20 Jun Avery Ng on the National Security Law: ‘A Complete Breakdown Of A City’
As Hong Kong exploded in 2019 as the protests covered the city, the new decade has seen the political consequences and fallout for the pro-democracy movement and its millions of protesters.
Recently, Beijing has announced its aim to implement a national security law upon Hong Kong, aiming to take control over the former British colony with its own intervention on muting the city’s unrest. Criticised widely for taking away Hong Kong’s unique freedom, the draft of the law has recently been fast-tracked in the SAR and is due to pass by July 2020.
Without going into details of the proposed draft and the implications, I seemed the reaction of several pro-democracy activists in early June, as the bill’s approval gathered pace.
Avery Ng, a political activist and chairman of the League of Social Democrats, spoke to me on a peaceful night in Victoria Park, Causeway Bay, during the 31-year remembrance vigil of Tiananmen Square. Thousands of residents came out to sing songs, light candles and gather to remember one of China’s most remembered crackdown in 1989.
4th June Tiananmen Square, 31 years on. What do you think of tonight’s gathering?
“Despite the gathering ban and the lack of police, we’ve seen tens of thousands, maybe hundred thousand people turning up, which shows the resilience of Hong Kong people and determination to lost history be forgotten. “
“We treasure our freedom and we do not want a national security law to be enforced, we want our basic freedoms and human rights.”
Today, of all days, the national anthem law has passed. What are your thoughts on this?
*June 4th the national anthem law passed in Hong Kong, criminalising anyone who is to mock or insult China’s national anthem, ‘March of the Volunteers.’
Avery sniggered, knowing he could discuss this topic at length.
“It is extremely ironic that the national anthem law was passed today because one of the verses in the national anthem says, ‘For Those Who Do Not Want To Be Enslaved, Stand Up.’ It’s super ironic, and today marks another day that we cannot even have the freedom to have our own opinions. The irony of the national anthem, I think the police will enact it in the future.
It takes away a small piece of our freedom and is part of the whole process of stripping away our rights. The truth of the matter is the law in place now, police will start to action it, people will be prosecuted and possibly jailed for that. ”
When do you think we’ll see an opportunity for this to be challenged?
“I think the first will be in the schools. My expectation is the government will slowly introduce have this as (a) mandatory (rule).
It doesn’t target adults, we can just not sing or avoid it, and it’s the kids they want to force it on. It’s from a direct order from Xi Jinping himself, from last year, so it’s something the government have had to do.”
The national anthem law, the national security law. Is this really the end of Hong Kong?
With frustration in his voice, Ng conceded,
“It is the beginning of the dark ages for Hong Kong. Obviously with the new national security law in place, in a matter of weeks, our levels of freedom of speech – I think the first wave of causalities will be leaders like us because we are not going to change our mind or what we believe.”
So you’re prepared, expecting you’re going to go to jail?
“I was going to jail without the national security law, so with the national security law, I’m going to be a frequent visitor, for sure. But the thing is it is an incremental step. First, it’s the leaders then the politicians, then the students, teachers, then some of the press then probably then the lawyers.
“It is the beginning of the end of Hong Kong. It is a complete breakdown of a city,” he stressed.
When do you expect to see changes?
“Immediately. It’s going to be immediate. Basically from the news from Beijing and sources, they really want (national security law passed) this done before the September (Legislative Council) elections.
Compared to last year, did you expect similar scenes this year to challenge?
“For the September elections, there will be a large, record turn out to vote. There will be a big win in terms of popular votes but because of the direct structure of the Legislative Council election, it will still be difficult for us to gain anywhere close of the majority.
People are going to come out, and we will win (on popular vote) by a healthy margin.”
How about widespread clashes again like in 2019?
“I’m not sure, I have my doubts. It’s not because of Hong Kong people are not angry, but the year-long blatant police brutality, thousands of us, especially younger protesters, have been arrested and hundreds been jailed, it’s really done some damages in terms of mobilisation.
Also coupled with the facts, even with the Civil Human Rights Front or any other groups who have wanted to host a completely peaceful gathering and marches, have been refused by police, so it’s very difficult for us to see one- million people marching again. It’s not because people don’t want to come out.
The last time the police gave us the commission on 1st January 2020, but within an hour, the police deemed it unsafe and illegal. That puts a lot of citizens at risk.
This year, there will be a lot of sporadic clashes, but it will be very hard for us to have this huge mobilisation.”
Visitors banned until 18th September, coronavirus improve and restrictions will loosen up, do you think events will be immediately put together?
“We’ve been trying to do this, but it’s a question whether police will still approve it, even before coronavirus. The police have been using many excuses to reject our applications.
We’ve said we cannot guarantee after the march things might not stay peaceful, but the police have put that as our responsibility. We are going to keep doing it, Jimmy is going to keep doing it. But the fuckers aren’t letting us do it, that’s a direct quote,” Ng chuckled.
Thoughts on BNO?
“I welcome the UK’s view providing a safety net for BNO holders. For the Chinese government point of view, they wouldn’t care to lose another million people to the UK. It wouldn’t stop them controlling the rest of Hong Kong. It’s about how the international community hopefully lead by the UK, to have a strategy, or a foreign policy to put pressure to the CCP. One single goal, progressing goal, progressing Hong Kong into a free-democratic society.”
What else can the international community do for Hong Kong?
“Follow the money, follow the power. The Chinese government concerns are how they control the flow of capital, both domestically and internationally, and in Hong Kong. The party officials need to be held accountable for what they do, and I’m sure the international has an arsenal at their disposable to do it.
We welcome the U.S government support. We really need to have a coordinated effort, not just individual countries. I think it’s a global effort and reign in CCP in terms of the expansion, domestic and international and in terms of their behaviour.”
The interview was conducted on 4th June 2020, Victoria Park, Causeway Bay, Hong Kong.
*Avery Ng’s comments were also used in an article for Asia Media Centre New Zealand, in a report, you can find here.
*The featured image has also been used for Le Point France, via NurPhoto and AFP, in a report, you can find here.