Is China “stoking a climate of fear” in HK?

That’s what Human Rights Watch is claiming, and I can’t say it would surprise me.

The Chinese government has created a “climate of fear” in Hong Kong designed to skew the result of this Sunday’s election, a human rights group says.

Human Rights Watch alleges a campaign of intimidation meant to undermine the pro-democracy opposition. Sunday’s vote will elect politicians to the territory’s Legislative Council.

Beijing has rolled out the triumphant Chinese Olympic team in Hong Kong this week, against a background of Chinese flags and national songs. Critics say the tour is designed to boost support for pro-China candidates in the election.

Meanwhile, Chinese police held a rare news conference giving details of the arrest of pro-democracy candidate Ho Wai-to, on charges of hiring a prostitute. Democrats said that was also part of the government’s campaign.

In its report, Human Rights Watch alleges that the Chinese government, or people acting on its behalf, have sent threatening letters and phone calls, and carried out vandalism and arson against pro-democracy targets.

In one case, a businessman was told to take a picture of his completed election ballot or his business would suffer, the group claims.

Amazing, what a difference a couple of years can make. When I lived there in 2001 the very idea of this sort of crap would have been laughed at as absurd. No more, apparently.

The Discussion: 15 Comments

I’d seen this one coming a long time ago and I think that a lot of other people had too, but most, especially those living in HK, didn’t want to believe that it could happen or that it would happen.

Intimidation and the public shaming of rivals were slightly lower on my list than tanks in the streets and riot police battling students so I supose I should be glad that I’d overestimated the level of brtality

I think that the HUGE DISPLAY OF MILITARY FORCE used to mark several Chinese aniversaries from the colonial period that have little or nothing to do with HK because it was ruled by the British, were also over the top and have a lot more to do with intimidation than people having pride in their nation.

China has managed to show that even when somewhere is ready for democracy, they are not willing to give it to them.

This does not look good for hopes of a loosening of restrictions in China and shows a diluted picture of what the government would do to Taiwan if it ever took direct control.

Democracy is still a distant dream, even when the people are ready for it the authorities are not because they don’t want to loosen their grip on the leash.

September 9, 2004 @ 12:06 am | Comment

Well said.

September 9, 2004 @ 7:48 pm | Comment

If not overly simplified.

September 9, 2004 @ 9:49 pm | Comment

I’ve extracted a couple of paragraphs from the BBC links, as follows:

“Opposition candidates allege that a recent tour of China’s Olympic medal winners in Hong Kong was designed to boost support for pro-Beijing candidates.

The triumphant Olympic team was welcomed in the territory earlier this week against a background of Chinese flags and national songs.”

Comment: I thought HK-ites are Chinese too, and would welcome their victorious teams? In Australia and many other countries that have done well in the Olympic Games, their victorious teams have toured the states of their countries on return from Athens.

The opposition candidates are either considering themselves as not Chinese, or being just bloody minded. They should have instead made the effort to welcome the team as proud Chinese rather than accused the tour of being politically staged. That way, they could even have benefited from being seen with the victors – that’s what most western politicians do.

There was a joke running around in Australia that because of the security situation the Aussie Olympic team required bodyguards – to protect them from the Prime Minister (who’s seeking a re-election soon). True enough, when Qantas landed, guess who was there at the door of the aircraft to welcome the victorious team back? And guess who was beside him?

“Specific incidents Human Rights Watch alleges in its report include the Chinese government, or people acting on its behalf, have sent threatening letters and phone calls, and carried out vandalism and arson against pro-democracy targets.

In one case, a businessman was told to take a photograph of his completed election ballot or his business would suffer, the group claimed.

“The past 12 months have seen some of the most worrying violations of human rights since the 1997 handover,” the report said,”


“Human Rights Watch admits that the direct intervention of Beijing officials is virtually impossible to prove.”

Sometimes at the risk of appearing as a Beijing apologist, as I have been accused of before, I wonder how the Human Rights Watch complied its report – does it just accepts any complaint as gospel truth or does it really verify the substance of the complaint as well?

