Ottawa, ON (January 26, 2022) — Alliance Canada Hong Kong’s advisor Ai-Men Lau has testified at the Subcommittee on Human Rights at the European Parliament this morning at 10:45am Eastern / 7:45am Pacific time.
Below is the transcript of Ai-Men introductory remarks:
My name is Ai-Men Lau and I’m an advisor to Alliance Canada Hong Kong. I would like to thank you for the opportunity to appear before the committee today. I also would like to thank my co-panelists for their insights and testimonies.
The rapidly deteriorating situation in Hong Kong has left it unrecognizable. Authorities stamped out street protests, silenced voices, decimated political opposition, further eliminated democratic systems, destroyed press freedom and are now forcing many sectors to pledge allegiance to the state. Many Hong Kongers live in fear and uncertainty. Few see a viable future.
Today, my testimony focuses on the state of journalism and press freedom in Hong Kong.
In the past three years, the Hong Kong government and the Chinese government have succeeded in dismantling free press in the city. It started during the height of the protest movement. Police singled out journalists with harassment, verbal abuse, and threatened arrests. Military-grade flashlights, tear gas, rubber bullets, and pepper sprays were deployed to obstruct journalists. One journalist was blinded during work. Now, they are using new methods to continue this suppression. Authorities are misusing outdated, colonial laws to silence independent media. They levaragethe NSL and national security police to target individual journalists and media organizations. This is against Hong Kong’s mini-constitution and against international law. Journalists and media are now forced to work in oppressive, and treacherous environments that are changing for the worse.
Journalists have been charged simply for:
- Filming incidents and events
- Requesting public information
- Publishing editorial pieces critical of the government
- Being associated with an NGO deemed to be in violation of the NSL
As Hong Kong experiences rapid change, journalism is needed more than ever. Journalism and press freedom are part of a healthy and vibrant democracy. But the state of journalism has never been more dire. Hong Kong journalists take on a significant amount of work with little pay. They take on security risks to themselves and their families. Threats and incidents have caused many to self-censor, or quit the industry entirely for safety concerns. (We have submitted a brief to the committee that includes written testimonials from local and foreign journalists).
Foreign correspondents are faced with the threat of their visa renewals being rejected if they write critically about Hong Kong or China. Hong Kong ministers write threatening letters to international media that report on unfolding events.
With the NSL, Hong Kong has lost its political opposition and visible dissenting voices. The few remaining independent media outlets in Hong Kong are being forced to close their doors. Hong Kong no longer has a vibrant free press that it has enjoyed for decades.
If you are a local language newspaper in Hong Kong, you can only stay safe if you repeat the official narrative. Balanced coverage no longer exists. Surviving media organizations today increasingly resemble Chinese state media.
In light of the crackdown on press freedom and civil society in Hong Kong, Alliance Canada Hong Kong would like to present four recommendations for the committee to consider:
First, we urge the committee to recommend the European Union to invoke Magnitsky-style sanctions against individual officials from the Hong Kong Police Force, the Hong Kong government, and the Chinese government, who have been, and are continually responsible for egregious human rights violations.
Second, we urge members of the European Union and its member states to create dedicated asylum pathways for Hong Kongers fleeing persecution, