Posts Tagged ‘pro-democracy’

Three Hong Kong democracy activists jailed up to seven years for rioting — China Rules

June 11, 2018

Three protesters from Hong Kong’s radical youth opposition were jailed on Monday for taking part in a violent unrest, receiving the harshest sentences handed down to democracy activists since the city returned to Chinese rule in 1997.

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Pro-independence activist Edward Leung walks inside a detention centre before leaving for the High Court for a sentencing hearing in Hong Kong, China June 11, 2018. REUTERS/Bobby Yip

Edward Leung, 27, one of the leaders of a movement advocating Hong Kong’s independence from China, was jailed for six years for rioting and assaulting police in a 2016 overnight protest that turned violent. He was found guilty of rioting by a jury and had pleaded guilty to assaulting a police officer.

Two other activists, Lo Kin-man and Wong Ka-kui, were jailed 7 and 3.5 years respectively for rioting.

edward-leung-ray-wong-riot-high-court-feat

Ray Wong (Left) and Edward Leung (Right). Photo: Apple Daily.

About 130 people, mostly police, were injured when masked protesters tossed bricks and set trash cans alight to vent their anger against what they saw as mainland Chinese encroachment on the city’s autonomy and freedoms. The government quickly labeled the overnight unrest a “riot”.

Leung has supported Hong Kong’s outright secession from China given Beijing’s perceived erosion of the “one country two systems” principle granting the city a high degree of autonomy since it was handed from British to Chinese rule in 1997.

Lo Kin-man

It wasn’t immediately clear if he would appeal against the sentence.

Leung appeared calm upon hearing High Court Judge Anthea Pang announce the sentence, while murmurs of disbelief rippled through a crowd of about 150 activists and supporters watching a live broadcast outside the courtroom.

Pang condemned the “severe” violence of the riot, which she said had caused “great danger” to those at the scene, and which warranted the imposition of a strict deterrent sentence.

“The court absolutely does not allow livelihood or political disputes to be expressed through acts of violence,” she said.

Rioting in Hong Kong is defined under the city’s Public Order Ordinance as an assembly of three or more people where any person “commits a breach of the peace”.

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This offence, which carries a maximum penalty of 10 years behind bars, was last amended in 1970, a few years after a months-long pro-Communist riot against British rule killed at least 50 people, including children.

Hong Kong’s most high-profile democracy activist, Joshua Wong, described the sentence on Twitter as harsh under “Hong Kong’s present era of political prisoners”.

Wong himself was convicted of “unlawful assembly” under the Public Order Ordinance and served about two months in jail before the city’s top court quashed the imprisonment sentences in an appeal.

“EXTREME SENTENCES”

Leung’s sentence was also slammed by some international voices including Hong Kong’s last British governor Chris Patten.

Patten noted that the Public Order Ordinance carried vague definitions that were being used against a slew of local activists since the “Umbrella Movement” protests paralyzed major roads in the city in late 2014.

Pro-independence activist Edward Leung is held by a correctional services department officer inside a detention centre before leaving for the High Court for a sentencing hearing in Hong Kong, China June 11, 2018. REUTERS/Bobby Yip

“It is disappointing to see that the legislation is now being used politically to place extreme sentences on the pan-democrats and other activists,” Patten said in a statement issued via the London based NGO, Hong Kong Watch.

Geoffrey Nice QC, a barrister who led the prosecution in the genocide trial of former Serbian and Yugoslav president Slobodan Milosevic in The Hague, called the jail term against Leung “unjustified”.

But a police representative disagreed Leung’s case amounted to political persecution.

“The sentence reflects the gravity of the offence,” said chief inspector of the Organised Crime and Triad Bureau, Tse Tsz-kwan.

RISING STAR

Although the court case does not deal directly with the issue of independence, the sentencing is likely to be seen as a broader warning against radical youth activism.

Leung, then a student of philosophy at the University of Hong Kong, came to public prominence after the 2016 protests, and contesting a legislative council by-election that year. He was barred from running for another election later that year.

China has repeatedly slammed the independence movement, fearful of the idea catching on in the mainland. President Xi Jinping warned last year that any attempt to endanger China’s sovereignty would be an act that crosses a “red line”.

