by Addison Wakelin ’22
In late August, 12 activists were caught by Chinese officials trying to flee to Taiwan and are now detained with little known of their whereabouts. The arrests came in a growing crackdown on pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong, as more protests in Hong Kong are being targeted by China’s new national security law.
The 12 activists were seized by speedboat in the South China Sea. Little is known of the activists’ well-being and safety, outraging both pro-democracy Hong Kong people and one of Hong Kong’s most prominent allies, the United States.
The detainment of the 12 activists comes in a slew of anti-democratic actions taken by Hong Kong, instigated by an increasingly impatient China to obtain complete autonomy of the region. In early August, prominent Hong Kong media personality and critic of China and the Chinese Communist Party, Jimmy Lai, was arrested. As Chinese officials state, Lai was arrested on suspicion of “foreign collusion” under China’s national security law, which was passed this summer to stop the pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong and the growing criticisms of Chinese leader Xi Jinping.
On Saturday, Sept. 12, the relatives of the detained activists came out and pleaded for their family members to be granted the right to hire their own lawyers, rather than be represented by lawyers appointed by Chinese authorities. They argued that China is violating the activists’ legal rights and that their relatives deserve fair legal representation.
In a recent press statement, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo expressed his growing concern over both Hong Kong’s and China’s handling of the activists. Pompeo cited particular worry about the lack of information reported on the protesters and their safety. In regard to Hong Kong’s leader Carrie Lam and her leadership, Pompeo stated: “We question Chief Executive Lam’s stated commitment to protecting the rights of Hong Kong residents, and call on authorities to ensure due process.”
China has been in a contentious relationship with Hong Kong, as it continuously attempts to control the economic and political affairs of the region. The U.S. has also encouraged Hong Kong’s independence from China’s growing power over the region. However, China has slowly been garnering more legislative and judicial power. This has resulted in growing resentment by Hong Kongers against mainland China.
Having initially been a British colony, Hong Kong was able to remain semi-autonomous once they gained their independence. However, the passing of China’s national security law is one of many instances in which China has tried to maintain and expand its power in a postcolonial Hong Kong.
Tensions between China and Hong Kong have increased to international notoriety, with many Americans even boycotting Disney’s new live-action remake of Mulan. Last week, the hashtag #BoycottMulan was trending on Twitter following the release of the remake of the acclaimed ‘90s classic.
The outrage came as the lead actress, Liu Yifei, stated in a message on Weibo, a popular Chinese social media platform, “I support Hong Kong’s police, you can beat me up now.” The public outrage comes as Hong Kong police continue to clash with pro-democracy protesters, engaging in violence to control the mass protests in the region.
The detention of the 12 activists is only a recent instance of China utilizing their far-reaching legislative power to engage in suppressing pro-democracy Hong Kong protestors.
The whereabouts of the 12 detained activists are still currently unknown, meaning increased protests against Chinese political intrusions into Hong Kong are a likely possibility.
Pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong have attracted international attention. Photo courtesy of wikepedia.org.