Last British Governor of Hong Kong Hits Out at China

Chris Patten, the last British governor of Hong Kong. (Image:  The National)
Chris Patten, the last British governor of Hong Kong. (Image: The National)

An ex-British governor of Hong Kong, Chris Patten, has condemned the Chinese government for trying to restrict the freedoms of Hong Kong and Taiwan. Chinese President Xi Jinping had recently indicated that he would use military force to take control over Taiwan if necessary.

Hong Kong democracy

“There isn’t in human history an example of a democracy agreeing to become part of a tyranny without being obliged to do it… It’s extraordinary that it has taken an autocratic Chinese government in Beijing to produce an independence movement in Hong Kong. With the colonial oppressors, there was no independence movement,” Chris Patten said in a statement (The National).

He blamed the Chinese regime for not honoring the “one country, two systems” agreement in Hong Kong because of which, the place has gone from being “one of the freest cities in Asia” to one where basic human rights of the citizens are crushed.

Occupy protests in September 2014. (Image: Sirlanz via wikimedia CC BY-SA 4.0)

In April last year, Hong Kong authorities arrested 11 pro-democracy activists on charges of “obstructing police” and “unlawful assembly.” They were protesting against China forcing Hong Kong courts to disqualify two independence-leaning legislators. A few months later in August, a court sentenced three pro-democracy student leaders to up to eight months in jail. Beijing’s treatment of Hong Kong has been criticized by several human rights organizations.

“The Chinese government has kept chipping away at Hong Kong’s freedoms and has stepped up these efforts in recent years… From publicly intimidating an academic for his peaceful speech to barring pro-democracy figures from public office, what emerges is a chilling offensive against basic rights in Hong Kong,” Sophie Richardson, China director of the Human Rights Watch, said in a statement to Radio Free Asia (RFA).

Dissatisfied Hongkongers

Despite the crackdown on democracy activists, the people of Hong Kong have been steadfast in showing their disapproval of the Chinese communist government. This New Year, Hongkongers flocked to the streets for the annual march demanding democratic reforms and ending the political repression from China. As expected, the police came down harshly on the protestors.

Young ethnic minorities feel their participation in the pro-Democratic movements in Hong Kong have opened up discussions of equality around the city. (Image: maxlmn via Compfight cc)

Young ethnic minorities feel their participation in the pro-Democratic movements in Hong Kong has opened up discussions of equality. (Image: maxlmn via Compfight cc)

“Thousands of people took to the streets, far more than expected. People here say it’s because this year there is a particular urgency to it… People here say that they want to have their voices heard in case there is more suppression of freedom of expression in the coming year,” reporter Divya Gopalan said to Al Jazeera.

Beijing’s growing control over Hong Kong is also making many youngsters consider migrating elsewhere. In a survey conducted by the Chinese University of Hong Kong, it was found that about one-third of the respondents wanted to go and live somewhere else. About 16 percent admitted having started preparations for the same. In the age group of 18-30, almost 51 percent stated that they hoped to leave the city.

“People’s demand for universal suffrage has yet to be realized… We had thought we were going to get a basic system that respected the choice of citizens through free and fair elections… Now, that hope has gradually collapsed… I think that has left a lot of people feeling gloomy and powerless,” Andrew Shum, a member of the Hong Kong NGO Civil Rights Observer, said to Radio Free Asia (RFA).

The top destination for emigration among Hongkongers was Canada at 19 percent, with Australia coming in at a close second place with an 18 percent share. Almost 11 percent of the respondents wanted to migrate to Taiwan.  

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