Leung’s sentence came one week after two other pro-independence activists and former lawmakers were sentenced to one month in jail for assembling illegally in the legislature while still in public office.

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Hong Kong jails top independence leader for six years

June 11, 2018

Hong Kong’s leading independence activist was jailed for six years Monday for his involvement in some of the city’s worst protest violence for decades.

Edward Leung was convicted in May of rioting over the 2016 running battles with police, when demonstrators hurled bricks torn up from pavements and set rubbish alight in the commercial district of Mong Kok.

Handing down his jail term, Judge Anthea Pang said Leung actively participated in the riots and described his actions as “wanton and vicious”.

The 27-year-old was already in custody after pleading guilty in January to a separate charge of assaulting a police officer during the 2016 clashes. He was sentenced to one year in jail on that count, with the two terms to be served concurrently.

The 2016 protest began as a seemingly innocuous rally to protect illegal hawkers from health inspectors but it quickly morphed into an outpouring of anger against authorities in Hong Kong and Beijing.

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Edward Leun

At the forefront of the clashes were young “localists”, a term coined for radical groups promoting a split from mainland China which grew out of the failure of massive pro-democracy rallies in 2014 to win concessions from Beijing on political reform.

At the time, Leung was the head of localist group Hong Kong Indigenous and a rising star on the political scene as the fledgling independence movement gathered momentum, infuriating Beijing.

Pang said the protesters appeared to be “sincere, earnest but wrong-headed people” with strong convictions.

They “will stop at nothing to impose those views” on society, she said, which Hong Kong cannot tolerate as it poses “extremely great danger”.

Leung looked calm throughout the hearing and waved at supporters — some of whom reacted emotionally to the sentence — before being led away.

Two other protesters were sentenced alongside Leung to seven years and three and a half years in prison.

– Fishball Revolution –

At least 16 people have already been jailed over the clashes, with terms of up to four years and nine months for a man convicted of rioting and arson. Unlike Leung, none were known activists.

Police fired warning shots in the air as the unrest worsened and scores of people including officers were injured, with dozens arrested.

It was later dubbed the “Fishball Revolution” after one of the city’s best-loved street snacks.

The defence said Leung, who pleaded not guilty, had no intention to riot but wanted to “protect Hong Kong culture”.

Leung testified his participation in activism was inspired by the pro-democracy slogan: “Without resistance, how is there change?” according to local media.

Multiple pro-democracy activists who want a greater say in how the city is run but do not push for full independence have been prosecuted on protest-related charges over the largely peaceful 2014 Umbrella Movement.

Leung is the first high profile activist advocating full independence to come to court.

He was previously barred from standing in legislative elections due to his support for independence as Hong Kong’s pro-Beijing government cracks down on any advocacy of a split.

Leung resigned as spokesman of Hong Kong Indigenous and left the group in December last year.

The government’s squeeze on independence campaigners has seen several activists barred from standing for office and others ejected from Hong Kong’s partially elected legislature.

Prominent pro-democracy activist Joshua Wong, who has campaigned for self-determination but not independence, attended the trial Monday.

“Edward Leung’s six-year sentence is the harshest imposed on an opposition activist since 1997, bizarre even in Hong Kong’s present era of political prisoners,” he wrote on Twitter.

by Elaine YU
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AFP

Hong Kong education, schools, books turns political battleground

June 8, 2018

The culling of key phrases from a history textbook and a push to instil Chinese national identity in students has raised fresh concerns that education in Hong Kong is under pressure from Beijing, as it seeks to stamp out any hint of pro-independence sentiment.

Student-led protests demanding democratic reform for semi-autonomous Hong Kong and the emergence of an independence movement have posed an unprecedented challenge to Chinese authorities in recent years.

© AFP / by Elaine YU, Yan ZHAO, Laura MANNERING | A recent investigation by local channel RTHK found more than half of Hong Kong’s bookshops were indirectly owned by China’s liaison office, fuelling concerns about Beijing’s influence on Hong Kong’s book industry

To quell youth rebellion, officials on both sides of the border are emphasising the need for students in the city to learn more about mainland history and to understand Hong Kong in a national context.

But critics accuse the government and Beijing of “brainwashing”.

The blacklisting last month of commonly used terms in a school textbook raised questions about whether history was being rewritten altogether.

