High time others gave Hong Kong its due on civil liberties

  • According to some, the city’s freedoms are being eroded by Beijing, but they are still alive and well as seen by the visit of a Russian punk group and a forum on investment in marijuana
PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 07 November, 2018, 5:42pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 07 November, 2018, 10:37pm

Reasonable people may disagree over the extent civil liberties in Hong Kong are being eroded. That’s despite some segments of the opposition and the foreign press that see threats from nefarious Beijing everywhere, under every doormat and behind every tree.

But perhaps we should acknowledge cases where such liberties are respected and kept alive, even if they don’t fit with the narrative that the city is going down the drain under Chinese rule. Just consider two recent examples: Pussy Riot and a marijuana investment forum.

Two members of the Russian punk group, better known for their protest antics than musical talent, were here to help “defend” our freedom of expression and support LGBT rights. They were allowed into the city and to protest to their heart’s content. Perhaps their only source of frustration was that at one protest, few people bothered to show up.

That was when they rallied with Joshua Wong Chi-fung of Demosisto, ostensibly to show support for dissident cartoonist Badiucao who abruptly cancelled his exhibition citing unspecified threats from “mainland authorities”.

Was it one mainland agency or several? Did they make the threats online, by phone or in person – if the latter, was it one person or several people? Were they from the central government’s liaison office in Hong Kong, public security or intelligence services? And what were the threats?

Cartoonist calls off show amid claims of threats from authorities

We have not been told. Neither the artist nor his sponsor Hong Kong Free Press has offered any details or evidence. Maybe that was why few showed up for the protest? But Pussy Riot told the press that Hong Kong people were too afraid to join them. Really? And Wong is already citing the cancellation as another incident of Beijing’s suppression of free speech in Hong Kong.

Meanwhile, some cannabis “entrepreneurs” from overseas came to the city to promote their business to local investors, at a forum that charged US$1,000 a ticket. I wonder how many people paid up for the privilege.

Some forum participants complained government officials didn’t take part despite being invited. Could it be that cannabis is an illegal substance in Hong Kong, as it is in the vast majority of jurisdictions around the world? I know Canada has just decriminalised its recreational use. Those liberal Canadians, you can’t compete with them!

The government was right to stay away but also to exercise discretion by allowing the forum to proceed. I presume organisers didn’t offer their products to potential investors.