FBE Human Rights Commission – Hong Kong Report

10.01.2020

HongKong is a city of about 7 million inhabitants. It contends the title of Asia’s NewYork with Singapore. During the months of August, September and October 2019 has arisen a  surreal atmosphere. From June 2019 every week there are protests in various parts of the city against the central government of Beijing; moreover the governor of Hong Kong nominated by China, Carrie Lam, has promulgated the Extradition Bill. That shows haw is true that HK does not have a mayor but a governor appointed by China.

Even if HongKong is located China, it is a city where English and Cantonese are spoken because it was an English colony until 1997 and it should have a substantial autonomy from China for 50 years until 2047.

The Extraditon Bill is a law that would allow China to extradite Hong Kong citizens to the rest of China by depriving them of the independent justice that should exist in Hong Kong. In reality, many rights and freedoms are being debated as freedom of communication (whatspp and facebook are used only in hongkong) and freedom of the press, in fact  publishing in hong kong is free meanwhile in China is clearly censored (is known the story of the 5 publishers in Hong Kong arrested and made to disappear in China).

Thanks to the support of Dutch lawyers, who arrived in Hong Kong at the beginning of August, I came into contact with the (CHRLCG) China Human Rights Lawyers Concern Group.

All the Hong Kong lawyers that I met were very cooperative and through them I also had the chance to attend court hearings. I have  to thank the lawyer Ho.

I was in Hong Kong until about the middle of September. During the week the city experiences its widespread economy particularly in the Central district, and Soho, among glittering skyscrapers, art galleries and trendy clubs, work incessantly for managers, financial operators, lawyers.

At two subway stops, on the main island in the Causeway Bay and Wan Chai district, incessant protests take place every week starting on Friday. The same thing happens on the other side of the bay in the Kowloon peninsula.

As soon as I arrived I participated as an international observer in various protests and I was personally victim of totally unjustified firing of tear gas during a pacif demostration. The tear gas, in addition to hurting the eyes, causes a strong sense of suffocation and this forced everyone to always wear masks or gas masks. The international press was easily identifiable with yellow bibs and written « Media » or « Press ».

Supposedly, the protests lack of a leader and the organization of information about the protest sites they are easily traceable on the internet. I was in contact with journalists from Taiwan and Japanese photographers who I supported as an observer and I always had quick news on places and times.

I saw arbitrary police arrests and often I felt that the police were arresting at random. I saw on one occasion a person who was handcuffed to the ground was hit with at least 2 kicks.

During the weeks of protests many people have seen that I was a foreign and they showed me their friends’ medical certification, but I didn’t see these things directly. I was told that during the interrogations the police pointed a laser straight into an eye of the arrested person, as a form of torture to make people talk and that only at the end of the interrogation was the possibility to call a lawyer. The lawyer was never called immediately but only after 5/7 hours

On Sunday 18 August I witnessed an impressive demonstration of over one million people (the organizers say almost 2 million people) that against police brutality.

Over the weeks the situation got worse the protesters decided to attack also HongKong Airport, substantially blocking the various services, and recently clashes took place in the undergrounds.

The police steadly used water canon, tear gas and batons against protesters, who sometimes i had seen damage some government buildings and metro station.

At the beginning of September, shortly before I returned to Italy, the extradition law was officially revoked on 4 September.

For clarity five are the demands of the protesters

1) Complete withdrawal of the extradition bill

2) Retraction of the characterization of the « revolt »: the government initially characterized the protest of June 12 as « revolt ».

3) Release and exemption of arrested protesters: (when 1100 people were arrested, more than 2,000 arrests are now arrested in October. The average of 3 a day)

4) Establishment of an independent commission of inquiry into the conduct of the police and the use of force during the protest

5) Resignation of Carrie Lam and implementation of universal suffrage for free election in Hong Kong and not a governor appointed by the Chinese government

It is very difficult to synthesize the many experiences lived in HongKong but I tried to be telegraphic in order to eventually deepe it at another time.

I was very lucky to have know a amazing lawyer from Sri Lanka, a poet, human rights activist, publisher of « Article 2 », an extraordinary man of 75 who fights for human rights in Hong Kong. His name is Basil Fernando. In 2014, he was awarded the Right Livelihood Award, a Swedish international award called “a alternative nobel prize”. A award to « honor and support those offering practical and exemplary answers to the most urgent challenges facing us today. »

Basil Fernando at 75 is still the heart and brain of the AHRC.

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) an independent, non-governmental organization, which seeks to promote greater awareness and realisation of human rights in the Asian region, and to mobilise Asian and international public opinion to obtain relief and redress for the victims of human rights violations.

They deal with at least 16 countries in Asia, Pakistan, the Philippines, Indonesia, Nepal; Cambodia, parts of India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, Burma. Now they are treating the tragedy of Rohingya refugees between Bangladesh and Mymair.

I cannot forget the support of the Asian Human Rights Commission based in Hong Kong. The help and collaboration started with Basil Fernando and Zaman from Bangladesh and all the other people in  AHRC that with great lack of economic means but with very strong motivations work evrey day for human rights. We will have to look  to support them and also organize a fundraiser.

The moment I write the situation is probably worse. On 1 October, large-scale demonstrations were held on the anniversary of the Republic of China, with an 18-year-old student protester shot by the police with a bullet.

Trying to curb the protests, an anti-mask law was activated on October 4th, so masks were forbidden for protesters as they would avoid identification. Anyone who wears a mask at legitimate gatherings and marches, unlawful or unauthorized assemblies or in revolt could be sentenced up to a maximum of one year of imprisonment and a fine of HK $ 25,000 (just under 3,000 euros).

The above relationship was made in collaboration with our friend F.Christian Di NARDO, Criminal Lawyer and Human Rights Lawyer, Bologna / Italy.