May 2021 Heroes of the Month – Jimmy Lai, Benny Tai and The People of Hong Kong
As the imprisonment of gentle and courageous people in Hong Kong continues unabated by the thugs who run The People’s Republic of China, it is time to honor the multitude of courageous people who engage in non-violent protest and condemn President Xi Jinping who is clearly the architect of these civil rights abuses and the genocide of the Uyghurs in Eastern China. Because these atrocities are so heinous, I am devoting both May (Hong Kong) and June (Uyghurs) to these victims, who despite massive mistreatment have resisted peacefully at the expense of their livelihoods, their families, and their own lives.
The proclivity of Chairman Mao to kill his own people in insane social engineering experiments like the “Great Leap Forward” and “The Cultural Revolution” have been authoritatively documented at close to 70 million people by the gifted scholar Jung Chang in her landmark book that took 12 years to write: “Mao: The Unknown Story (Alfred Knopf, 2005). Unfortunately, those that have followed Mao, especially President Xi, have proven to be very bad indeed.
This month, the story is about Hong Kong.
From 1842 until 1997, the British governed Hong Kong. During that time, it went from a sleepy agricultural and fishing region to the world’s 35th largest economy with GDP of $373 Billion and was one of the world’s most significant financial centers, and the 7.5 million people of Hong Kong enjoyed unparalleled freedom.
Then in 1997, as the transfer of sovereignty passed to the Chinese at the end of Britain’s 100 year lease, the PRC promised in a treaty with Britain to maintain Hong Kong’s unique freedoms for 50 years (to 2047). The need for such guarantees was all the more important after the 1989 Tiananmen Square Massacre in which thousands of Chinese nationals in and around Beijing were slaughtered for demanding freedom from the PRC totalitarian system. (Including the famous incident of the tank crushing a protestor to death while he stood in silent protest.)
The government of Hong Kong was supposed to be managed by a legislature directly elected by the people and a “chief executive” appointed by the PRC.
Shortly after the treaty was signed, and especially beginning in 2014-2021, Xi began tightening the screws, including the following:
- In 2014, limiting those who could run for seats in the legislature
- In 2016, blocking any candidate that would not sign a loyalty oath to the PRC
- In 2017, appointing Carrie Lam to the role of “Chief Executive.” (A decidedly evil puppet wrapped in the patina of well-dressed respectability)
- In 2019, Lam pushed for a new “Security Law” that the PRC wanted and needed to justify a fierce crackdown on those supporting basic freedoms guaranteed in Hong Kong by the 1997-1998 treaty with Britain: conveniently defining “sedition” as basically saying or complaining about anything the PRC might do to restrict personal freedoms.
- When protests ensued, Xi backtracked until 2020. In 2020, Xi and Lam went to work wiping out all elected opposition, then Lam and Xi rammed through the new law in the Hong Kong legislature (on the anniversary of the Tianenman Square Massacre, just to make their intent crystal clear). Any dissent is now a crime in the city. The law allows a defendant to be tried in secret or transported to Chinese courts and jails. To guarantee the convictions they desire, Xi and Lam are also working overtime to abolish the independent judiciary established by the British.
Within days, the plain clothed thugs of the PRC police state swung into high gear: first beating and then arresting protesters, stripping teachers of their jobs, shutting down independent newspapers, prosecuting and jailing people for peacefully protesting or web based advocacy for freedom, demanding that libraries remove books written by pro-democracy authors and most recently arresting the author of a children’s book claiming that out was a parable criticizing the PRC.
My heroes of the month are all of the freedom loving people of Hong Kong who have, despite horrible abuse, remained committed to peaceful protest in this disgusting, violent and evil crack down. In particular, I am singling out Jimmy Lai who has been one of the high profile supporters of freedom and is now in jail without bail and Benny Tai who has been stripped of his tenured position at Hong Kong University where he has taught for the past 30 years.
Jimmy Lai, in addition to being a highly successful Hong Kong businessman (a multi-billionaire), was also until recently the owner and publisher of the last independent newspaper in Hong Kong (Apple Daily) and the most prominent critic of the crackdown.
For those interested, I would recommend the following:
Jimmy Lai: www.wikipedia.org (detailing both his “rags to richies” life story and his courageous stand with those protesting for freedom)
Court Orders Hong Kong Media Mogul (Jimmy Lai) Back to Jail (after revoking his bail): Natasha Khan (WSJ January 2-3, 2021)
Hong Kong’s Freedom Fighter (Benny Tai): June Cheng & Erica Kwong (World February13, 2021)
Hong Kong Court Denies Bail to Apple Daily’s Editor (Ryan Law) and Publisher (Cheung Kim-Hung): Chloe Lo (Bloomberg 6/18/21)
I Translated Articles for Apple Daily. Can I Go Home to Hong Kong?: Jessica Leung (WSJ June 30, 2021)
Hong Kong Takes Aim at Children’s Books Deemed Seditious: Joyu Wong (WSJ July 23, 2021)
PS. In August 2020 Congress passed the Hong Kong Autonomy Act that sanctioned Carrie Lam, abrogated our extradition treaty, among other actions.
Britain declared the PRC in violation of their commitments to the 1997 Treaty. The PRC responded by announcing that they consider the “Joint Declaration of Rights” void as soon as power was transferred in 1997. Britain has also acted to provide a route to citizenship for 3 million Hong Kong residents (if they can somehow get out of Hong Kong which now seems unlikely).
In contrast, in an all too familiar pandering to the PRC, HSBC and Standard Chartered banks issued the following statements after the Sedition Law was passed: “we respect and support all laws that stabilize Hong Kong’s social order” “the law will help maintain the long term economic and social stability of Hong Kong.” In response, British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab stated in very forceful and critical terms: “ultimately businesses will make their own judgment calls, but let me just put it this way, we will not sacrifice the people of Hong Kong over the alter of banker bonuses.”