On the November 3, 2020, the Hong Kong Police arrested Bao Choy, a prizewinning journalist and producer of RTHK, the public broadcaster in Hong Kong. Choy’s work had exposed the authorities' delayed response to the mob attack in Yuen Long last year, also known as “721”.
The arrest is undoubtedly an act to crack down on press freedom in the city. Choy was arrested for checking data of car owners for reporting purposes, which is a breach of Section 111(3) of the Road Safety Ordinance, a criminal offence punishable by a fine of $5,000 and imprisonment for six months. Looking into publicly available records is an important tool of investigative journalism, and a tool that empowers citizens to access information, and this is exactly why the police are eager to ban it.
In August this year, the police arrested a 51-year-old man for disclosing his personal data after a licence check, and charged him with the offence of “disclosing personal data obtained without consent of a data user” under the Personal Data (Privacy) Ordinance. After the judicial review of the voter register last year, there were rumours that the Junior Police Officers' Association of Hong Kong (JPOA) intended to apply for an injunction to restrict public inspection of vehicle registration records on the pretext that police officers were doxed. Last year the High Court issued a temporary restraining order banning anyone from doxing law enforcement officers and their families. The government has repeatedly claim disclosure of information about police officers or officials are invasion of their privacy and should be made criminal.
But the arrest of Choy illustrates the police’s concern is far more than themselves being doxed. They want to eliminate the fourth power of the city, and block all possible access to information. Being the most indefensible pain point of the Hong Kong Police, 721 was a dereliction of duty. The Asia’s finest cannot bear anyone criticizing them, and they are eager for silencing anyone who brings it up.
The police have taken actions to change the narrative about 721 ever since it took place. A lawmaker, who filmed the attack and was one of the victims, was arrested. The police also said it took them 18 minutes to arrive at the scene, instead of 39 as they previously claimed, and they did not get on well with the men in white, but drove them away with sticks, so all the videos we see are fake news. Or as Orwell’s famous book, 1984, said, “The Party told you to reject the evidence of your eyes and ears.”
The government and the police think if they have control over the present, they have control over the future. They are eager to change the narrative of 721, eager to change facts and history in favor of them. Altering narratives is considered as the trump card of authoritarian regimes. The Chinese Communist Party succeeded in making most of the mainlanders forget about June Forth, or to be precise, they have never heard about the massacre which took place in Tiananmen Square. The Hong Kong Police wants to do the same, slightly amending the story and fabricating the facts, so some day Hong Kongers will forget about 721.
History is written by human beings, but the motive, angle, wording and distance between the writer and the truth can be manipulated. The cruel reality is the “official” version has a greater chance of being preserved than the private version we experienced, and therefore history is always the history of those who have the power and the winner. In Taiwan, the truth of the February 28 incident was uncovered, and June Fourth has disappeared from the minds of the new generation in Mainland China, because the dictatorship lies.
But the people will remember. I remember vividly how terrified and upset I was to see friends being beaten up that day. The regime is systematically falsifying the truth of 721, and those of us who have personally experienced it have a historical responsibility to protect the truth.
(Glacier Kwong, born and raised in Hong Kong, became a digital rights and political activist at the age of 15. She is currently pursuing her PhD in Law and working on the course for Hong Kong in Germany. Her work has been published on Washington Post, TIME, etc.)
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