“Our concern is about whether there is direct interference or if there is any self-censorship involved,” Ip Kin-yuen, lawmaker for the education sector and a democracy advocate, told AFP.

A review panel reporting to the education bureau rejected as “inappropriate wording” phrases referring to Hong Kong’s colonial past in a history textbook that had been submitted to them for approval before publication, according to documents leaked to local media.

The offending terms included “The transfer of Hong Kong’s sovereignty to mainland China” and “China recovered Hong Kong”.

Questioned about the amendments, education secretary Kevin Yeung told lawmakers China had never given up sovereignty of Hong Kong.

Some pro-democracy figures accused him of doing Beijing’s bidding and erasing Hong Kong’s past.

China ceded Hong Kong to the British when the first Opium War ended in 1842. After more than 100 years of colonial rule, Britain returned the territory to China in 1997.

Schoolbooks must be passed by a review panel to gain inclusion on the government’s recommended reading list.

Panel membership is confidential but includes teachers, academics and staff from the education bureau, which has defended the review system as a fair “professional” process.

But one industry executive, who did not want to be named, said publishers had discussed the need for more transparency on acceptable phrasing after the textbook incident and had suggested the government share a glossary of terms “to avoid misunderstandings”.

Concerns about Beijing’s influence on Hong Kong’s book industry were fuelled after a recent investigation by local channel RTHK discovered China’s liaison office indirectly owned more than half the city’s bookshops.

– ‘Brainwashing education’ –

Earlier attempts to introduce a patriotic “national education” curriculum into Hong Kong schools galvanised tens of thousands to take to the streets in 2012, forcing it to be shelved.

However, the push to instil a sense of Chinese national identity is now regaining prominence in government rhetoric.

In her first policy address last year, city leader Carrie Lam announced that Chinese history would be taught as a compulsory subject at junior secondary level from the end of 2018.

This would help students become knowledgeable and responsible citizens “with a sense of our national identity, and contribute to our country and our society”, she said.

A new draft of the Chinese history curriculum released last month puts Hong Kong’s past within a national context, an approach the education bureau said was “natural, reasonable and logical” and supported by teachers, in a statement to AFP.

But democracy campaigner Joshua Wong told AFP he believed the government was using “subtler ways to promote their brainwashing education”.

Wong led the 2012 education protests as a 15-year-old school pupil.

Pro-establishment politicians have also taken aim at liberal studies, a mandatory subject for senior secondary school pupils which covers political topics and has been blamed for stoking anti-government sentiment.

The government last month denied a report it would downgrade the subject to optional.

Liberal studies teacher Tong Kam-fai, who works in a Roman Catholic secondary school, said blaming it for unrest was “very unfair”.

“Critical thinking is not the same as protest and opposition,” he told AFP.

However, Tong said he still felt free to speak to his students about controversial topics, including the crackdown on democracy protesters in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square in 1989, discussion of which is heavily suppressed in the mainland.

Lawmaker Ip believes the freedoms at the heart of Hong Kong’s education system are still intact.

But he fears the government may become increasingly “politically correct” to reflect the thinking of mainland authorities and continue to blame education for social divisions.

“Young people are frustrated these days for many reasons, it’s not out of education,” Ip told AFP.

“We want our students to be able to understand the world, not to be indoctrinated.”

by Elaine YU, Yan ZHAO, Laura MANNERING
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AFP

Tiananmen Crackdown Anniversary Could Mean New Restrictions in Hong Kong

June 4, 2018

“Beijing’s incursions on Hong Kong’s freedoms might not look like much on their own, but when you put them all together they are going to be fatal.”

Demonstrators attend a candlelight vigil at Victoria Park in Hong Kong on June 4, 2017. Photographer: Paul Yeung/Bloomberg

For 28 years, tens of thousands of Hong Kong democracy advocates have marked the anniversary of the Tiananmen Square crackdown by rallying for political change in China. This year, they face new risk in doing so.

At issue are a series of slogans chanted during a mass candlelight vigil in Victoria Park, specifically one demanding an “end to one-party dictatorship.” That act of defiance has come under new scrutiny after the former top Chinese official in Hong Kong suggested that those who utter the phrase should be barred from running for office.

