The violence over the freedom of Hong Kong citizens is no longer limited to Hong Kong. Students numbering in the hundreds gathered on the campus of the University of Queensland, staging a sit-in to protest Hong Kong’s controversial extradition bill, that if passed, would permit Hong Kong to extradite criminals to mainland China, a country with significantly fewer freedoms for citizens, and serious human rights issues.
During the protest, pro-Beijing counter protesters arrived on the scene, and “They drove us to the lawn and surrounded us for half an hour,” says student Christy Leung. Shortly after, she says the counter protesters began attacking the pro-democracy students.
Huang Qi (黃琦) is a human rights activist and reporter from Chengdu, China who runs 64Tianwang, a website that popularly reports on the disappearances of Chinese citizens perpetrated by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), the nation’s ruling party. The site is blocked on the Chinese internet, accessible to residents of mainland China through use of a VPN.
The activist was placed in detention from 2000 to 2005, and again in 2009 for similar crimes. This latest sentence of 12 years is the longest any “cyber-dissident” has been sentenced to yet. “Huang Qi, founder and director of Sichuan-based human rights website “64 Tianwang”, was secretly tried at Mianyang City Intermediate People’s Court on 14 January 2019 after being held in detention for more than two years.” Amnesty International reported in January of 2019. “…Pu Wenqing, his 85-year-old mother, was taken away by Sichuan police in December 2018 and only released after more than a month in detention.”
Many are concerned over this latest sentence given Huang Qi’s poor health after years in detainment. The activist and Cyberfreedom Prize winner suffers from heart disease and kidney disease. “The authorities are using his case to scare other human rights defenders who do similar work exposing abuses, especially those using online platforms,” says Reporters Without Borders researcher Patrick Boon.
As the protests, which first began 31 March, 2019, rage on, harsher and more frequent violence against the protesters is being reported by those present. Most recently, protesters have posted testimony, photos, and videos of large crowds of masked people wearing white shirts, sometimes called Wumao, ambushing protesters and violently beating them, allegedly at the behest of the Hong Kong police and government. Protesters note that police officers were seen leaving the scene shortly before the attacks in the Yuen Long area of Hong Kong.
“If those who are pro-independence lead to the subversion of the fate of the country; with Hong Kong and the 1.3 billion people in the motherland having to pay a huge price, why shouldn’t these people be killed?”
– Junius Ho
“The behavior of some radical protesters challenges the central government’s authority, touching on the bottom line principle of ‘one country, two systems,’” said Colonel Wu, in reference to the unique system of governance that separates Hong Kong from the direct control of mainland China. “That absolutely cannot be tolerated” He continued.
Hong Kong is embroiled in a fight for its soul. The protesters are seeking liberty, and resisting the seemingly all-powerful pull of Mainland China, and the dystopian, authoritarian future it promises to the people of Hong Kong if this bill is passed.