The political events that have unfolded in Hong Kong this week have turned the Legislative Council into something resembling China’s National People’s Congress rather than a legitimate legislative body, according to lawyer and author Antony Dapiran.
“The events of this week are not surprising. That doesn’t make them any less dispiriting,” said Dapiran, who appeared at The Foreign Correspondents’ Club in Hong Kong on Thursday to speak with FCC president Jodi Schneider about his second book, City on Fire: The Fight for Hong Kong. “There was no real legal basis for what the NPC did.”
As he spoke to a lunchtime crowd, Dapiran described the city’s judiciary as being the last line of defense against the government, calling the courts “genuinely the one thing that is a constraint on government power” in the aftermath of four opposition lawmakers disqualified and ousted, and the remainder resigning in protest.
Dapiran also spoke about the National Security Law, arguing that it “seriously undermines Hong Kong’s rule of law” and has been particularly effective “as a tool of fear and intimidation” that has caused people to censor themselves and their social media accounts.
Having written a book on Hong Kong’s 2019 protests, the author reflected on the true meaning of the often-turbulent events that rocked the city last year. “This whole movement was building up this idea of a unique Hong Kong identity that was struggling in some way for greater autonomy within the People’s Republic of China.”
Though he noted that the NSL and coronavirus pandemic had effectively quashed the protests, Dapiran pointed out their global impact and lasting legacy, noting that the Black Lives Matter and Extinction Rebellion movements had both borrowed tactics from their counterparts in Hong Kong. Meanwhile, he highlighted the ongoing protests in Thailand and how they’ve led to the formation of the so-called Milk Tea Alliance: “The two movements have been providing mutual solidarity and support.”
As for Hong Kong’s future, Daprian said he’s less optimistic than when the book came out in March. “I don’t think we’re going to see a return to the kinds of protests we saw on the streets last year,” he said, “but I don’t think the story is over.”
Watch the full event below: