There are hardly any more demonstrations in Hong Kong, activists are being arrested massively. Today Joshua Wong, Agnes Chow and Ivan Lam were convicted of their role in protests in Hong Kong last summer. Wong got a whopping 13.5 months in jail.
Meanwhile, in parliament, the last remaining pro-democratic representatives of the people gather their belongings. After a new round of redundancies, the rest of the pro-democracy camp in the Legislative Council is making the decision.
“ We have no other choice,” says outgoing parliamentarian Lam Cheuk-ting. The moving boxes in his study are packed. Is the pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong coming to an end?
The layoffs were made on the basis of a recently imposed law by China. It gives Hong Kong the power to remove members of parliament who support independence or are dangerous states.
Lams decision to leave, he calls a protest against that law and against “a system that gives an undemocratically elected chief executive, a peking man, the power to remove democratically elected representatives from parliament”.
Last summer, Corona was used as a reason to postpone elections to the Legislative Council, which the pro-democrats would probably win by distance, by a year. The composition of parliament was extended, but shortly after the postponement several Members were expelled from office.
“ The democrats have the support of the majority of the Hong Kong people,” says Chu Hoi-dick, who was already in September. “Yet we get fewer seats from those in power than the pro-Beijing camp.”
Because of this limited power, the democrats have always been forced to act creatively. For example, earlier this year they scattered manure in parliament, trying to stop a controversial law that would make insult to the Chinese national anthem punishable.
“ What else can we do to stop bad legislation?” Chu wonders. He was arrested last month for involvement in the incident. The law came after all. Chus still waiting for his trial.
“ The government keeps arresting dissidents and arresting leaders of the democratic camp,” says Lam, who are now facing five charges. Both him and Chu are aware of the risks they run. Risks that have only increased since the introduction of the National Security Act. Everything can now be interpreted as undermining state security.
“ Hong Kong is no longer a free city since the law,” says Chu. “Everyone sees this interview should bear in mind that I am no longer free to say what I think.”
“ We are not afraid, but we try to stay out of prison,” he says. He is particularly concerned about the fate of already convicted activists like Wong and Chow. “They will probably end up behind bars for infinitely long. Thats what Beijing wants.”
There are at
least ten charges against Wong, including involvement in the Hong Kong commemoration of the Tiananmen protests earlier this year. Chu: “People will probably come up with more accusations to stretch their time in detention as long as possible.”
In recent months, several activists have left abroad because the ground became too hot under their feet. “The democratic movement led by Hong Kongers abroad will play a more important role,” Chu expects. “At the same time, the pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong may have to operate more underground.”
What exactly that will look like is still unclear. But participation in elections, if they are to take place next year, is not in line with expectations. Chu: “At this moment, we must regroup ourselves, set out a new strategy.”
Protests like last year, which held the city in the grip for months, are no longer held by both the pandemic and the National Security Act. “If the democratic movement wants to move forward, there will be a new wave of protests sooner or later,” says Chu, who weighs his words carefully. “Whether that will happen, and when, is not to say.”
Also outgoing parliamentarian Lam says that he is not able to answer all questions because of the security law, but does not take a leaf for the mouth. “Prison, torture or execution, we are prepared. The regime will use all its power to further oppress us,” he states, referring to the authorities in Beijing.
“ It will be a long, tough battle, but Hong Kongers never give up. This is not the end of the pro-democracy movement.”