While government officials haven’t endorsed the view, pro-democracy lawmakers worry that such remarks could represent the latest Communist Party effort to curb free expression in the former British colony. In 2016, the Chinese government banned independence activists from public office and local officials earlier this year barred a legislative candidate from running because she supported “self-determination.”

Hong Kongers have gathered in the city’s Victoria Park for a quarter-century to mark the Tiananmen crackdown. Above, the vigil on June 4, 2013.

Hong Kongers have gathered in the city’s Victoria Park for a quarter-century to mark the Tiananmen crackdown. Above, the vigil on June 4, 2013.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE/GETTY IMAGES

“When you look around, the political space in Hong Kong is much tighter than it was even three or four years ago,” said Chris Ng, a convener of the Progressive Lawyers Group, which seeks to preserve Hong Kong’s rule of law. “Beijing’s incursions on Hong Kong’s freedoms might not look like much on their own, but when you put them all together they are going to be fatal.”

Curbing Dissent

The June 4 vigil — commemorating the military crackdown on student protesters in Beijing in 1989 — stands as an annual reminder of China’s pledge to preserve colonial-era freedoms and institutions in Hong Kong. Last year, more than 100,000 people gathered on a sweltering evening to hear speeches, sing protest songs and view images of the Tiananmen Square bloodshed.

In recent weeks, some pro-Beijing officials have suggested the arguments used to bar “separatists” from public office could extend to those who advocate an end to one-party rule in China. The idea — proposed in March by the city’s sole representative to the national legislature — has been endorsed by Wang Guangya, the former top official for Hong Kong affairs.

Public discussion of the Tiananmen incident is banned on the mainland and President Xi Jinping has tightened controls on dissent since taking power in 2012, jailing scores of activists and lawyers. Xi has shown less patience for Hong Kong’s activists, as well, warning during a July visit that challenges to the party’s rule won’t be tolerated.

China’s approach has undermined faith in the “one country, two systems” framework government officials and businesses credit with maintaining Hong Kong’s status as an international financial center. A survey by the American Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong released Wednesday found that just more than half of 230 members who responded believed there had been some erosion in the model.

A U.S. State Department report also released last week said that Xi’s statements and other officials had “diluted” the “high degree of autonomy” outlined in the city’s charter.

Demonstrators hold a candle vigil during a vigil last year.

Photographer: Paul Yeung/Bloomberg

“As China becomes more repressive politically, it will only get worse,” said Sonny Lo, a professor of political science at the HKU School of Professional and Continuing Education. Things are “drifting toward ‘one country, one system’ in the minds of both Beijing officials and Hong Kong authorities,” Lo said.

Beijing loyalists argue moves to rein in Hong Kong’s most radical activists were necessary after dozens of police were injured in a riot involving independence activists in 2016. The democratic opposition has also frustrated China’s efforts to integrate the city by using protests and parliamentary maneuvering to block proposals.

Still, the city’s democratic lawmakers were expected to defy the call. A survey by the local Ming Pao newspaper found 23 out of 24 opposition lawmakers who participated planned to attend the vigil and join the chants, with the 25th objecting to the event on the grounds that Hong Kong residents should focus on local issues.

Albert Ho, a former lawmaker and chairman of the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements in China, the vigil organizer, predicted that Beijing wouldn’t enforce the ban because doing so risked contradicting its own claims to “multiparty cooperation.” There also would be a cost to China’s international reputation, Ho said.

“Once you pass a law seeking to punish anyone for criticizing the Communist Party, then it would be a fundamental change in policy,” he said. “I won’t say they won’t do it, but the price would be very high.”

— With assistance by Foster Wong

Bloomberg

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-06-03/china-warning-on-dictatorship-chant-chills-hong-kong-vigil

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Families of Tiananmen victims urge China’s Xi to ‘re-evaluate’ crackdown

June 2, 2018

Families of Chinese democracy protesters killed in the 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown have urged President Xi Jinping to acknowledge their suffering and “re-evaluate the June Fourth massacre” as its 29th anniversary approaches.

