A former pro-democracy legislator in Hong Kong says people are “distraught” and “disillusioned” that some fear the city has lost important freedoms.
The widespread pro-democracy protests that rocked Hong Kong in 2019 have largely subsided, in part due to the outbreak of Covid-19 and the enactment of a controversial national security law last year.
Emily Lau, a former member of the Hong Kong Legislative Council Democratic Party, said some Hong Kong people now fear that “we have probably lost our freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, freedom of demonstration perhaps not forever, but for many, many years. “. “
“And that’s how distraught and disappointed the people of Hong Kong are,” Lau told CNBC’s Martin Soong on Tuesday.
Beijing bypassed the Hong Kong legislature to implement a national security law last year. Last month, China approved sweeping changes to Hong Kong’s electoral system that critics say would curb pro-democracy politicians.
Those movements followed months of pro-democracy protests in 2019 that turned violent at times. Chinese and Hong Kong authorities have said the changes would safeguard national security and stifle the anti-China movement in the semi-autonomous region.
‘Rights and freedoms’
Hong Kong is a former British colony that was returned to Chinese rule in 1997. The Sino-British Joint Declaration signed before Hong Kong’s return stated that the city would have “a high degree of autonomy”, including independent legislative and judicial power.
“The rights and freedoms, including those of the person, of expression, of the press, of assembly, of association, of travel, of circulation, of correspondence, of strike, of choice of occupation, of academic research and of religious beliefs will be guaranteed by law in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, “the statement said.
But critics of China, including pro-democracy activists and governments like the United States and the United Kingdom, have accused China of undermining Hong Kong’s autonomy.
Dozens of pro-democracy activists in Hong Kong have been arrested and charged under the national security law. But Lau said, “I refuse to be intimidated and shut up.”
“We want China to deliver on the promises of the Sino-British Joint Declaration and Basic Law,” she said, adding that she and other activists are not seeking to overthrow the Hong Kong government or the central government in Beijing.
The Basic Law is the mini constitution of Hong Kong that enshrines the principle of “one country, two systems” used to govern the city.
Beijing, for its part, has said that Hong Kong’s national security law and electoral changes are in line with the “one country, two systems” framework.