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China hits out at ‘interference’ amid growing concerns over Hong Kong crackdown

Riot police stand off against protestors at Wong Tai Sin district on August 05, 2019 in Hong Kong. (Billy H.C. Kwok/Getty Images/TNS)
December 07, 2020

This article was originally published by Radio Free Asia and is reprinted with permission.

China on Friday hit out at Denmark for what it termed “interference in Hong Kong’s affairs” after former Democratic Party lawmaker Ted Hui traveled to the country at the invitation of Danish lawmakers.

Hui said on Thursday that he now counts himself an “exile” from Hong Kong amid an ever-widening crackdown on peaceful dissent under a draconian national security law imposed on the city by the ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP) since July 1.

“We oppose any individual, organization or country interfering in Hong Kong’s affairs, meddling in Hong Kong’s judicial sovereignty and harboring Hong Kong criminals in any way,” foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told a regular news briefing in Beijing.

Hui, who played a prominent role as mediator during last year’s protest movement, had earlier been arrested over a protest at the Legislative Council (LegCo) in May.

Hua said Hui’s visit had “damaged Denmark’s image as a country that has always emphasized the rule of law.”

But Democratic Party chairman Wu Chi-wai said Hui’s departure means that people in Hong Kong can no longer trust their judicial system to deliver the rule of law.

“I think the root of the problem is that the Hong Kong government has distorted that most important concept — the rule of law,” Wu said. “Instead, it’s using [criminal] law to crack down on dissenting voices.”

Hui said he plans to travel onwards from Denmark to the U.K., which is soon to roll out a residency-track visa for Hong Kong residents holding its British National Overseas (BNO) passport after thousands were arrested by police for taking part in largely peaceful protests against the erosion of the city’s freedoms in the face of growing CCP control.

The U.K. scheme will allow up to three million BNO passport holders to live and work in the U.K. for five years, with a path to eventual citizenship, and has also sparked anger in Beijing.

“If the U.K. violates its commitments in the first place, China will consider no longer recognizing BNO passports as valid travel documents, and we reserve the right to take further measures,” Hua said on Friday.

US ‘appalled’ at persecution

The United States said on Thursday it was “appalled” at the level of political persecution of opposition figures in Hong Kong.

In a statement after the jailing of Joshua Wong, Agnes Chow, and Ivan Lam over a sit-in at police headquarters in June 2019 and the denial of bail to pro-democracy media mogul Jimmy Lai, who is awaiting trial over a “fraud” charge, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Hong Kong had once celebrated the peaceful advocacy of people like Wong, Chow, Lam, and Lai.

“The use of courts to silence peaceful dissent is a hallmark of authoritarian regimes and underscores once again that the Chinese Communist Party’s greatest fear is the free speech and free thinking of its own people,” Pompeo said.

“[Hong Kong people’s] … struggle to resist the CCP’s denial of their fundamental rights will stand throughout history as a testament to the human spirit,” he said.

Call for world action

The Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China (IPAC), a group of more than 200 lawmakers, also condemned the crackdown, calling on the international community to take swift and concrete action to demand that Beijing abide by international law and take responsibility for violating Hong Kong people’s freedoms and human rights.

A court in Hong Kong on Wednesday handed down jail terms of up to 13-and-a-half months to Wong, 24, Chow, 23, and Lam, 26, for their role in a mass protest that laid siege to police headquarters on June 21, 2019 for several hours.

All three had earlier pleaded guilty to charges of “inciting others to take part in an illegal assembly,” and “taking part in an illegal assembly,” saying they had decided to plead guilty as they had scant hope of a fair trial.

Wong had joined the June 21 protest against police violence just three days after his release from an earlier jail sentence related to the 2014 Occupy Central pro-democracy movement.

London-based rights group Amnesty International had earlier condemned police violence during protests on June 12 as violating international law, after evaluating video footage of the clashes, and has since strongly criticized the Hong Kong police for torturing and mistreating protesters in detention, as well as for the reckless and indiscriminate use of force during street protests.

Some detained protesters were severely beaten in custody and suffered other ill-treatment amounting to torture, the group said in a report, with police violence occurring mostly before and during arrest, with almost every arrested person interviewed for the group’s report describing being beaten with batons and fists during their arrest, even when they put up no resistance.

New footage revealed

In Hong Kong on Friday, an inquest into the death of Hong Kong University of Science and Technology student Chow Tsz-lok during a protest in Tseung Kwan O district last year revealed new surveillance footage that apparently showed the student falling from a parking garage as police and local residents and protesters were facing off elsewhere in the same neighborhood.

Coroner David Ko said he had discovered “critical” new detail in CCTV footage from a parking lot near the Kwong Ming Court residential block, despite police claims that no footage of Chow’s presumed fall existed.

Ko said there were also inconsistencies in evidence given by the ambulance crew who took a fatally injured Chow to hospital, and that he had notified the city’s Fire Department that they are are a party to the inquiry.

The 10-second video clip mostly shows a badminton court, with a dark figure falling across the top right-hand corner of the screen. Nobody else is in shot. Chow’s mother could be heard sobbing as it was played to the court.

Ko adjourned the inquest until Dec. 8 to allow the court time to verify the time, location, and angle of the camera.

Chow’s father Chow Tak-ming, said that although he was sad to watch the footage of Chow falling from a building, he believed it was a breakthrough in the inquest, given repeated police claims that no such footage existed.