longtime contributor to The Georgia Straight publishes opinions like this from the community to encourage constructive debate on important issues.