Hearts that turn to stone

September 24, 2020 08:04
Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor Photo: Reuters

It has been one month since China’s coast guard captured 12 young Hong Kong people at sea trying to flee to Taiwan. Among the captured is a 16-year-old. Even though I don’t know them, I sometimes lie awake worrying about their fate. Just imagine the agony of their parents.

There are stories of mainland authorities putting detainees in tiny cells with artificial lighting 24 hours a day as a form of torture. That’s reportedly what happened to two Canadians the mainland arrested in 2018 for alleged spying after Canada detained Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou on an extradition request by the US.

I sincerely hope the 12 young Hongkongers are being treated humanely. But how can we be sure under China’s secretive judicial system. All we know is the 12 were not even allowed to have mainland lawyers chosen by their parents. They were forced to accept mainland-appointed lawyers.

Since their arrest on August 23, I had patiently hoped our top officials would say they understand the pain of the parents or at least offer some words of comfort. Government sympathy did not come. Instead, Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor and Security Secretary John Lee Ka-chiu virtually gloated at the arrests.

Only people with hearts of stone can gloat at the pain of parents whose children are tried in courts controlled by an authoritarian regime. I often wonder if Lam, Lee, or other loyalists would want their families to face mainland justice. I think not. That’s why so many families of so-called patriots have foreign passports.

Lee claims the 12 are in good health. Only people with stone hearts can make such claims when neither he nor any Hong Kong officials have been allowed access to the 12. Lam’s heart of stone was in plain sight during a media briefing two weeks ago when she couldn’t even bring herself to show sympathy for a 12-year-old girl tackled to the ground by three policemen.

Why should she care about the suffering of other parents? Her own son is safe after fleeing the US ahead of her being sanctioned. Why did her son flee when the US sanctions didn’t target him? Maybe Lam distrusts the US legal system even though she wants us to trust and respect China’s legal system.

When Lam tried to ram through her now-dead extradition bill last year, she assured the public Hongkongers extradited to the mainland would have presumption of innocence, an open trial, legal representation, human rights safeguards, and no forced confessions.

She was asked at a media briefing two days ago if the 12 would have all the safeguards she promised last year. She didn’t reply directly. How could she when she knows presumption of innocence, proper legal representation, and human rights safeguards are alien to the mainland’s judicial system?

Hongkongers familiar with the mainland’s opaque court system know it is doublespeak to say it has fair trials. Over 99 percent of those charged are found guilty. It is called fair trials with Chinese characteristics. That’s why Hongkongers treated her extradition bill assurances as a joke.

An estimated two million people marched peacefully against the bill to counter her joke. They deserve a prize for their foresight because they are now seeing first-hand how the mainland’s secretive judicial system works.

Lam started the joke last year but today only she is laughing. Virtually the whole of Hong Kong is crying. Unlike our highly-paid officials who are so out of touch with the people, ordinary Hongkongers have real hearts. They are praying for the 12.

Yes, the 12 have legal representation, but not of their choice. Forget about presumption of innocence. Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying has already labeled the 12 as separatists. Lam wants us to respect mainland China’s legal system. I will do that if she challenges Hua’s unproven claim. As our leader, she is morally obliged to defend the rights of Hong Kong citizens. But we all know puppet leaders never dare challenge their masters.

At her media briefing two days ago she claimed if her extradition bill had succeeded, the 12 would not be in the position they are now in. It seems our leader, who cries if she doesn’t come first in class during her student days, likes to tell jokes that make people laugh.

Let me remind everyone that she insisted the 12 must face mainland justice for alleged illegal entry. That means even if her extradition bill had succeeded, the 12 would still have to be tried in the mainland first.

And if Hua’s labeling of the 12 as separatists is Beijing’s official position, they could be sucked into the mainland’s prison system indefinitely. No extradition bill could save them. So please, Mrs so-called leader, no more jokes.

It is surreal to live in Hong Kong now. A foreign judge of the court of final appeal has resigned because of the national security law. The director of public prosecutions has resigned for similar reasons. The government will only use the Bank of China for cash handouts to new immigrants. The police force has ruled it can decide who real journalists are.

It all seems like the 2015 fictional award-winning movie Ten Years of a dystopian Hong Kong. As the movie depicted, get ready for the day when it becomes illegal to call eggs produced here as local eggs.

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A Hong Kong-born American citizen who has worked for many years as a journalist in Hong Kong, the USA and London.