© AFP/File | Discussion of the Tiananmen crackdown is banned from books, textbooks, movies and is censored on social networks

Open discussion of the crackdown is forbidden in China, where hundreds — by some estimates more than a thousand — died when the Communist Party sent tanks to crush demonstrations in the square in Beijing on June 4 1989, after student-led protesters had staged a peaceful seven-week sit-in to demand democratic reforms.

In an open letter to Xi dated “the eve of 2018 June 4th”, the Tiananmen Mothers, an association of parents who lost children in the violence, said: “each year when we would commemorate our loved ones, we are all monitored, put under surveillance, or forced to travel”.

“No one from the successive governments over the past 29 years has ever asked after us, and not one word of apology has been spoken from anyone, as if the massacre that shocked the world never happened,” said the letter, which was released on Thursday by the non-profit Human Rights in China.

On June 4, 1989, China’s Communist Party unleashed the People’s Liberation Army on protesters camped in and around Beijing’s Tiananmen Square to quell a seven-week-long pro-democracy movement. In one of the nation’s bloodiest crackdowns, hundreds, if not thousands, of people were killed in what today is simply called “Tiananmen.” Photo: “Tank Man” at Tiananmen Square, June 1989, photo by Jeff Widener of the Associated Press.

“The 1989 June Fourth bloody massacre is a crime the state committed against the people. Therefore, it is necessary to re-evaluate the June Fourth massacre,” the letter said, calling for “truth, compensation, and accountability” from the government.

The protests are branded a “counter-revolutionary rebellion” by Chinese authorities and many on the mainland remain unaware of the crackdown, with discussion banned from books, textbooks, movies and censored on social networks.

The semi-autonomous territory of Hong Kong is the only place on Chinese soil where the anniversary is openly marked with a famous vigil in Victoria Park on June 4 each year.

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Vietnam jails Facebook user for 4-1/2 years for posts seen as anti-state propaganda

May 10, 2018

Mark Zuckerberg helping to suppress dissent in Vietnam?

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Vietnam has jailed a Facebook user for 4-1/2 years over posts that “distorted” the political situation in the Southeast Asian country, a branch of the ruling Communist Party said.

Reuters

Despite sweeping economic reform and increasing openness to social change, including gay, lesbian and transgender rights, Vietnam’s Communist Party retains tight media censorship and does not tolerate criticism.

At a one-day trial on Wednesday, the People’s Court of Ho Chi Minh City convicted 56-year-old Bui Hieu Vo of carrying out anti-state propaganda, according to a statement posted on the website of the party’s Ho Chi Minh City branch.

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Police searched Vo’s apartment in the city last year to find 57 posts on his Facebook account that expressed views against the party and the state, it added.

The posts “encouraged people to be terrorists and could have caused public panic and hurt the economy,” it said.

The statement said Vo had collected material on Vietnam’s worst environmental disaster in April 2016, when a steel plant being developed by Taiwan’s Formosa Plastics Corp contaminated coastal waters and unleashed an outpouring of anger not seen in four decades of communist rule.

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Nguyễn Ngọc Như Quỳnh, known as Mother Mushroom, and her two young children, is also a jailed Vietnamese blogger

Vo used “fake” and “inaccurate” information to spread news on social media about the disaster and attacked individual leaders of the Communist Party and the state, it added.

“During the investigation Vo admitted guilt and submitted a letter asking for leniency and promising not to commit the same crime again,” it said.

Last month, Vietnam human rights activists and independent media groups wrote to Facebook’s chief executive, Mark Zuckerberg, questioning if the social media platform was helping to suppress dissent in the country.

In a separate case, police in the northern city of Thanh Hoa said they had arrested a 37-year-old man over a bid “to defame party, state and provincial leaders,” police said in a statement on the department’s website.

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 Vietnamese blogger Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh, left, stands trial in the south central province of Khanh Hoa, Vietnam, June 29, 2017.

Nguyen Duy Son was detained on Tuesday after a police investigation found he had used his Facebook account to “humiliate and discredit” several officials, it added.

An official who answered the telephone at the Thanh Hoa police department declined to make Son available for comment.

Reporting by James Pearson; Editing by Clarence Fernandez

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Committee To Protect Journalists

Vo, known as “Hieu Bui” on his Facebook page, was arrested on March 17, 2017, in the Go Vap district of Ho Chi Minh City, the commercial capital, reports said.

