Over a thousand UK Hong Kongers gathered to support Hong Kong’s fight for freedom of the press during a human chain protest in Kingston yesterday.
“Hong Kong is not China” was the message chanted by the Hong Kongers in a bid to express their solidarity as well as draw the UK’s attention to the restrictions affecting freedom of expression, and the ability to protest without fear of arrest in their home country.
The Hong Kong National Security Law, establishing the crimes of secession, subversion, terrorism and collusion, was passed in June 2020 and its vague terminology led to the arrests of multiple journalists and the closure of the pro-democracy newspaper, Apple Daily.
Terry Ho, 50, who was at the protest said: “They change all the media, they take away all the freedom of speech.
“There is no more freedom of speech in Hong Kong.”
Terry and his wife Connie moved to the UK countryside on a BNO visa in order to escape the increasingly uneasy situation at home, and to raise their child in a place where they can be free to make decisions for themselves.
Terry said: “They will brainwash our next generation.
“The Communist Party won’t let the children know anything different to what they do.”
When the National Security law was passed, the Hong Kong government used the vague wording to arrest Jimmy Lai who founded the pro-democracy newspaper Apple Daily in 1995.
They also froze the assets of the company, meaning they could not pay their bills and were forced to cease operations after 26 years of publishing history.
This was seen by the people of Hong Kong as a direct attack on the freedom of the press, as more arrests of senior journalists were carried out, shaping the media landscape into a one-sided portrait.
Radio Television Hong Kong, a popular government funded broadcaster known for its independent journalism, was also subject to tightening as the new director of broadcasting cancelled shows, deleted archival content and gave Carrie Lam, the Chief Executive of Hong Kong, her own radio show to explain changes to electoral laws.
Jessie Chan who was also at the protest with her husband Sam said: “There is not going to be an end to all this and the tightening is just very horrifying, we don’t know what’s going to be next, the teachers, maybe the commoners.
“The people are really worried.”
Jessie and Sam Chan as well as Terry and Connie Ho are among tens of thousands of Hong Kongers who have left their homes to start their new lives away from the increasingly volatile situation back home.
Sam Chan said: “Everyone here has left the places they loved and built their roots for decades, they left their friends, family members, their professions, their jobs.
“We are so grateful for the UK, to allow us to build our new home.”
The Hong Kong government operates under the policy of “one country, two systems” which means that although there is only one China, Hong Kong is able to maintain its own governmental system, legal, economic, and financial affairs.
This came into force after Hong Kong became a Special administrative region of China in 1997, but the implementations of laws such as the national security law has led many to believe that Hong Kong has reverted to a de facto “one country, one law” status.
The text of the law drew criticism from different parts of the world as the wording of the law states that it is applicable to those who are not permanent residents of Hong Kong, with some interpreting the law as saying that it is applicable to every individual in the world.