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Protests highlight China's duplicity
On Dec. 15, 60,000 residents of Hong Kong demonstrated in opposition to the implementation of Article 23 of the Basic Law. It was the largest demonstration since Hong Kong reverted to China, indicating increased resistance among residents against Beijing's and the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (SAR) government's plans for further restrictions on freedom and human rights. The reasons for the large-scale opposition are many and varied.
First, this is a decisive moment upon which the survival of "one country, two systems" hinges. In the five-plus years since Beijing took back Hong Kong, "one country, two systems" has been continually encroached upon. The implementation of Article 23 would completely do away with any pretense of "one country, two systems." It would supplant the rule of law with the rule of man and replace freedom with authoritarianism.
Second, the SAR government has angered Hong Kong residents with its "hard-sell" tactics. Officials not only turn a deaf ear to residents' opinions but also make irrational arguments and flaunt specious accounts of China's history of contact with foreign powers. They coerce residents into accepting their twisted logic and hint that the chairman of the Democratic Party, Martin Lee, is betraying the nation when he opposes the legislation.
Third, the slander spewing from pro-Beijing figures has prompted a backlash. Those who are against the legislation are labelled as "traitors" and the Bishop of Hong Kong Joseph Zen has been called "senile" and a "pathological disciple."
Since this is a major controversy, it has attracted the attention of Western countries that once believed China's promise of "one country, two systems." It has also prompted overseas Chinese to respond. At the time of the Hong Kong demonstration, petitions, gatherings, and demonstrations were organized in various cities where overseas Chinese congregate in order to show support for opposition to Article 23.
An organization known as the Global Alliance in Opposition to Article 23 launched a petition drive on the Web. At the time of this writing, there are already 3,600 signatures from around the world, including both Chinese and non-Chinese. This shows the power of the Internet. Even people in China signed the petition because Beijing still hadn't had time to block the Web site. A group of Chinese intellectuals living abroad have followed the lead of Wang Dan, a student leader from the 1989 Tiananmen Square movement, and jointly signed a petition to show their opposition to the implementation of Article 23.
The first city to hold a gathering and demonstration was Washington DC in the US. Apart from the Hong Kong Chinese in the area, the Global Alliance for Democracy and Peace (GADP), Chinese democracy activists, and students of Falun Gong also took part. GADP Chairman Wu Ho-i braved the cold wind to speak in person. Other cities, such as Los Angeles, San Francisco, Toronto, Vancouver, Montreal and even Sydney, Australia, all held such events. Among them, Toronto, which has the largest population of Hong Kong Chinese, held multiple events one after another. Boston will hold an event on Feb. 21 of next year, and Wang Dan will participate in that event. On the next day, I myself will speak about Article 23 at a GADP-organized event in New York City.
Taiwanese have participated in the petition campaign and other activities. The Taiwan Association for Human Rights and the Taiwan Falun Dafa Association held a hearing at the Legislative Yuan to oppose the implementation of Article 23. Academics and experts were invited to come participate in the discussion. This was not just a show of concern and support for human rights in Hong Kong. It also amounted to a kind of immunization process, allowing people to recognize China's "one country, two systems" for what it really is.
Hong Kong's Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa and the director of Beijing's liaison office in Hong Kong, Gao Siren, have both publicly declared that the demonstrations will not affect the legislation, showing their low regard for public opinion. Perhaps they believe that the more demonstrations are taking place, the greater the need to suppress them. That is how tyrants naturally tend to think.
The North American New Chinese Television Network recently broadcast an interview with Sima Lu, a renowned historian of the Chinese Communist Party who is currently living in New York City. This venerable revolutionary was a comrade-in-arms of Chinese President Jiang Zemin's foster father, Jiang Shangqing, said on the basis of his nearly 70 years of contact with the CCP that the more the party is publicizing something, the less it can be believed. He believes Hong Kong should break free of China's influence and control, saying bravely that the territory should be independent. Didn't Singapore do just fine after becoming independent of Malaysia?
The Global Alliance in Opposition to Article 23's Web site address is www.againstarticle23.org.
*Paul Lin is a commentator based in New York.
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