Popular Hong Kong activist Joshua Wong recently announced that he was stepping down from leading Demosisto, his pro-democracy group. Eventually, Demosisto was disbanded. The decision was triggered by the fact that China’s national security law became active in Hong Kong starting July 1. So why did this famed democracy activist discard his own group? Is he afraid of being persecuted by the Chinese communist regime?
The national security law that has been imposed on Hong Kong gives Beijing the power to imprison anyone on charges of secession, terrorist activities, collaboration with foreign enemies, and so on. As such, anyone who speaks about democracy, human rights, free speech, autonomy of Hong Kong, etc., can be classified as a “threat,” thereby enabling the Hong Kong police to arrest them so the can be punished by the courts. In some cases, the arrested person may even be sent to the mainland for a trial, where their chances of a fair trial would be less than zero.
Barely two weeks into the law, numerous Hongkongers have been arrested, many of them for the crime of possessing “subversive” materials. Pro-democracy messages stuck on walls have been torn down. Officials have instructed schools to remove any teaching material that would threaten national security. Many “sensitive books” have been pulled from libraries. In such an environment, Wong wasn’t sure that his associates at Demosisto would be safe from persecution. After all, if his peers were arrested right now, there isn’t much Wong could do to get them out of jail since the Communist Party has taken full control of the law and order situation in Hong Kong. To protect the members of the group, he stepped down from the leadership post. Later on, members decided that disbanding Demosisto would be the best way to keep themselves safe.
However, this does not mean that Wong has decided to stop his activism. Not at all. Wong will continue his fight against the Communist Party and keep promoting democracy in his own personal capacity. He stated that even if his family were to flee the city to safer places, he would stay in Hong Kong. In a tweet, he noted that the national security law marked the “end of Hong Kong that the world knew before.” Wong praised Australia’s assurance of providing safe haven visas for Hongkongers looking for shelter in the country.
“Providing a lifeboat for Hong Kong people is a good move. When even countries that did not directly sign the Sino-British joint declaration provide assistance to Hong Kong people it shows how the Western world has no trust in Beijing… A lot of pro-Beijing officials also send their family members to Australia, so they have no grounds to criticize this,” Wong said to The Australian Financial Review.
China’s bold move to crush the autonomy of Hong Kong seems to have started impacting the city’s economy. Several businesses are said to be seriously thinking of leaving Hong Kong as they do not feel safe anymore or have doubts about whether they will be able to follow international norms of human rights. Companies like Google, Microsoft, and Facebook have announced that they will temporarily stop honoring data requests from the Hong Kong government.
In a survey conducted by the American Chamber of Commerce (AmCham) in Hong Kong, over 25 percent of the respondents admitted that they were looking to shift their assets and businesses to safer locations. A favorite candidate city is Singapore, which is already known for being a major business center. Jeffrey Wright, a Washington-based analyst for Eurasia Group, notes that tech companies in Hong Kong will eventually find it impossible to operate out of the city as U.S. export controls start hitting them.