Maybe they can explain how the “no evidence” admission supports their conclusion? Isn’t one of the basic requirements of law and due process the requirement for proof or evidence before an accusation ought to be so damningly hurled? Or is it a case of “throwing poo around because some will inevitably stick”?

There are some HK opposition people, who are now ‘darlings’ of the rights movements in the west, but who had in fact done nothing but lived in quiet subservience and obsequious agreement under the British colonial rule.

I can only respect those who have been consistently champions of human rights, even under the British.

September 10, 2004 @ 12:40 am | Comment

i would be hard pressed to find a current Democratic Party member who was opposed to democracy during the colonial era.
Western human rights “darlings” living under “quiet subservience and obsequious agreement under the British colonial rule” is a fairly vague statement. Do you have any concrete examples? Perhaps you could tell me which Democratic Party members you do not respect, and which you do?
Also, Hong Kong has its own Olympics team, as does Taiwan. Both were welcomed back to their home countries/ territories/ regions. I do sense a bizarre mixture of patriotic politics (Yang Li Wei, 8/1, olympics visits)mixed with threats (documented in this article and in a number of newspapers, SCMP especially) that is unpleasant, although probably not effective, because people just don’t fall for it. The sentencing of Alex Ho to 6 months of education for cavorting with a prostitute, when usual punishment is in fact a fine, certainly stands out. luckily, he is still able to participate.
i feel pretty sure that the democratic party will win as many seats as it is allowed to win in this skewed voting system, no matter how much trash Beijing or DAB people try to throw.

September 10, 2004 @ 2:20 am | Comment

This one is going to be a bit longish and I apologise beforehand for it.

This posting is about “hypocrisy”, not democracy. I hope, like most people, that the Chinese, whether from the Mainland or HK or Taiwan or Singapore will enjoy democracy. I support the victory of any pro-democratic party.

This is about those self proclaimed paragons of HK democracy whose silence during the British era was so deafeningly. This is about one in particular.

For sa start, let’s take Article 23 – there has been so much protest that Tung wisely retreated, and I am glad that he did. But how many realise that this was in fact a British rule that was extant during its rule? How many realise that belonging to a political party was NOT permitted during British rule. Etc etc etc – yes, British rule wasn’t exactly a hive of democratic practice. Unfortuantely I have to re-touch on the British in order to put affairs into context.

UNTIL Ah Sok (Uncle), or Tai Koh (Big Brother) Chris Patten said it was OK, where were those local paragons of democracy?.

As mentioned, British rule was even more draconian, but then where was Martin Lee? Quiet as a mouse. Comfortable with his colonial master!

Yesterday the BBC has a doc on the HK election today – it said, now digest this, that TODAY the HK-ites enjoy MORE freedom that they did under British rule. We are talking about THE B-B-C, not some CCP mouthpiece. On the same doc, even the magazine SPIKE (can’t remember the name of the interviewee) acknowledges that there is free speech in HK under so-called Chinese draconian rule.

Of course we want more, everyone wants more democratic reforms. I am glad the HK-ites are striving it for it, and I wish them well. But as I mentioned, this is about HYPOCRISY.

Let me select some quotes from Prof Richard Klein’s essay “The tragedy of HK” in Humanist

[Richard Klein is (was?) a professor of law at Touro Law School in Huntington. New York and has been a visitor at the law faculty of the University of Hong Kong. He has written numerous articles on the legal history of Hong Kong and intends to work near the Tibet border pursuing his interest in international human rights]

“Laws identified with those of Communist China were, in fact, used by the Brittish in Hong Kong. The Emergency Deportation and Detention Regulations empowered the government, whenever a conviction for any specific crime could not be obtained due to insufficient evidence, to simply detain an individual for a (renewable) one-year period. There was no requirement for this colonial administration–which so championed the need for China to follow the rule of law after July 1, 1997–to even show that there was reasonable cause for the detention or to inform the detainee why he or she was being detained.

