As the trial of Brother Lee Cheuk Yan, General Secretary of the Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions (HKCTU), and eight other democracy activists and human rights defenders began in Hong Kong this week, IUF members throughout the Asia-Pacific protested against this political persecution and expressed their solidarity for the fight for freedom in Hong Kong.
As the Hong Kong government tries to establish a political regime that is an extension of Beijing, all forms of public accountability and civil governance are being dismantled. But in attempting a politico-legal transition to authoritarian rule, the government violated its own laws, breaching the constitution and the constitutional rights of the Hong Kong people.
As the people reacted to this authoritarian shift with mass protest, the government severely curtailed more rights (freedom of assembly and freedom of expression) to contain public dissent. As the government lost all legitimacy, authorities moved to persecute those accused of organizing the protests. This misses the point: the protests were in response to the government’s attempt to extend the authoritarian reach of Beijing. The government’s actions instigated the protests in August 2019. So it’s the government that should be on trial.
What is also on trial is the Hong Kong government’s international standing. The Hong Kong government has further isolated itself internationally, systematically violating and undermining the principles and standards of the UN system, even as the government in Beijing tries to extend its influence throughout the UN system. The Hong Kong government repeatedly ignored calls by UN human rights experts reporting to the UN Human Rights Council to respect the right to freedom of assembly and freedom of expression.
The UN Special Rapporteur on the right to peaceful assembly and association; the UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression; and the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders called on the Hong Kong government to drop the charges against human democracy activists, rights defenders and trade unionists.
By ignoring this, the Hong Kong government once again demonstrated its hypocrisy. On the one hand desperate to justify itself on the international stage, and on the other claiming this is a local judicial matter (despite authorities and the police violating multiple laws repeatedly). The government also desperately claims that foreign forces are at work in supporting the democracy protests. Yet it is the Hong Kong people reaching out to the world, grabbing hold of internationally recognized universal human rights, and using these rights to protest and speak out that is the basis for their internationalism. And as Brother Lee Cheuk Yan demonstrated on the first day of his trial, by calling for support for the democracy protests in Myanmar, the only force at work in all of this is solidarity.