The statement claimed Vo had “fabricated [and] distorted… information” against the government, including incitement to violence against leaders of the ruling Communist Party, the state, and police.

Many dissident bloggers in Vietnam, where all traditional media is owned by the state, use Facebook as a platform to circumvent state censorship.

The government statement also claimed Vo was affiliated with the pro-democracy Viet Tan, an outlawed political party the government considers a terrorist group.

He was charged with “propagandizing against the state,” an anti-state offense outlined under Article 88 of the penal code punishable by up to 20 years in prison, according to Civil Rights Defenders, a human rights group. As of late 2017, CPJ was not able to determine where Vo was being held.

https://cpj.org/data/people/bui-hieu-vo-hieu-bui/

China keeps delaying talks on letting Liu Xiaobo’s widow leave the country — Some say they killed her Nobel Peace Prize-winning husband and now refuse to release her

April 11, 2018

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FILE PHOTO: Protesters carrying photos of Chinese dissident Liu Xia demonstrate near a flag raising ceremony for China’s National Day in Hong Kong, China October 1, 2016. REUTERS/Bobby Yip

BEIJING (Reuters) – China is repeatedly postponing discussions with Western governments on the possibility that Liu Xia, the widow of Nobel Peace Prize-winning dissident Liu Xiaobo, be allowed to leave the country, according to a source with direct knowledge of the case.

Liu Xia, a poet and artist who suffers from depression, has effectively been under house arrest since her husband won the prize in 2010. Liu Xiaobo died in Chinese custody in July last year after being denied permission to go abroad for treatment of advanced liver cancer.

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Liu Xiaobo

Since his death, Liu Xia has continued to be closely monitored by government minders and is unable to travel or to speak freely with friends and family, other than in infrequent pre-arranged phone calls and visits, according to friends and Beijing-based Western diplomats.

Now, fears are mounting that no progress has been made toward allowing her to travel outside the country despite the conclusion of the annual meeting of parliament, which Chinese authorities previously said was the reason for delays.

“There are growing doubts that she will be released in the near future,” a Western diplomat involved in the case told Reuters.

 Image may contain: 4 people, people smiling

In a photo provided  by the Shenyang Municipal Information Office, Liu Xia, center, the widow of Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo, holds a portrait of him during his funeral. She stands with Liu Hui, her younger brother (left) and Liu Xiaoxuan, the younger brother of her late husband, who is holding his cremated remains. Credit AP

“The case has so far been handled discreetly in the expectation that she would soon be permitted to leave the country,” the diplomat said.

China’s foreign ministry was unable to immediately comment on the case. China’s State Council Information Office, which comments on behalf of the Communist Party, did not reply to a faxed request for comment.

WANTS TO LEAVE CHINA

Liu has told diplomats and friends on numerous occasions that she wants to leave China. Friends of the couple say that allowing her the freedom to do so was one reason for her husband’s insistence on his deathbed that he be treated overseas.

Chinese dissidents have in the past been allowed to leave the country and take up residence in a willing Western host nation.

However, since coming to power in 2013, Chinese President Xi Jinping has presided over a sweeping campaign to quash dissent throughout Chinese society, detaining hundreds of rights activists and lawyers; dozens have been jailed.

China has said that Liu Xia, as a private citizen, is free to do as she pleases and that the details of the case remain an internal affair of China’s.

Friends of Liu Xia say that the process has been slowed by Chinese government fears of what she might say once free, as well as her insistence that her brother, Liu Hui, also be allowed to leave.

He was handed an 11-year jail sentence for fraud in 2013 and was later released under house arrest, where he remains closely monitored, according to friends of the family.

“The Chinese authorities are primarily concerned that after she leaves she will openly tell the international community about her and Liu Xiaobo’s plight,” Ye Du, a writer and close friend of the couple, told Reuters.

“The authorities have seized upon her weakest point, which is her and Liu Hui’s total dependence on one another, so they may agree to her leaving, but only if Liu Hui stays as a hostage,” he said in reference to the pressure that the Chinese authorities can put on the China-based relatives of dissidents overseas.

Liu Xia continued to write and paint after Liu Xiaobo’s imprisonment but has told friends that she constantly struggles with loneliness and depression and has become dependent on alcohol, cigarettes and medication.

