Yesterday was a dark day of Hong Kong’s democracy and freedom. Next Digital’s founder Jimmy Lai, Democratic Party’s founding chairman Martin Lee and several other people of the pan-democrats have been convicted of organizing and knowingly participating in unauthorized protests because of them taking part in the assembly initiated by the Civil Human Rights Front on Aug. 18, 2019 (818 Case) and a demonstration on Aug. 31, 2019 (831 Case). After hearing their mitigation pleas at the West Kowloon Magistrates’ Court, Judge Amanda Woodcock ruled that imprisonment is the only option! For the 818 Case, both Lai and Lee Cheuk-yan have received a 12 months jail sentence; the former received another eight months term and the latter six months for the 831 Case. Both have to serve 14 months for the two cases.
On the 818 Case, Leung Kwok-hung “Long Hair” received 18 months sentence, Au Nok-hin 10 months, Cyd Ho eight months, Leung Yiu-chung received eight months suspended for one year, Margaret Ng and Albert Ho were both given 12 months sentence but suspended for two years, and Martin Lee was given an 11 months sentence suspended for two years. In the 831 Case, Yeung Sum was handed a sentence of eight months suspended for 12 months. In addition, Lai still has two other cases currently being processed by the court.
The outcome like this is not surprising, but we still feel sad about Hong Kong’s freedom and the rule of law. As we have pointed out after the defendants of these cases have been found guilty of the charges, this series of actions suppressing the Hong Kong citizens, who legally expressed their political rights, has shown Beijing is increasing its control on Hong Kong. We all know Beijing’s high-handed behavior has provoked more and more harsh criticism and counter-measures from the western countries, which could even be one of the main factors that caused the current tense relationship between Beijing and the western countries.
At the court yesterday, Margaret Ng, delivering her own mitigation plea, plainly pointed out, “The law should give protection to rights, not take them away...when the court applies a law which takes away fundamental rights, the confidence in the courts and judicial independence is shaken, even though the fault lies in the law, not with the judge who applies it, and that would strike at the foundation of our rule of law.” It is exactly the kind of persistence toward the rule of law which had given the Hongkongers and the other people the solid confidence that Hong Kong will realize a free and open democratic society.
However, some cases in the past and yesterday’s judgment show a clear warning that this confidence is breaking down. Hong Kong’s future of being free and open is uncertain, and democracy is being severely wrecked. It is all because Beijing wants to control everything. It has not only gone back on its promise to the international society and Hongkongers that Hong Kong “will maintain a high degree of autonomy,” worse still, this shady behavior has also gone against the “revolutionary tradition” of the CCP before its change and “alienation” in nature.
I re-read the speech from Mao Zedong at the assembly of his occupying Shaan-Gan-Ning Border Region on the eve before the Yan’an Rectification Movement 80 years ago. During the speech, Mao heavily promoted “the Revolution’s Three Principles of the People.” He said, “everyone in the country should have the right of having personal freedom, the right to take part in politics, and the right to protect one’s assets. Everyone in the country should have a chance to speak...”
Mao then pointed out that a clause in the “Shaan-Gan-Ning Border Region Policy Agenda” (similar to the “constitution” of the border region) said the Communist Party member should have democratic cooperation with people outside of the Party. He said, “members of the Communist Party must listen to the opinion of people outside the Party and allow the others to speak. We should welcome the others’ opinions when they are correct and learn the goods from the others. When the others are wrong, we should still allow them to finish before slowly explaining to them.” He stressed that the country’s affair is a public matter of the country, not a private matter of the Party. Therefore, the Party members have the duty to enforce democratic cooperation with people outside the party, and no right to exclude the others and dominate everything. He said the Party should be monitored by the people and never work against the wish of the people. The Party members should be among, not above, the people.
So what is the difference between that and the discussions on fighting for democracy and freedom in Hong Kong in the last couple of years? What is the difference between that and the suggestions and behavior of those who have been convicted yesterday? Mao precisely told the Party members 80 years ago that they do not have the right to “exclude the others and dominate everything.” We won’t talk about what Mao did afterward here. But it is crystal clear that the CCP used democracy and freedom as the key slogan of its “revolutionary tradition” during its early era.
Now, it is the era that the Party leads everything. The totalitarian thoughts and policies of the central government indicated the CCP has seriously alienated and changed in its nature. The “alienation of thoughts” caused the “arrogance of power” such as yesterday, when the opinion of two million Hongkongers who attended a “water flow style” assembly has been suppressed. Isn’t it an irony to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the establishment of the CCP?
Taiwan has gone through a similar experience before the democratization. Hence we have empathy with yesterday’s judgment. But, with many of the convicted individuals showing their determination and confidence, we believe Hongkongers will stand tall and go through the storm together!
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