HomeExpansionismChina's Assault on Free Speech in Hong Kong: A Dangerous Reality

China’s Assault on Free Speech in Hong Kong: A Dangerous Reality

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China’s vehement reaction to a recent press freedom event held at the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva drew global attention. The spotlight is on the erosion of free speech rights in Hong Kong since the introduction of a new national security law.

The event, orchestrated by the United Kingdom, aimed to shed light on China’s repression of free speech. In response, Beijing’s authorities in Hong Kong described the allegations as “baseless remarks, slanders, and smears.” They argued that the media environment in Hong Kong remains vibrant and free. Yet, their defense seems hollow at best.

The core issue is the national security law’s curbing of press freedom. The very essence of press freedom – the right to critique and voice opposing views – is being stifled. The closing of independent media outlets like Apple Daily and the imprisonment of their owners are clear indicators of this suppression. China may attempt to downplay these actions, but its suppression of freedoms in Hong Kong only harms its international economic interests.

Numerous American corporations, including Amway, Qualcomm, and Coca-Cola, may turn a blind eye to these human rights violations. Some, like Britain’s HSBC bank, even show support for the new law. However, increased international scrutiny could deter foreign investment in China. The recent imprisonment of free speech advocates like Jimmy Lai, among others, reveals the stark contrast between China’s actions and its international obligations. Beijing may advocate for “win-win cooperation,” but it has undeniably violated the Sino-British joint declaration, which mandates Hong Kong’s democratic nature and rule of law until at least 2047.

Britain has vocalized its concerns about the rapid erosion of freedoms in Hong Kong. The UK’s recent report highlighted China’s deviation from the promises made to Hong Kong’s citizens during the 1997 handover. British Foreign Secretary James Cleverly accused China of encroaching on the rights of the people, stating that free speech, press, and assembly are continually being suppressed. The Chinese embassy in London has yet to respond, although China has previously accused Britain of harboring a colonial mindset.

Hong Kong was handed over to China from Britain more than 25 years ago under a “one country, two systems” agreement, ensuring autonomy and free speech. However, China’s recent actions have clearly breached this agreement. In June 2020, a national security law was imposed, met with widespread international condemnation.

Jimmy Lai’s case is a glaring example of Beijing’s tightening grip. Lai, a prominent critic of China’s Communist Party and the founder of Apple Daily, faces charges under this national security law. Accused of fraud and conspiracy to commit collusion, Lai remains a symbol of the larger fight for freedom in Hong Kong.

Hong Kong is toast. Freedoms will erode more and more, despite the treaties that were signed and despite the word of the Chinese government to maintain Hong Kong as a place of freedom within Chinese society. The question is whether other countries, notably Taiwan, will fall under the threat of the elimination of freedoms as China gains more power.

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