Dear Hong Kongers,
Here we are at the end of yet another week of gruesome events, where a profound sense of despair tried to grab a hold more than once as we watched global symbols for freedom and democracy Joshua, Agnes and Ivan being led away after their sentencing, as iCable suddenly laid off 40 journalists and crew members, as we watched Jimmy Lai cuffed and denied bail, as we eagerly wait for news from the 12 Hong Kong Youth, as we see independent voices being silenced, as we assist to a climate of fear grabbing hold of a city that was to be a bulwark of freedom…
But as we enter this new week, I take to heart the words the caring and tireless campaigner Sam Goodman from Hong Kong Watch wrote me on the morning of Jimmy Lai’s arrest: “Gotta lose yourself in action, otherwise you will fall into a pit of despair”. He gifted me these words stated to him by the late American Congressman and nonviolent civil rights leader John Lewis. Words that are both a consolation and a call to action.
We owe it to all those whose voice they try to silence and whose home and freedom they have taken, to transform our pain into daily action, moving even a single millimetre a day in the right direction, never allowing ourselves to forget or to give in. Those who have sacrificed so much, if not all, need to know they can count on others to carry on the cause. And so, rather than give in to despair, let us start this week by looking at some good news and the actions we must undertake together over the coming days, weeks and months.
On December 10, International Human Rights Day, the European Union should finally sign off on its EU Global Human Rights Sanctions Regime, an equivalent to the US Magnitsky Act. This is a fundamental step towards ensuring a broader coordination across democracies of imposed individual sanctions. It should create a momentum to be seize immediately to ensure the Sanctions Regime is implemented immediately across EU Member States and that designation of names happens swiftly. The numerous Members of Parliament across Member States as well as the European Parliament who have come out in support of Hong Kong, Joshua Wong, Agnes Chow, Ivan Lam and so many others, should play a pivotal role in this.
Today, two amendments are being put forward to the new Trade Bill in the United Kingdom. Thanks to truly brilliant and amazing advocacy work by Luke de Pulford and Rahima Mahmut and upon proposal by Lord Alton of Liverpool, Baroness Kennedy of the Shaws, Lord Forsyth of Drumlean and Baroness Falkner of Margravine, if approved by both Houses of Parliament, International bilateral Trade Agreements with the UK may be revoked if and when the High Court of England and Wales makes a preliminary determination that another signatory to the relevant agreement represents a state which has committed genocide under Article II of the United Nations Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, following an application to revoke an international bilateral trade agreement on this ground from a person or a group of persons belonging to a national, ethnic, racial, or religious group, or an organization representing such a group, which has been the subject of that genocide.
Both the above developments represent enormous steps forward in creating concrete and effective mechanisms to hold authoritarian regimes around the world to account where existing global mechanisms fail, and we owe a great debt of gratitude and admiration to those who have made these possible. They represent a possible future alternative to what is currently being prospected. They are providing all of us with a fighting chance in standing up to authoritarian regimes and those who violate human rights.
Another significant milestone was reached last week: on December 3rd, as Agnes Chow spent her 24th birthday behind prison bars, our proposal for the recognition of a new human and civil Right to Know was heard and welcomed by the Committee on Culture, Science, Education and Media of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, the largest regional body for the promotion of human rights, democracy and the rule of law, comprising 47 Member States. The road may yet be long for this right to be fully recognized around the globe, but its aim and scope are fundamental tools in the global struggle for democracy, human rights and the rule of law. As Joey Siu wrote this week: one of the main aims of the Chinese Communist Party(CCP) is most evidently silencing any opposition and making sure their voices cannot be heard. The continuous and increasing acts of repression of the freedom of the press, freedom of thought and freedom of expression are a direct testament to this. As I have written before, I remain firmly convinced the biggest crime Hong Kongers committed in the eyes of Beijing has been their capacity to bring their struggle to the global stage. Such would not have been possible without the freedoms once guaranteed in Hong Kong.
Such has not been possible in Xinjiang, in Tibet, in Southern Mongolia, and in tons of other realities we may not even be aware of, in and outside China. Joey concluded her opinion piece: “If noise is what the CCP is afraid of, we shall never be silenced.” A fundamental corollary of this is to ensure that those voices then be heard all around the world through the right to know, that the censorship applied by regimes all over be undone in democratic countries, that victims of oppression may share their story with and be heard by public opinion, bring their case before courts and tribunals, and see perpetrators effectively punished.
This is a scenario we are slowly - often too slowly for those suffering today - but surely moving towards today through the above-described measures. This is a scenario that those standing up for freedom, for human rights, for democracy in Hong Kong helped make possible. Your struggle, your fight, your voice has awakened thousands of people around the world. Your plight has moved and is moving Parliaments. Not just for Hong Kong, but for people living under oppression all around the world. As you stand on the frontline against the encroaching darkness, know not only that you do not stand alone, but that you are producing miracles for the protection of each and every single individual around the world in the future. So, Hong Kong: Thank you! Hang in there! Be safe! Resist!
(Laura Harth. A human rights activist, she coordinates activities with the Global Committee for the Rule of Law “Marco Pannella” (GCRL). She also acts as a regional liaison for the Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China (IPAC).)
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