On Thursday, a Hong Kong court ordered 47 pro-democracy activists charged under a Beijing-imposed national security law with “conspiracy to commit subversion” to be kept in custody in a case that has sparked global outcry at Beijing using such laws to quash dissent from Hong Kongers, according to multiple news outlets.
The Thursday ruling came after four days of bail hearings and after the Hong Kong Department of Justice appealed an initial decision to grant 15 of them bail.
31 of the activists were denied bail completely, with the co-founder of the 2014 Occupy Central protest movement, Benny Tai, withdrawing his bail application after he was ordered to be held in custody in a different case, according to the Associated Press.
The case’s next hearing is scheduled for May 31, per the news outlet.
The hearings have gone on late into the night for three consecutive days, causing several defendants to fall ill and be taken to the hospital, according to Reuters via U.S. & World News Report. This has prompted concerns from rights groups and some foreign diplomats over their treatment.
On Sunday, the activists were detained and charged over their involvement in an unofficial primary election last year that authorities said was a plot to paralyze Hong Kong’s government, according to the AP.
The charges are the most sweeping use yet of the national security law that mainland China imposed on the semi-autonomous city last June, which prompted global outcry.
With the 47 remanded in custody, as the AP noted, almost all of Hong Kong’s most high-profile pro-democracy activists will now be in jail or in self-exile abroad amid an ongoing crackdown on dissent in the semi-autonomous Chinese city.
The 15 activists initially granted bail are set to appear at the High Court within 48 hours for a review of the decision, according to Reuters.
The U.S. State Department did not immediately respond to this reporter’s request for comment.
Chairman Avery Ng of the League of Social Democrats political party, according to the AP, said after the hearing that the Department of Justice’s appeal of the decision to grant bail to 15 of the defendants was “insidious” and “absurd, ridiculous and inhumane.”
“We’re not surprised at all that today’s bail application failed,” said Po-ying Chan, wife of one of the prominent defendants who was denied bail, “Long Hair” Leung Kwok-hung, according to Reuters.
“This proved that under the [national security law], the legal system has been twisted and turned upside down.”
MORE ON HONG KONG: NYT Opinion Piece Defends China’s Authoritarian Actions in Hong Kong
Ahead of the bail decisions, more than a hundred supporters of the activists congregated outside the West Kowloon Court in an emotional scene, chanting slogans such as “Liberate Hong Kong, revolution of our times,” which the government has outlawed because of secessionist connotations.
Some sobbed inside the chambers and others hugged outside, according to Reuters. One person, the outlet reported, stood outside the court with a yellow umbrella, a symbol of the democracy movement, and a banner that said “Free all political prisoners”.
Police assembled and hoisted a warning flag, according to the AP, instructing demonstrators that they might be violating the national security law.
The activists are accused of organizing and engaging in an unofficial, non-binding primary election last July that authorities claimed was part of a “vicious plot” to “overthrow” the government.
The vote, according to Reuters, was aimed at picking the strongest opposition candidates for a legislative council election that the government later postponed, citing the coronavirus.
You can follow Douglas Braff on Twitter @Douglas_P_Braff.
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Shanghai: China’s Potemkin Village
Following a recent outbreak of COVID-19, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has imposed a month-long draconian lockdown on the residents of Shanghai. The CCP has used the outbreak to persecute its own citizens, including through forced evictions and quarantines, and placing alarms on doors to prevent COVID-19 people from leaving their homes. The harsh measures have resulted in food and healthcare shortages and separation of families.
But of course, we wouldn’t know that by reading the CCP-run press readily available in the United States. Instead of presenting the facts, the CCP engages in a comprehensive propaganda campaign that props up Shanghai as a Chinese Potemkin village. The CCP media asserts that China’s actions in Shanghai are benevolent and wise, while Western criticism is a product of malice. Chinese state-run media also insists that the Shanghai lockdown promotes economic stability in China and the world.
Claim 1: China Has the Best Policy for Combating COVID-19
The CCP media portray the Shanghai lockdown as the best and ideal policy. As cited by a XinhuaNet editorial, “China’s dynamic zero-COVID approach” is “the best option to save lives,” according to a “Rwandan researcher and publisher,” “…a miracle for us to learn,” according to a Kenyan scholar, and “a very ideal response,” according to Ethiopia’s National COVID-19 Response Task Force Coordinator. According to CCP media, Chinese citizens have greeted the Shanghai lockdown warmly, even with “[a] mixed sense of intensity, unity and hopefulness,” according to China Daily.
Claim 2: The West Hypocritically Defames China
The CCP press also accuses the West of lying about the Shanghai lockdown, and using COVID policies for nefarious ends. According to XinhuaNet, “Shanghai…has never imposed what Western media described as a ‘lockdown.’” Other CCP editorials actually accuse the West of malice. One Global Times editorial claims that the lockdown “has been deliberately exaggerated by the West.” Another Global Times editorial asserts that the Western approach of “coexisting with the virus” amounts to a way “…to drive out a large number of the vulnerable people with low immunity,” and a form of “cruel social Darwinism.”
Claim 3: China’s COVID Policies Result in an Economic Windfall to China and the World
The CCP also portrays the lockdown as necessary to achieve great economic growth in China and beyond. One Global Times editorial, while conceding that the lockdown amounted to a “sealing-off,” it is “a temporary measure to better resume work and production and to make the economy and society function more effectively. Its effectiveness has been proven.” According to another Global Times editorial, China’s policy is “widely considered to be the best strategy…to both contain the epidemic and ensure stable economic development.”
In an Orwellian fashion, Chinese press claims that China is solving, not causing, the world’s economic problems. According to XinhuaNet, “China has played a decisive role in stabilizing the global economy and resuming the supply chain disrupted by COVID-19.” Citing a Bloomberg article, the same XinhuaNet editorial claims that China “has prevented a huge number of deaths at home and ensured that everything from iPhones and Teslas to fertilizer and car parts continues to flow to the rest of the world.” Chinese citizens, of course, are collateral damage: Ji Qiwei, vice-general manager of SAIC Motor Passenger Vehicle, stated that “The domestic market may be impacted a little by the COVID-19 outbreak this year, but our export market will continue to see strong growth,” according to China Daily.
While the world continues to suffer economic and human damage as a result of COVID-19, China continues to revise history regarding its role. Through its propaganda in its English publications of Xinhua, China Daily, and Global Times, China seeks to portray itself as a benevolent force in the fight against the virus.
You can follow Steve Postal on Twitter @HebraicMosaic
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