How strong can freedoms be U people can’t even “officially” speak their own language? An ordinance frankly entitled Regulation of Chinese prohibited the posting of any notice near any street if it were “in the Chinese language.” A three-month jail sentence was authorized for any violator. AD the laws, until a process of translation which was begun in earnest only several years ago, were written in English only, and the use of Chinese in any official capacity was prohibited. No member of the Legislative Council, even if Chinese, was permitted to speak in Chinese during a legislative session. There was no permanent Chinese interpreter present in civil courts, thus those Chinese desiring to bring suit in this monolingual legal system were often unable to do so. It was not until the 1974 Official Language Ordinance that Chinese was declared along with English as an official language for government use. And not until August 1997–one month after the British left Hong Kong–did the first jury trial held entirely in Chinese occur.

Freedom of religion? Under British rude, blasphemy–denying the truth of Christianity, the Holy Bible, the Book of Common Prayer, or the existence of God–was a misdemeanor. The marriage law, until the turn of the century, had allowed for civil marriages before the register general only if one of the partners was a Christian.

It was in 1984 that Great Britain entered into the treaty with China that provided for Hong Kong’s return to Chinese rule this past July. At that time, there were no popularly elected members of the legislature, and it was not until 1991 that Britain allowed a Bill of Rights to be enacted for Hong Kong, thereby leading to the repeal of much of the legislation discussed above.

The last British-appointed governor of Hong Kong, Christopher Patten, constantly maligned China for moving to thwart what the British had deemed “democracy.” (Even in the last year of British rule, only twenty of the sixty members of the legislature had been directly elected.) His criticism came after twenty-seven prior governors had refused to permit any democratic reforms or to hear any input from the Hong Kong Chinese concerning their future.”


“A fascinating series of events began in late June 1997. For a century and a half of British rule, there had been minimal legislation to protect workers rights. Rather, obstacles were imposed by the government to thwart the growth of large unions. There was no minimum wage or unemployment insurance.

Then, in the final two weeks of British rule, among the last-minute reforms passed by the legislature were seven labor bills, one of which provided, for the first time, a statutory right to collective bargaining. Another bill gave protection against dismissal for union activities, and a third prohibited age discrimination.”

More of British hypocrisy next:

“The fact that, for most of its rule, the British had even harsher controls on protests than China wanted to institute, did not prevent Britain from issuing in its final days a twenty-three-page, point-by-point critique of China’s new legislation. The document emphasized that “almost any public procession could be prohibited because it may cause inconvenience. Even London jumped in to play the new role of spokesperson for democracy and human rights for Hong Kong. The Foreign Office proclaimed that there was absolutely no justification for reducing civil liberties and, as though the popular will of the people in its colony had always determined British policy there, added: “it’s patently not the case that the proposed amendments to civil legislation have the support of the Hong Kong community.”

But wait, there’s more:

“The night before. Britain’s Prince Charles, in what was sort of a warning to China that it had better allow democracy to exist in Hong Kong, perhaps won the all time prize for revisionism when he told four thousand honored guests, “Britain learned long ago that Hong Kong people know best what is good for Hong Kong.” Just how long ago did Britain realize this? The same Britain not only refused to seek input from the Hong Kong people about the plan to give the colony over to China on that very day but had not even revealed to the Hong Kong residents that negotiations lasting two years about the future of the colony were taking place. Did Prince Charles not know that, for almost all of Britain’s 155-year colonial rule, the Hong Kong people had no say whatsoever in the policies and laws by which they were governed?”

Please read this essay – it’s not all against the Brits. In fact there are some brickbats for China as well – I think it’s one of the fairest essays on the HK story.

Put all of these into context, and we need to understand that there was never any “democracy” in HK. The ‘last-minute’ democratic reforms (after 150 years of draconian imperial rule) was only a STAGED manoeuvre by Chris Patten to absolve Britain from blame for abandoning more than 6 million British subjects to the PRC. I have written on this before on the Peking Duck, so I won’t bore those who have read it by relisting not just British treachery to its 4th class citizens but the wily cunning and deceptive tactic to lump the world’s concerns onto the Chinese lap – Chris Patten should be knighted for his brilliant and most successful manipulations of the worlds attention and the total deception of the HK people.

But, where was the ‘white’ knight (pun intended) Martin Lee during British rule? He did nothing until his Ah Sok gave him the go-ahead. And when his traditional Ah Sok abandoned him as well, he rushed off to Washington to cry to a US Senate Committee hearing – for God sake, is HK the 51st State of the US?