The repeat delays also reflect a failure by foreign governments and international organizations to come together and “raise the cost” of not allowing her to leave by pushing the case publicly and repeatedly, according to Sophie Richardson, Washington-based China director for Human Rights Watch.

“From Beijing’s prospective, there’s no place to go but down in releasing her,” Richardson said. “It’s not a complicated diplomatic thing. It’s about making it more painful for Beijing to keep her than release her.”

Is Hong Kong’s democracy movement at the end of the line?

April 3, 2018

Reuters

As China tightens squeeze, soul searching for Hong Kong’s democracy movement

Scuffles in Hong Kong at key vote for democrats — “It’s a fight between good and evil.” — Pro-democracy candidates and voters intimidated, bullied

March 11, 2018

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Banners for pro-democracy by-election candidate Au Nok-hin in Hong Kong, on March 9, 2018. PHOTO by AFP

HONG KONG (AFP) – Hong Kong’s best-known young activists were heckled by Chinese nationalists in tense scenes on Sunday (March 11) as the city’s pro-democracy camp tries to claw back lost seats in controversial by-elections.

Sunday’s vote once more exposed the city’s deep political divide and comes as China takes an increasingly tough line against any challenges to its sovereignty.

High-profile candidate Agnes Chow was barred from standing because her party promotes self-determination for the semi-autonomous city.

Soon after polls opened, several men and a woman heckled Chow as well as leading pro-democracy activists Joshua Wong and Nathan Law near a polling station where they were supporting pro-democracy candidate Au Nok Hin, according to an AFP reporter at the scene.

One of the men barged into Wong, who led mass demonstrations in 2014 calling for greater democratic freedoms.

“Traitors and running dogs!” a man repeatedly yelled while others hurled repeated obscenities.

Wong told reporters that threats to freedoms in the city “prove that it’s more necessary for us to vote”.

Beijing has become incensed at the emergence of activists advocating independence and views calls for self-determination as part of a dangerous splittist push.

The by-election was triggered after Beijing forced the disqualification of six rebel lawmakers who had swept to victory in citywide elections in 2016.

Some were former protest leaders, others openly advocated independence. All were ousted from their posts for inserting protests into their oaths of office.

Four of the six vacant seats are being contested on Sunday.

By-election candidate Judy Chan of New People’s Party giving a speech while Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong candidate Vincent Cheng listens. PHOTO: AFP 

“The election is not just about selecting me as a candidate, it is also about voting for justice,” said Au, who stepped in to contest the Hong Kong Island seat after Chow was disallowed.

Democracy campaigners were deeply angered by the ban on Chow which they said was political screening.

The seat was originally held by Law, also a 2014 protest leader, who was among the six thrown out of office. But pro-establishment politician Judy Chan, standing against Au, cast the opposition as provoking “violence and resistance”.

“The by-election is a chance for the silent majority, who are tired of a politicised Hong Kong, who detest those who humiliate the country, to come out and tell those politicians that Hong Kong has no room for them,” Chan told AFP.

Democracy camp struggling Many of the first people to cast ballots at a polling station AFP visited early Sunday were elderly and supportive of the city’s pro-Beijing establishment.

“I’m not resistant to democracy and freedom, but I can’t accept the independence of Hong Kong,” voter Chan Chik Sing, 60, told AFP.

But others said people were angry about inequality.

“If the government’s policies were really that good and supported by citizens, the public’s satisfaction level for the government wouldn’t keep deteriorating,” said voter Lilian Leung, who was in her late 30s.

The six lawmakers were retrospectively barred from office by Hong Kong’s high court after Beijing issued a special “interpretation” of the city’s mini-constitution stipulating legislators had to take their oath “solemnly and sincerely” or face being banned.

Pro-independence lawmakers had inserted expletives and waved “Hong Kong is not China” banners during their swearing in.

Others added phrases supporting the democracy movement. The pro-democracy camp has come under increasing pressure since the failure of the Umbrella Movement to win political reform, with some leading activists jailed on protest-related charges.

Political analyst Dixon Sing says losing any one of the four by-election seats would be a further blow.

But he added that even an across-the-board win would be countered by a system fundamentally weighted towards Beijing. Only half the legislature is elected, with the rest selected by traditionally pro-establishment interest groups.

