GP Insights

GP Insights # 445, 29 November 2020

Hong Kong: The Joshua Wong trio pleads guilty, as the UK calls it as "the most concerning period in
Sukanya Bali

What happened? 
On 23 November, the six-day trial of Joshua Wong, Ivan Lam, and Agnes Chow Ting began. The three pleaded guilty to charges of inciting and organizing an unauthorized assembly, to lay a siege at Hong Kong police force headquarters in June 2019. The trio will be sentenced next week.
Wong said that they are prepared to face immediate jail terms and seek global attention to the criminal justice system, which is "manipulated by Beijing"'.

On 24 November, Dominic Raab, UK's Foreign Secretary unveiled the 47th six-monthly report on recent trends and developments in Hong Kong. He said, "This has been, and continues to be, the most concerning period in Hong Kong's post-handover history." The foreign secretary has also begun discussions with the President of the UK's Supreme Court over the British judge's position in Hong Kong's top court. The report was highly condemned by Hong Kong and China. The Hong Kong administration described the report as "sweeping attacks and groundless accusations". China accused the UK of meddling in China's internal affairs and undermining "one country, two systems" by offering a path to citizenship.

On 25 November, Carrie Lam in her annual policy address said that the government has planned to introduce a bill to augment "oath-taking" by civil servants and widespread public education "to enhance the understanding of the rule of law". She also said, "The situation in Hong Kong has evolved to such a state that the Central Government had no alternative but to step in and take action". 

What is the background?
First, the emergence of three protestors - Joshua Wong, Agnes Chow, and Ivan Lam, as a symbol of protest. They are facing charges over a demonstration at the police headquarters during the Hong Kong protests in June 2019. The three protestors were former members of the pro-democracy party Demosisto, which was disbanded soon after the imposition of China's national security law.  Wong has previously served three separate stints behind bars. Anges Chow and Joshua Wong had been involved in the pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong for years and were key figures in the 2014 Umbrella Movement. 

Second, Beijing's steady clamp-down on the protestors. There have been two "substantive" breaches of international commitments by China. First, imposing the new National Security Law, which aims to punish any action Beijing considers as subversion, secession, terrorism, and collusion with foreign forces. Second, new rules for the disqualification of elected Hong Kong legislators, which led to the immediate removal of four pro-democracy representatives. In response, fifteen members of opposition stepped out in solidarity chanting "Hong Kong add oil, together we stand". 

Third, the international response. The repeated arrests have drawn criticism from Western governments who say China is not fulfilling its obligation to allow Hong Kong a high degree of autonomy which was agreed with Britain.  The US has been resolute over its decision to remove Hong Kong special economic status and impose sanctions on Carrie Lam and some other government officials.

What does it mean?
China's consistent heavy-handed approach towards Hong Kong has cast a chill over pro-democracy activism. Beijing's breaches of the Sino-Britain Joint Declaration in the past five months has raised concern over its commitment. 

Even though the resistance of young protestors has weakened in the last few months, this section of the Hong Kong population is actively committed to preserve the "one country, two systems model".  

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