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【Captivity Epistles | A Letter to the International Community】
Over this past month of detention, I have learnt from reading the papers of the international community’s keen interest in the Umbrella Movement and the ongoing deterioration of liberties in Hong Kong. I am most grateful to the heartfelt support from, among others, members of the U.S. Congress and of the British Parliament, the German Federal Foreign Office and the admirable Lord Patten who served as Hong Kong’s last colonial governor for their backing of the young protest leaders now in jail—myself included—for taking part in the peaceful, 79-day sit-in three years ago. These words mean a lot to us.
Back in 2014, my fellow Hong Kongers and I partook in the Umbrella Movement, which aimed at using nonviolent means to fight for our territory’s democratic system—simply a right to choose our own leader as Beijing has long promised. Although a magistrates’ court found me guilty last year of participating in an “unlawful assembly”, it only sentenced me to 80 hours of community service, acknowledging our belief in civil disobedience to achieve selfless values. The Department of Justice’s top prosecutors had wanted to close the case, but the Secretary for Justice, Rimsky Yuen, overruled them recently and insisted on seeking harsher punishments.
Not only is this unfair because Mr Yuen’s cabinet office as the executive branch’s chief law enforcement officer is a political appointment by an undemocratically elected government, the Court of Appeal’s judge in charge of our case also faces a potential conflict of interest as he has publicly condemned the Umbrella Movement before. Calling our demonstrations a part of the city’s “unhealthy tendency”, he put me in jail for six months
In the past, the prosecution of “unlawful assembly”-related charges often targeted criminal activities by gangs. Now, these outdated colonial-era laws have become the tool to suppress Hong Kong’s democratisation. The cost of civil disobedience will dramatically increase as participants must now expect not community service hours but at least months in prison.
Dozens more who have played a prominent role in the Umbrella Movement may also be facing imprisonment in the near future, including Professors Benny Tai and Chan Kin Man, along with the 73-year-old Reverend Chu Yiu Ming, who co-initiated Occupy Central. As such, it is evident that Hong Kong is no longer the metropolis—as the world had come to know—“with freedom but without democracy”. Hong Kongers who stand up to defend our autonomy are, one by one, relentlessly pursued by the Beijing-backed administration and courts that are determined to give us disproportionate jail sentences. The renowned rule of law that Hong Kong once prided itself on has been overridden by Beijing’s rule by law.
Life at the correctional facility is dull and dry; to be disconnected with my family and friends who I have fought alongside is also tremendously painful. But despite these difficulties, I am still proud of my commitment to the Umbrella Movement. After reading Nelson Mandela’s autobiography and Liu Xiaobo’s memoirs, I cannot help but think: What are these British-style marching exercises and the bad food here in Hong Kong compared to their sufferings?
Being locked up is an inevitable part of our long, exhausting path to democracy. Our bodies are held captive, but our pursuit of freedom cannot be contained. The adversity will only sharpen our wits and make us more strong-willed, resulting in the political awakening of more Hong Kongers in addition to the international community’s support. In the past when we speak of political detainees under the Chinese Communist Party, we refer to dissents on the mainland; yet as Hong Kong ushers in a heightened authoritarian era, to advocate human rights is to risk being a political detainee. This is the new normal; one simply cannot turn a blind eye and deceive itself Hong Kong is still as it has always been.
The British Foreign Office’s latest six-monthly report on Hong Kong insists that the “One Country, Two Systems” framework is in good shape—to us a rather frustrating remark. As political suppression here intensifies, London must reevaluate its past statements on Hong Kong to make fairer comments on our democracy endeavor. As a signatory of the Sino-British Joint Declaration of 1984, the U.K. should, through parliamentary debates and hearings, address the situation in Hong Kong to ensure the international treaties on civic and political rights that the colonial government has previously signed are not being violated.
While I note that countries often prioritize economic interests over human rights values—and hence the kowtowing to China—I continue to believe that Hong Kong, as the freest part on Chinese soil with the strongest faith in democracy, can still make a difference. Nothing can more blatantly unveil the facade of China’s so-called “peaceful rise” on the eve of the 19th National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party than the making of political prisoners in Hong Kong. Our fight will not cease under Xi Jinping’s hardline authoritarianism.
My friends Nathan Law and Alex Chow and I, wrote Lord Patten shortly after we were convicted last month, “will be remembered long after the names of those who have persecuted [us] have been forgotten and swept into the ashcan of history”. The New York Times even suggested a Nobel Peace Prize nomination of us. While I am happy for all these very kind words, at this moment behind bars, I have only one modest wish: May the world not forget Hong Kong and may history remember the Umbrella Movement. It belongs to every Hong Konger who stood alongside us in the struggle for autonomy.
One-fourth of the world live under Beijing’s rule. Although easily outnumbered, Hong Kong’s population of 7.3 million is significant for our courage, persistence and conviction—these are qualities that I believe can make us powerful in the face of oppression. I may have temporarily lost my freedom, but I have never regretted my involvement in the Umbrella Movement. Perhaps success is far ahead. But even if we turn back time, I would still choose civil disobedience. It is a responsibility our generation bears, and we will not hold back until the day democracy arrives.
Hong Kong may be small, but its people make it great.
香港眾志 於 2017-09-28 00:00:00 發佈