Of 70 seats, the democracy camp currently holds 24, only just clinging on to the one-third needed to veto important bills. It has also been curbed by new rules against filibustering, long a favoured tactic.

Nevertheless, veteran democrats are urging residents to go out and vote.

“It is not just a by-election,” said pro-democracy lawmaker Claudia Mo.

“It’s a fight between good and evil.”

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Hong Kong goes to polls in crunch test for democrats — “The election is not just about selecting me as a candidate, it is also about voting for justice.”

March 11, 2018

AFP

© AFP / by Elaine YU | Pro-democracy candidate Au Nok-hin is campaigning for a seat after his predecessor was disqualified by Beijing
HONG KONG (AFP) – Hong Kong’s pro-democracy camp are trying to claw back lost seats in controversial by-elections held Sunday that have exposed the heart of the city’s political divide.The vote comes as China takes a tough line against any challenges to its sovereignty, with high-profile young candidate Agnes Chow barred from standing because her party promotes self-determination for the semi-autonomous city.

The atmosphere was tense early Sunday when a small group of people heckled Chow as well as leading pro-democracy activists Joshua Wong and Nathan Law near a polling station, according to an AFP reporter at the scene.

One of the men barged into Wong, who was one of the student leaders during mass demonstrations in 2014 calling for a greater democratic freedoms.

“When there is a restriction on freedom of speech and we face more suppression on civil disobedience and protest in the streets, it proves that it’s more necessary for us to vote,” Wong told reporters.

Beijing has become increasingly incensed at the emergence of activists advocating independence and sees calls for self-determination as part of a dangerous splittist push.

The by-election was triggered after Beijing forced the disqualification of six rebel lawmakers who had swept to victory in citywide elections in 2016.

Some were former protest leaders, others openly advocated independence. All were ousted from their posts for inserting protests into their oaths of office.

Four of the six vacant seats are being contested Sunday.

“The election is not just about selecting me as a candidate, it is also about voting for justice,” said Au Nok-hin, who stepped in to contest the Hong Kong Island seat after Agnes Chow was disallowed.

The seat was originally held by Law, also a 2014 protest leader, who was among the six thrown out of office.

But pro-establishment politician Judy Chan, standing against Au, cast the opposition as provoking “violence and resistance”.

“The by-election is a chance for the silent majority, who are tired of a politicised Hong Kong, who detest those who humiliate the country, to come out and tell those politicians that Hong Kong has no room for them,” Chan told AFP.

– Democracy camp struggling –

Many of the first people to cast ballots at a polling station AFP visited early Sunday were more elderly and supportive of the city’s pro-Beijing establishment.

“I’m not resistant to democracy and freedom, but I can’t accept the independence of Hong Kong,” voter Chan Chik-sing, 60, told AFP.

Others said China needed to recognise people were angry about inequality.

“If the government’s policies were really that good and supported by citizens, the public’s satisfaction level for the government wouldn’t keep deteriorating,” said voter Lilian Leung, who was in her late 30s.

The six lawmakers were retrospectively barred from office by Hong Kong’s high court after Beijing issued a special “interpretation” of the city’s mini-constitution stipulating legislators had to take their oath “solemnly and sincerely” or face being banned.

Pro-independence lawmakers had inserted expletives and waved “Hong Kong is not China” banners during their swearing in. Others added phrases supporting the democracy movement.

The pro-democracy camp has come up against increasing pressure since the failure of the Umbrella Movement to win political reform, with some leading activists jailed on protest-related charges.

Political analyst Dixon Sing says losing any one of the four by-election seats would be a further blow.

“It would only add to the disappointment and the loss of faith,” he told AFP.

But Sing added that even an across-the-board win would be countered by a system fundamentally weighted towards Beijing.

Only half the legislature is elected, with the rest selected by traditionally pro-establishment interest groups.

Of 70 seats, the democracy camp currently holds 24, only just clinging on to the one-third needed to veto important bills.

It has also been curbed by new rules against filibustering, long a favoured tactic.

Nevertheless, veteran democrats are urging residents to go out and vote.

“It is not just a by-election,” said pro-democracy lawmaker Claudia Mo.

“It’s a fight between good and evil.”

by Elaine YU