Why do you support Hong Kong

Democracy activist Joshua Wong on Hong Kong: "The situation is a nightmare"

Creating awareness, if not initiative, against the restrictions on freedom of expression. That is the goal of the political section of the Frankfurt Book Fair. The digital version of the fair also campaigned "for the word and for freedom" - and as in the previous year, when the solidarity umbrella protest was called in Frankfurt, the focus in 2020 was also on Hong Kong. The philosopher and publicist Michel Friedman spoke to Joshua Wong, one of the most famous figures in the democracy movement.

Fighters for freedom of expression

Even without the Covid19 pandemic, Joshua Wong would not have been able to travel to Frankfurt. The prominent Hong Kong democracy activist, who was temporarily arrested in September, is not allowed to leave Hong Kong. He will face a court hearing on November 3rd. "He is one of those people who are persecuted because they say what they think", Michel Friedman introduced his interlocutor. The 24-year-old, who organized protests as a teenager, has already been arrested ten times in his young life and is threatened with a fourth prison term.

"Since the National Security Law was implemented in Hong Kong, the situation has turned into a nightmare," says Wong. He himself faces another prison sentence, but that does not prevent him from continuing to demonstrate for the freedom of the imprisoned democracy activists. In the past two months, many activists have been arrested - secretly, without being able to contact a lawyer or their families, reports the spokesman. "Some have been brought to China. We suspect they are being tortured."

Activist Joshua Wong in Hong Kong

A high rate of arrests

The proportion of Hong Kong residents arrested for participating in protests is extremely high: one in 700 is affected. "Since the summer, more than 10,000 people have been arrested in Hong Kong, a city of seven million people. 2,000 of us have been charged and over a hundred have actually been jailed." The youngest arrested is an eleven-year-old schoolchild, the oldest an 84-year-old. He himself has been monitored without interruption since July, constantly being followed by up to three cars at the same time.

The new security law, which has been in force in Hong Kong since June 30, is designed with its draconian measures to suppress freedom of expression and freedom of demonstration and to destroy criminal law. "Hong Kong should be broken out of the international community so that we lose their irreplaceable support." In Wong's opinion, Hong Kong has already abandoned the 'one country, two systems' maxim. "The transition to 'one country, one system' has already been made."

Wong fears election manipulation

Joshua Wong doubts that the parliamentary election originally scheduled for September, officially postponed by the Hong Kong government under Carrie Lam due to the corona pandemic, will ever take place under current Hong Kong law. The plan is to secure a Beijing-compliant majority through a change in the law linking a nearby city in mainland China to Hong Kong. "Then voters in China can vote. That would be the greatest election manipulation in the history of Hong Kong."

The Hong Kong democracy movement is alive: activists take part in court hearings to support the defendants

The suppression of freedom of expression in Hong Kong is now very concrete. Information would be censored, his own writings, for example, removed from the shelves of public libraries on the pretext that they had to be examined for possible violations of the law. Again and again publications are prevented by the threat of legal consequences. A teacher was dismissed for criticizing the government.

The protest has shifted to the Internet

"We all know it's about intimidation and repression through fear," says Wong. But it is a question of survival that the voices of democratic protest are heard. "If we fall silent, we become unfree. That's why we have to now act. "After a physical presence on the street was no longer possible because of the Covid19 pandemic, more than a million Hong Kongers have moved their protest to the Internet. For example, one is virtually in the online game" Animal Crossing, which is also popular in China "took to the streets - whereupon it was banned in the People's Republic." The mobilization on the Internet is enormous, a considerable power to counter the government propaganda .

The protest has become part of everyday life, says Wong. Even with people who are not usually in the forefront of the battle. "People have woken up. For example, you no longer go to restaurants that are pro-Beijing. And people go to court hearings to support the accused. They write letters to help those convicted in prison."

Appeal to the international community

And what can Europe do? Wong warns of the introduction of 5G technology from China and the Chinese "Belt and Road" initiative. Transparency and reliability are not to be expected from a partner who breaks legal agreements such as the one between Great Britain and China so easily. And he turns to the German economy and the government: "Business relationships must not have priority over human rights." Over the past few decades it has repeatedly shown - in terms of trade, issues of digital security and territorial claims - that China is not trustworthy.

So far, the global community has reacted toothless to Beijing's claims to power in Hong Kong. Wong does not accuse her of this and specifically does not demand any sanctions from the rest of the world. But the international community must understand that today's China is no longer that of the 2008 Olympic Games. Under the hardliner Xi Jinping it was mapped out how the People's Republic would assert its claims: "Yesterday Xinjiang, today Hong Kong, tomorrow Taiwan." Preserving democracy in Hong Kong and Taiwan and democratic reforms in China are only possible with international support.

Joshua Wong: "Unfree Speech", S. Fischer Verlag 2020, 208 pages