Hong Kong’s riot police officers internally are being warned that there will be consequences to their actions of excessive force, and collectively there is a failure on the front lines of the protests to control officers’ adrenaline.
This was the opinion of Clement Lai, a 22-year veteran of the Hong Kong police force, and founder of the Clement Shield Limited private security firm. He was part of a panel discussing police tactics and behaviour over the course of the last seven months of protests in the city. He was joined by Amnesty International’s Doriane Lau, and Dr. Lawrence Ka-ki Ho, an assistant professor in the Department of Social Sciences at The Education University of Hong Kong and leading expert on the Hong Kong police. Representatives of the Hong Kong Police Force declined the FCC’s invitation to join the panel.
Lai, a former police commander, said that the Hong Kong Police Force was operating in an ever-changing environment and was now employing an “early intervention strategy” that, while effective, had disadvantages.
Calling for an independent investigation into the conduct of the police, Lau said there was evidence of human rights abuses including “something that can amount to torture”. She added that the current system of policing was not working.
Dr. Ho said the Hong Kong Police Force has, since colonial times, morphed into a paramilitary police force and that it was easy for them to find escape clauses for their actions. He added that since the 2001 terror attacks on the United States, police globally had become more militarised.
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The poetry and art of Liu Xia, the widow of Chinese dissident and Nobel Prize winner Liu Xiaobo, was shared by the first Western writer to interview her when she arrived in Germany having been released from house arrest in Beijing.
Nick Frisch was writing for The New Yorker when he met Liu Xia, who was beginning to rebuild her life and career following almost a decade under the watch of Chinese plain-clothed police officers. He shared photos at the January 21 club lunch of Liu Xia’s art and poetry while discussing her life before and after meeting Liu Xiaobo, a literary critic, professor, human rights activist, and fellow poet. Liu Xiaobo died in prison in 2017 having spent the last 10 years of his life in prison for his involvement in campaigns to end the one-party Communist rule in China.
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Hongkongers will “come out and strike again” to show their dissatisfaction at the governance of the city, a panel of political experts agreed.
Discussing the next steps for Hong Kong following November’s historic district elections, which delivered a landslide for pro-democracy candidates, guest speakers Lo Kin-hei, Derek Yuen, and Christine Fong agreed the vote had been a referendum on how Carrie Lam’s government was functioning. Hong Kong’s pro-democracy camp won 393 – or almost nine of 10 – of the 452 seats.
Lo Kin-hei, Chairperson for the Southern District Council, warned that the appointment of Luo Huining as Executive Director of the Liaison Office of the Central People’s Government in Hong Kong would likely keep the protests that have gripped the city since last June going.
Hong Kong-born-and-based scholar and author, Derek Yuen, told the January 14 club lunch that he believed One Country, Two Systems – Hong Kong’s mini-constitution – was now “broken”, with only the Rule of Law remaining intact.
Christine Fong, District Council member in the Sai Kung District, added that although she believes in the right to protest – she herself attended the first marches in June 2019 – she hoped that the violence would stop to enable the city’s economy to recover.
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The Foreign Correspondents’ Club, Hong Kong expresses grave concern at the Hong Kong government’s decision to bar Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch, from entering the territory. Roth was set to hold a news conference Jan. 15 at the FCC to release the rights group’s yearly report, which is critical of the Chinese government.
Roth, in a tweet, said he was not given an explicit reason for being unable to enter the city when he landed at Hong Kong International Airport. He was turned back and instead will launch the report in New York. Immigration authorities, in response to media inquiries, said that they cannot comment on individual cases.
The decision to deny Roth entry into Hong Kong follows a number of other cases that the FCC has been closely following, including that of a photography professor at a U.S. university, Matthew Connors, who was barred from entering Hong Kong earlier this month. Connors had been covering the protests and unrest in Hong Kong.
The FCC is concerned that the Hong Kong government is using the immigration department to act punitively against organisations and media representatives it does not agree with, which is a violation of the commitment to free expression and free speech in Hong Kong law. The immigration department’s lack of an explanation for Roth’s denial of entry is similar to their response after Victor Mallet, the former Asia news editor of the Financial Times and then 1st vice president of the Foreign Correspondents’ Club, was denied entry into Hong Kong in 2018. At the time, the FCC warned that this sort of treatment and lack of explanation appeared to be making a weapon of visas and violated press freedom rights in Hong Kong law, yet was assured that this wasn’t the case and that Hong Kong still upholds these values.
The FCC will continue to advocate for unfettered access for the media to freely cover the unrest in Hong Kong. As the Secretary for Home Affairs said recently in response to a question from a legislator, press freedom is “Hong Kong’s core value protected by the Basic Law and is the fundamental right enjoyed by the people of Hong Kong.”
He added: “The Government is firmly committed to safeguarding and respecting press freedom, and providing a suitable environment in which the media could exert its function as the fourth estate.” We call on the Hong Kong government to honour this promise.
China and the United States are embroiled in a Cold War in which a naval showdown in 2025 is plausible, according to historian and author, Professor Niall Ferguson.
This was one of several predictions made by the Harvard fellow and visiting professor at Tsinghua University in Beijing during a conversation with club president, Jodi Schneider, on January 9.
Prof. Ferguson, author of 15 books including The Pity of War: Explaining World War One, discussed global current affairs such as the ongoing Hong Kong protests, the Iran/US tension, the Middle East, Brexit and Scottish independence.
Among his other predictions was the belief that the Hong Kong unrest would reach an “uneasy equilibrium” with no long-term damage to the city’s economy, and that Boris Johnson would still be British Prime Minister in 2025.
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