I do hope, as the writer of this article or as a complete stranger to you, that you would spend your time reading this article for the reasons that (i) Hong Kong was once a British colony and (ii) Hong Kong has, still, no true democracy within its territory. It amazes me how freedom and human rights could deteriorate so badly in a seemingly metropolitan city.
Some readers might be aware that the 1st July is the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Establishment Day: on the exact same date in 1997, the governance power which the United Kingdom had enjoyed after the victory in the World War II was returned to the Chinese government. Nevertheless, I doubt whether you are aware that a protest, commonly known as Hong Kong 1st July Protest, is held annually on the exact same date.
In fact, the protest first started in 1997, but it was not until 2003 that the protest had actually attracted public and media attention. In 2003, there was a proposed legislation of Basic Law Article 23. The whole legislation was approximately 45 pages in length, and to briefly summarise, the article aimed to prohibit treason, subversion, secession, incitement of any kind of the above behaviour, sedition and contact of any kind with foreign political groups. Essentially, it was a sheer and total violation of basic freedoms and rights. If a person starts a protest against a government’s corruption, then that person would be found guilty under the legislation. If freedom of assembly and freedom of speech are fundamental rights, then it would be fair to regard Article 23 as an utter disregard of such rights. I cannot help but imagine how Hong Kong would be governed if Article 23 were passed. I reckon it would be somehow similar to the reign of terror in France between 1793 and 1794, or Red Terror/White Terror in Communism and Fascism. Realizing that, and accompanied by a few major events including the outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and the dissatisfaction towards the incapable Chief Executive, at least 500,000 people took part in the protest. It was about 8% of the total population of Hong Kong, but considering the real population who was physically or mentally capable of attending the protest, it should had roughly taken 13% of Hong Kong’s population.
I am so delighted to tell you that, thanks to the massive amount of democratic fighters, Article 23 was in the end abolished.
Ever since then, the theme of the annual protest has shifted from prevention of violation against human rights to acquisition of election rights. British friend Conor, also my flatmate, used to joke that Hong Kong is a communist country in front of me. That is actually a partially correct description of Hong Kong’s political system. We, the Hong Kong people, have no right to vote in the Chief Executive Election but instead a small group of 1,200 people, who are not elected by the public, vote in our stead. The winner of the election has always been the participant who is closely bonded, or the most obedient, to the Chinese government, due to the fact that the majority of the election committee strives to please the Chinese government and follows all instructions given by that body. Therefore, the Chief Executive is actually “appointed” instead of “elected”. The Chinese government strives to intervene with matters of state in Hong Kong and has been reluctant to forsake its power there, fearing that once people got the right to vote for the Chief Executive, they can no longer control or influence Hong Kong if someone from a democratic background is elected by the people.
In the western world, human rights and fundamental freedoms seem to be commonplace. I have to say that you guys are the lucky ones, because the situation gets even worse in some parts of the world.
It has been a tough year for the people in Hong Kong. The Hong Kong government proposed a new educational curriculum, adding a new subject – National Education – which triggered disputes and massive objections. The controversy was that the government did not advise the public about what should be put into the curriculum and within the subject, major historical events such as the Tiananmen Square Protests of 1989 were excluded. It led to concerns about whether the aim of national education is to promote communism or encourage worship of the Chinese government. More than fifty thousand people gathered at the front door of the government building for a few months and more and more people joined throughout the protest. The proposal of the new curriculum was finally abolished and put aside.
With the advent of the 1st July, on a very memorable occasion that a decade after the historical protest in 2003, the Hong Kong government has thought of a new measure to tackle the protest. In the afternoon on the exact same date, a concert called Hong Kong Dome Festival is being held on the other side of the protest-harbour. With just 8 pound, audience are able to see the performance of popular Korean artists BoA, SHINee, Henry, F(x), EXO and Hong Kong rock bands Mr. and RubberBand. The production cost of the concert is more than a million pounds: at least 900,000 pounds exceeding the revenue. Although officially speaking the host is not the Hong Kong government, it is widely known that the government is the host behind the curtain. The sponsors are the major land developers in Hong Kong, who are understood to be closely related to the Hong Kong government.
The holding organization claims that the objective of the concert is to express the demand for larger venues suitable for concert performance and is totally irrelevant to the HKSAR Establishment Day. Yet, the manager of the Korean artists has responded to the media that they feel so delighted to take part in Establishment Day’s celebration events. Secondly, the concert is held in the afternoon, instead of the evening which seems to be a more sensible time for concerts being held. The underlying objective is so obvious, that the government would like to attract some youngsters to attend the concert so that it would be physically impossible that they can attend the protest at the same time.
For the time being, tickets are sold out and the two rock bands are looking into the possibility of resigning from the concert.
I personally think that the Hong Kong government is utterly pathetic for using such an auspicious strategy in an attempt to reduce the number of people attending the annual protest. In a civilized modern era, they still refuse to confer fundamental human rights to the people and are still being influenced so heavily by the communist Chinese government. It is time that democracy should be brought into Hong Kong. So, Hong Kong government, please stop this charade and be open to reformation. We, the people, need democracy in Hong Kong.
Democracy is never something that people need to worry about in the western world. However, on the other side of the world, it still is. If you felt that rights and freedoms were being deprived in your country, you would stand up and fight against the unjust government.
Please do the same for Hong Kong, and the rest of the unjust world.