As the China Daily rightfully fumed:

“Lee’s attendance [at the Senate hearing] turned him into a Hong Kong citizen beholden to the US, which treated the exercise as if it held sovereignty over the city.

Disregarding the sovereignty of his own country, Lee allowed the issue of Hong Kong constitutional development to come under the scrutiny of US Congress. There can be nothing more wrong to have done.

It is a glaring violation of the Basic Law as well as the oath Lee took when being sworn in as a member of the Legislative Council – to uphold the Basic Law and pledge allegiance to the SAR.

According to Article 79 of the Basic Law, legislators are liable to face impeachment and even removal from office for misconduct or violation of their oath.

It is hard to imagine that an American congressmen would attend hearings held by foreign parliaments that were intended to enact laws to intervene in internal affairs of the US. Any congressman making such a move would definitely be subject to disciplinary actions from Congress.”

I won’t go too far back into history to recount all the historical British suppression of the Chinese in HK but just confine them to the period of Martin Lee (using a list written by the HKcampus )

“* In suppressing the anti-price increase struggled in 1966, the colonial regime arrested many people, and an expatriate colonial police officer shot dead one demonstrator.
* In 1967, the colonial police suppressed demonstrating workers by force, and engaged in widespread arrest, maiming and killing of demonstrators in the “anti-British and resist-violence” struggle.
* In 1971, the colonial police bloodily suppressed a “Defend Diaoyutai” assembly in Victoria Park l In 1978, the colonial regime closed down Golden Jubilee Secondary School at which teachers and students were engaged in struggle against the school authorities’ corrupt practices.
* In 1979, the colonial police made use of the draconian Public Order Ordinance to arrest and prosecute demonstrators from the Revolutionary Marxist League, social workers and boat people fighting for resettlement, and residents of Caiyuan Village.
* In 1989, the colonial police violently suppressed a demonstration by April 5th Action, severely injuring four demonstrators and arresting 7 people in the process; since then the colonial police has prosecuted demonstrators supporting the people’s struggle in China and local movements on numerous occasions.

Chris Patten shamelessly [said]: “The point about knowing history is to forget it.”

The colonial government has always held fast to state power in Hong Kong; it has also collusively allowed political representatives of local Chinese capital to play the role of a junior partner in the Executive and Legislative Councils. Before 1984, Hong Kong people had been entirely robbed of their right to elections. Since the start of the Sino-British negotiations over Hong Kong, in order to better protect British imperialist interests in Hong Kong after 1997, the British colonialists then, and only then, began to gradually open up Legco. However, in opening up Legco, the British colonial government had maintained its absolute control over Exco. On the other hand, partly because of the British government’s need to engage in a huckster’s bargain with the CCP regime, and even more importantly, because of the colonial government’s need to maintain effective rule so as to control its decolonalisation plans and moves, the colonial government has severely restricted the progress of the opening up of Legco. Hence, just as Hong Kong people do not have to thank Britain for Hong Kong’s economic development, we do not have to thank Britain for the partial opening up of Legco. On the contrary, we resolutely condemn the hypocrisy of the British for severely limiting the opening up of the state structure as a whole!”

Where was Martin Lee?
Where was the United States of America?

September 12, 2004 @ 3:12 am | Comment

Martin Lee has been active in Legco for 20 years, since 1985. It is not like he just appeared on the scene out of nowhere. And he has been consistently involved in political reform since then.
He was there in Legco when it was dissolved in 1997, and has worked with it until it has arrived at the point of 30 directly elected seats.
I admit that it is unfortunate that democracy was not introduced at an earlier date in Hong Kong. But it is unfortunate that you would say that today’s democracy activists were not involved in democratic development before China came. Lee’s record goes back 20 years, not bad in terms of government work. Then there is Szeto Wah, Emily Lau, I mean, these people are not 80 years old, and I think they have strong records, at least much stronger than the DAB, and certainly much stronger than our lovely rulers here on the Mainland.
Also, you strongly criticize Lee for appearing before the US government to testify on Hong Kong’s political development, but really, who was he supposed to go talk to about it? Beijing won’t even talk to him, and he is unable to visit here.

