The World Today for July 05, 2023

NEED TO KNOW

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HONG KONG

Hong Kong, a special administrative region of China, is giving out 700,000 plane tickets to folks who would like to visit the former British colony on the South China Sea. Would-be visitors must apply to receive the tickets, Time Out wrote.

Critics are calling out Hong Kong’s authorities, however. They’re saying that an enticement to visit won’t cover up the human rights abuses that routinely occur there since China imposed the National Security Law on the city archipelago three years ago, Deutsche Welle reported, undercutting its independence and expanding the control of China’s leaders in Beijing.

The trial of 47 pro-democracy activists recently began, for example, to consider charges that they held an unofficial primary election so as to join the local legislature and oppose the changes undertaken by Chinese officials in Hong Kong in recent years. “In much of the world, that’s called democracy,” opined Washington Post columnist Keith Richburg. “Here, it’s a violation of national security.”

Hong Kong border agents also recently barred a Japanese journalist from entering the city, a prohibition that the journalist told the Japan Times would have been unthinkable a few years before, when free markets and free expression were the mainstays of Hong Kong’s ruling system – in contrast to communist mainland China.

The online Citizens’ Radio station, launched in 2005 to broadcast news and opinions that were critical of government officials, is closing after intimidation and the loss of access to its bank account, reported Reuters.

And Hong Kong residents who sing or play the anthem “Glory to Hong Kong”, a popular song among pro-democracy activists, face prosecution under the National Security Law and other rules, added Politico.

The oppression can be even more insidious. As the Financial Times noted, American and British lawmakers have charged that London-based HSBC, the largest bank in Europe and which traces its origins to Hong Kong in the 1860s, has cooperated with Chinese officials and withheld pension payments from residents who want to emigrate from the city.

And Western governments and human rights advocates have just condemned Hong Kong police for putting up a $127,600 bounty for each of eight well-known democracy activists already self-exiled abroad in the US, UK, Canada, and Australia, CNN reported.

Hong Kong’s Chief Executive John Lee, who was the only approved candidate for the position when he ran for office last year, has defended China’s influence in the region. The National Security Law, he explained to the South China Morning Post, requires criminal intent for its charges to stick. Ten foreign judges also sit on Hong Kong courts, he added, proof that the system is not rigged.

Of course, who determines the criminal intent and how they determine it worries those who suspect the chief executive cares more about opinions in Beijing than those of his constituents.

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