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Occupy Central

New Hong Kong civic group co-founded by activist Joshua Wong appeals for international help to fend off ‘China’s sharp power’ in city

Hong Kong Civil Hub issues report describing how rule of law, elections, media, academic freedom and religion are affected

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 27 September, 2018, 8:08pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 27 September, 2018, 8:54pm

A newly formed Hong Kong civil society group has appealed to the international community to help it fend off what it calls Beijing’s encroaching interference in the city’s freedoms, with three well-known activists advancing this cause at the European Parliament and in Britain this week.

Hong Kong Civil Hub, co-founded by the poster boy of the Occupy protests for greater democracy four years ago, Joshua Wong Chi-fung, issued a report on Thursday describing how “China’s sharp power” was affecting the rule of law, elections, the media, academic freedom and religion.

It came a day before the city marked the four-year anniversary of the 79-day occupation of major roads in downtown Hong Kong where protesters called for universal suffrage.

On Wednesday, Occupy co-founder Benny Tai Yiu-ting, who contributed to the report, accused Beijing of being increasingly authoritarian towards the city in a seminar at the European Parliament in Brussels.

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Tai will on Sunday be in Britain with the group’s co-founder Martin Lee Chu-ming and Nathan Law Kwun-chung of localist party Demosisto to attend a conference on Hong Kong’s democratic development.

In the report, Tai, a law lecturer at the University of Hong Kong, said Beijing had become more authoritarian and “redrawn red lines” after the Occupy movement.

“In a semi-authoritarian Hong Kong there are two types of power. One is hard power, coercion, and the other is ‘sharp’ power. The nature of sharp power is deception, manipulation and confusion,” Tai told members of the European Parliament.

“In a semi-authoritarian era, there is a mix of both, but sharp power is used more.”

Tai described the banning of the Hong Kong National Party earlier this week and the disqualification of lawmakers over an oath-taking saga as incidents of “hard power”, enacted by the city’s leader as the political agent of Beijing.

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Combined with instances of “sharp power”, which he did not elaborate on, this created a “chilling effect” which silenced the political opposition in Hong Kong.

Besides Wong and Lee, who founded the city’s Democratic Party, the new group’s other co-founders are former Civil Human Rights Front convenor Johnson Yeung Ching-yin and veteran pan-democrat Lee Cheuk-yan.

Tai, Occupy co-founder Chan Kin-man, academic Leung Yan-wing and journalist-turned-lecturer Bruce Lui Ping-kuen wrote the report, titled “China’s Sharp Power on Hong Kong”.

The group aimed to provide regular analyses on the latest political and civil society developments locally as Hongkongers should issue their own observations, Wong said, rather than relying on the six-monthly reports done by Britain’s Foreign Office and the Hong Kong Policy Act Reports issued by the US State Department.

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“Hong Kong’s civil society has lacked a platform connecting to the international community,” Wong said.

The report called for the international community to team up with Hongkongers to establish foundations that could fund scholarships to study Hong Kong, work on specific projects on the city, arrange for independent election monitoring, react to infringements of human rights by strongly condemning them and demanding direct responses from Beijing or Hong Kong officials concerning issues of democratic development and maintenance of the rule of law.