September 12, 2004 @ 8:39 pm | Comment

No one is criticising anyone for being in Legco or working under the British.

It’s the hypocrisy of the behaviour of a few, the double standards, that needs highlighing.

The USA is equally culpable in this regard – it remained silent while its British ally ruled HK as a colonial power with draconian powers and rules, yet it exercises double standards now. At least the USA of the immediate period post-WWII was really pro-democracy for countries subjected to colonial rule.

Until Ah Sok Patten indicated his intention in 1992 to have some form of democraticv elections, and implemented that in 1994, all were behaving quietly. At the risk of sounding like a stuck old turntable, everyone in Asia knows what Chris Patten was up to. OK, I’ll stop digging it all up again right here.

One, especially a Legco member, does not run to a FOREIGN power to cry mama about internal affairs – if necessary one goes to the UN, like the natives and aborigines of some countries did.

Be that as it may, China did an important thing without anyone (or most westerners) noticing it in an objective light or providing an objective analysis.

I refer to the HK visit of the successful Chinese Olympic team.

The accusation was that it was an attempt to arouse nationalist fervour, in favour of the pro-Beijing candidates. Let’s take this typically adverse comment as fact BUT what would have been the very significance of this Beijing act?

It meant/means that Beijing is at least and at last using typical western political campaign hustings, rather than the expected CCP crudity of marching the PLA around, in an election period.

I believe it is an important milestone in democratic reform, not only for HK but perhaps for the whole of China as well. Most regretfully this act or behaviour did not attract any objective analysis or favourable comment, but rather the usual anti-Beijing comments.

I said this before – anything Beijing does is generally wrong to the west.

But look at what I brought up, again, this time objectively!

September 14, 2004 @ 2:52 am | Comment

the olympics, and other sports competitions, play a very different role in china than they do in other countries. i know you don’t agree with that, but you should really watch the olympics with people here, and watch the broadcasts. and consider the fact that athens olympics are still being shown here (yes, i see them still on about every day). i also watched a totally awesome olympics tribute last week that brought out the olympic gold medal winners in whirlwind of patriotism, songs about the party, and references to the unity of the motherland. the olympics here are linked closely to patriotism and the “glory of the chinese people,” and all of that. so i view the olympic trip to HK as an attempt to pass this kind of PR mission on to HK, but i don’t think many would fall for it.
also, “everyone in Asia knows what Chris Patten was up to. OK, I’ll stop digging it all up again right here.” huh? i don’t know what bad came out of what he did.
i fail to be convinced by your portrayal of martine lee as a “colonial monkey,” and think it is unfortunate.
he is a member of legco, but he can’t really do anything there, because legco is set up in a way that he can’t work for democracy thru legco, with special interest DAB and liberal party everywhere. he can’t go to china to talk about democracy, can he? he is not allowed to come here. so yes, america allows him to come. it doesn’t play well into chinese propaganda about america wanting to split china, but oh well. tell me, who else is he going to talk to? tung chee-wa? please…
lee, as well as szeto wah, “long hair” leung, emily lau are all people that have been involved in the democracy movement for quite a while, not since 92/94 as you said (although i will admit, and you probably won’t like this, that some of these people’s backgrounds are not as strong as my buddies Chen Shui-bian or Annette Lu). But realize they are not doing anything bad at the moment, they’re not asking for the return of the british at this point, but the immature chinese propaganda machine insists on casting them as traitors, bananas, etc., again playing on the Mainland China/ Singapore claim that Asians are not interested in democracy.
These people might not be perfect, but they are not doing anything wrong, and that’s why i feel sensitive about the way in which they are portrayed by so-called “patriots,” but the actual real monkeys, the monkeys of the fascist propaganda department and the outdated chinese government.

September 14, 2004 @ 7:18 pm | Comment

despite what i said above, though, i do agree that sending out the olympics team is better than sending the PLA, which HK-ers can’t even join. but i don’t see this as some kind of dramatic advance, considering HK just got over PLA “open house” day and the 8/1 rally. another one would have been overkill, so, it is good that they were smart enough not to send the PLA again!

