27 May 2019
Activists stage a protest at the Golden Bauhinia Statue ahead. Among other things, they are calling for the unconditional release of Liu Xiaobo. Photo: Standnews
Activists stage a protest at the Golden Bauhinia Statue ahead. Among other things, they are calling for the unconditional release of Liu Xiaobo. Photo: Standnews

Hong Kong should voice out its concern on Liu Xiaobo

While the Hong Kong government prepares to mark the 20th anniversary of Hong Kong’s return to China and Chinese President Xi Jinping’s three-day visit starting on Thursday, some Hong Kong people have expressed concern about the latest health condition of Nobel laureate Liu Xiaobo, who has been released from jail after being diagnosed with terminal liver cancer.

That shows “one country, two systems” at work when Hong Kong people are able to pay attention to Chinese dissidents like Liu. It will be quite dangerous for anyone in the mainland to do so.

Liu was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2010 while serving an 11-year sentence for inciting subversion. The government’s reason for jailing him was his proposed pro-democracy manifesto, dubbed Charter 08, in which he called for an end to one-party rule and improvements in human rights.

After a year in detention and a two-hour trial, he was sentenced in December 2009 to 11 years in prison.

Hong Kong people have been showing their concern for dissidents in mainland China. They strongly believe that all people should enjoy freedom of expression and freedom of speech. Liu’s situation shows those freedoms should not be taken for granted. At the same time, Hong Kong people feel the heat from the north as local leaders have set a red line for such freedoms and other issues such as separatism and independence.

Against such backdrop, Hongkongers have mixed feelings about this week when Liu’s release and Xi’s visit take place. Still, it provides an opportunity for Hong Kong people to bring Liu’s situation to Xi’s attention, despite concern by Beijing loyalists that it will only embarrass the Chinese leader. 

Demosisto general secretary Joshua Wong called on Hong Kong people to press Beijing to release Liu unconditionally. “It’s time for us to ask for the release of Liu Xiaobo during the visit of President Xi,” he said.

Together with the League of Social Democrats and People Power, Demosisto launched a campaign to occupy Golden Bauhinia Square. Some of them even chained themselves to the Golden Bauhinia Statue. They were arrested by the police but their call for Liu’s immediate release has been heard by the public and the international media.

Such action by radical democrats also reminded Hong Kong people about the importance of the freedom of expression in the SAR.

It’s quite sad the the local media is playing down Liu’s story, even though Apple Daily and Ming Pao Daily continued to run significant coverage. Many newspapers toned down their coverage in order to create a smooth and harmonious atmosphere for Xi’s visit.

It was the Communist Party’s mistake to sentence Liu to jail in the first place given Liu is just a scholar advocating for democracy.

In an editorial, news website, a Hong Kong based pro-Beijing online media, said many Hong Kong people did not appreciate Beijing’s kindness in releasing Liu. It said they attacked Beijing’s supposed cruelty in delaying the action until it was too late to do anything about his health condition.

In fact, the editorial tried to shift public attention from how Beijing had treated Liu in jail since 2009 compared with past cases to highlight Beijing’s kindness. That is completely irrelevant and ignores the fact that Beijing had abused its power to send a scholar to jail just because he wrote a pro-democracy manifesto and took no action about it.

The article challenged Beijing’s notions about bottom lines and applies to present-day Hong Kong in its fight to uphold the core values of social justice, freedom of expression and transparency. It is quite clear that Hong Kong people know the importance of upholding them.

Meanwhile, the Hong Kong police said that President Xi faces a “heightened” terror threat during his visit and counter-terrorism measures are needed to ensure his safety.

Where is the threat coming from? The supporters of Liu Xiaobo, or members of the Hong Kong opposition? Or from Hong Kong people themselves?

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EJ Insight writer

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