IFJ hosts press briefing on pro-democracy protests

The IFJ hosted a press briefing at the Brussels Press Club organised by the ITUC for a delegation of human rights and pro-democracy activists visiting Europe.

AFPTV

The delegation was comprised of Alan Leong kah Kit, the Party Chairman of “The Civic Way, The Fairer Way” and Wong Yik Mo , a member of the Civil Human Rights Front.

The briefing focused on the on-going pro-democracy protests, highlighting violence and other measures targeting journalists such as verbal and physical attacks from the police. The speakers cited a case of an Indonesian journalist who was deliberately shot and lost an eye. The week after the Indonesian journalist was attacked, the colonial era emergency laws were used to pass the, “Prohibition on Face Covering” regulation, also known as the “anti-mask law”, preventing people from covering their faces at protests. The anti-mask law is a threat to the safety of journalists who cover protests without proper protection. Both speakers said that some media in Hong Kong, to varying degrees, have biases against the protest movement. Generally, their view is that the “broad message” is getting across.

Mr. Kit explained the protests were started by the Hong Kong Freedom Movement in opposition to the extradition proposal introduced in February, that allowed transfer of suspects to mainland China for trial, sentencing and jailing. He said there were widespread concerns in Hong Kong which enjoys a legal system based on the protection of individuals rights, checks on power and rights of minorities. This is in contrast to the legal system in China where laws serve the party and entrench the ruling community party’s rule. The protests are an attempt to to prevent the Chinese regime from arbitrarily interfering with Hong Kong.

He highlighted the key moments of the protest movement so far, including; a march of one million June 9, calling for the withdrawal of the extradition proposal, the aborted second reading of the bill which failed because of the occupation of the Assembly and the use of tear gas by police on protesters, the announcement by Hong Kong Chief Executive of the temporary suspension of the bill on 15 June and the two million march the following day to demand the bill be dropped altogether.

He also talked about the increasing police violence on protesters and other means of repression such as mass arrests of over 2,000 people, including around 145 minors, below the age of 16. He contrasted that with fewer than 200 prosecutions, giving the impression that these arrests serve as a deterrence against future protests.

In his presentation, Mr. Mo said that protesters had at the beginning two demands which have now expanded to five by the time the bill was finally withdrawn on 5 September, namely : (1) the withdrawal of the Bill(obtained on the 5th September); (2) the step down of Carrie Lam and the organisation of free elections ; (3) credible investigations by the police; (4) disqualification of the movements as “riots” which justify the crackdown of the police forces and can led to charges up to 10 years; (5) the release of all the 2300 arrested protesters and guarantee no prosecutions.

This was in response to the way the crisis was handled which exposed systemic failures of the insittutional systems. The means used by the police agents and the authorities to “control” the protests, such as the anti-mask Law for example, have continued to fuel the discontentment of the protesters who refused to be divided. Police have employed brutality, escalating violence to sexual violence and deadly shootings.

Finally, they explained the need for Europe to mobilise support in the West for Hong Kong’s model of Liberal democracy which is under threat from China, citing President Xi’s warning of the ‘spell of inevitability’ of China’s take over of the province. Their main concern going forward is whether general elections ( at the district level in Hong Kong) will go ahead amid fears that they may be cancelled, thus removing a path towards a peaceful solution.