Never before has a health pandemic been so clearly accompanied, and we daresay even provoked, by a second pandemic: that of the authoritarian virus. We are immersed in a tragedy on a global scale, which could spread throughout the world only thanks to the inherent shortcomings and weaknesses of a dictatorial and bloodthirsty regime, concerned and committed first and foremost to ensuring its survival and the expansion of its model around the world.
In these hours, the heart of the outbreak of this second pandemic – cause of COVID19 – lies once again in Hong Kong where, for years and in an admirable manner, tens of thousands of activists and citizens have been fighting peacefully not only for the survival of their rule of law system, but for the rule of law worldwide.
Today Hong Kong represents the front line in a global war between systems: that of the democratic rule of law – however imperfect – on the one hand, and that of the one-party socialist state with Chinese characteristics on the other. As the South China Morning Post reported on April 18, as the world battled the coronavirus, Beijing moved to arrest 15 leading figures from the pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong. Among them also Martin Lee (81 years old), founder of the Democratic Party and co-author of the Basic Law of Hong Kong, conceived to guarantee the rule of law in a very different system from that of mainland China.
These arrests are only the latest in a recent wave of attacks on the opposition by the Hong Kong administration. At the end of February of this year, other supporters of the democratic movement were arrested for taking part in an allegedly unauthorised demonstration on August 31st last. Arrests have followed arrests of over a hundred people on various charges, including unauthorised assemblies, possession of weapons, arson, attacks on the police and obstruction of the latter’s duties.
Despite denials by the authorities, we are firmly convinced that these arrests are nothing more than cold-blooded political persecutions and a direct attack on fundamental freedoms of expression and assembly. The Hong Kong administration is required to respect these rights and ensure their citizens can enjoy them. But under pressure from Beijing, the full erosion of these principles is rapidly nearing completion.
In this sense, the rejection of applicability of article 22 of the Basic Law to the Hong Kong & Macau Affairs Office and to the Central Government’s Liaison Office – primary element of the rule of law according to which no one is above the law – is of unheard gravity.
Across the world, the coronavirus pandemic is increasingly being used by authoritarian regimes to further centralise power and, in the process, attack the political opposition. The Hong Kong administration, spurred on by the Chinese Communist Party government in Beijing, is at the forefront of this authoritarian offensive, further deteriorating its already questionable reputation as a society governed by the rule of law.
Therefore, we reiterate above all that by the virtue of the international treaties guaranteeing Hong Kong’s status, it is essential that the Basic Law is applied equally to all subjects and offices present in its territory, and that the rights of all citizens are guaranteed.
Furthermore, in order to allow the restoration of a constructive dialogue based on the five demands of the pan-democratic movement, the Hong Kong administration must, without delay, stop the political persecution by dropping all charges against those arrested in connection with the recent protests, immediately releasing those in custody and ceasing to carry out any further acts to intimidate, harass and threaten the political opposition. Especially in view of the September legislative elections this year.
Last but not least, we appeal to all governments and parliaments of the world to urgently and firmly denounce the obvious attack on the rule of law in Hong Kong, and through it on its citizens. As Marco Pannella repeated: “Where there is a massacre of legality, there is a massacre of peoples”.
There is no time to lose as also the authoritarian virus is expanding exponentially. As so many observers point out at the moment, as as the human rights defenders of Tiananmen, Tibet, Xinjiang, Taiwan and Hong Kong have long warned us: the Chinese Communist Party is not repressing freedom only in Hong Kong. It is “going full Tibet” on Xinjiang, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Kazakhstan, Africa, Europe, and even the United States.
Let us remind anyone readily invoking the “Chinese model” today! #StandwithHongKong