September 14, 2004 @ 8:03 pm | Comment

Patten? I didn’t say anything bad came out from his actions, but fact is, he didn’t do it for the HK-ites – he did it for the UK.

Basically, by a last minute introduction of so-called democracy (ONLY AFTER 155 years of imperial rule, and JUST PRIOR to handing HK back to the Chinese) he was shouting to the world, on behalf of the UK of course:


knowing of course he had reneged on the agreement and terms between Tatcher and Deng (the whole purpose of the Pontius Pilate manoeuvre was to renege on those terms), knowing that the HK-ites have a snowflake chance of complete freedon as they have been deceitfully and cruelly led to believe and expect, knowing those idiots in Beijing won’t be able to handle the fait accompli he had tossed into their authoritarian laps.

He was absolutely brilliant (for Britain), he was absolutely cunning (to the HK-ites), he was a master of manoeuvres (outmanoeuvring the apoplectic fuming but politically paralysed Chinese). As I said, he ought to knighted by Britain for getting rid of 6 million problems for his country in one fell swoop.

BUT he didn’t do it for the HK-ites even though I am personally glad the outcome of his deceit did benefit the HK-ites – it’s an ill wind that blows nobody any good!

Remember, the issue was NOT on democracy per se but hypocrisy. Patten was most hypocritical when he berated the Chinese for resisting his pro-democracy moves.

Because, had Deng succcumbed to Tatcher in 1984, and accepted that HK had been rightfully ceded to Britain, there would have been a different outcome for Mr Martin Lee and the HK-ites.

We also need to understand that China is not your standard next-door fount of democracy – hey, these guys are authoritarian dictators. The fact that in the recent HK elections they chose to conform to typical western style political campaign hustings by using the vistorious Olympic Team as a vote catcher is an indication that these communists are coming around – the road to Damascus won’t be completed by tomorrow for sure, but it’s happening.

Just bear in mind the BEE BEE CEE (BBC) words – today the HK-ites are enjoying MORE freedom than they ever did before, including the time when they were under Ah Sok, let alone previous imperial governors.

September 15, 2004 @ 3:04 am | Comment

“my buddies Chen Shui-bian or Annette Lu”

Once not too long ago I accused you of being anti-China. You protested that my remarks were unfair and you were only trying to ‘help’ China get over a tight spot.

I believed your protestation so I withdrew those remarks as a mark of good faith. Did I do the right thing?

September 15, 2004 @ 5:56 am | Comment

i have no problem with chen or lu. while you might describe taiwan as “the taiwan problem”, i describe the potential conflict here as “the mainland problem.” let’s just agree to disagree!
and you must admit that the two have pretty strong backgrounds in favor of democracy.

September 15, 2004 @ 7:22 pm | Comment

and as for the above topic, i have no interest in bringing british rule back to hong kong, and don’t remember colonialism with nostalgia. i just want to say that i am very disappointed with beijing’s BS interpretation of the basic law, as well as the smearing of democracy figures as traitors and bananas by the leaders here and the fascist propaganda department. some of the democracy leaders are people with good intentions for HK, i believe, who have been smeared for no reason other than the fact that they won’t just sit back and let BJ do whatever it wants like the blowhards in the “patriotic” DAB, and i think that is sad.
anyway, yes, as for the subject of this thread, i think a climate of fear is being stoked, mixed in with soft-line gestures.

September 15, 2004 @ 7:33 pm | Comment

Why is it so hard for you idiots to understand that The Frontier, Leung Kwok-hung, and even the Democratic Party are far more ideologically left-wing than any of the Beijing Satellite Parties, which like their counterparts in Taiwan, are extreemely right-wing and enemies of freedom, equality, and democracy.

Leung is my hero for his struggle against British Colonialism, American Imperalism, and Chinese Oppression.

People opposed to Leung are traitors to the ideals of the 1911 Revolution (Yep…Sun was a great guy…Then all sorts of pigs took over the KMT and CCP, the former becoming fascist and the latter becoming Stalinist and then after unideologically totalitarian. They corrupted his glorious name.)

All Chinese patriots must joing Leung Kwok-hung in the Glorious Struggle for Liberty, Democracy, and Equality.

March 11, 2005 @ 8:00 am | Comment

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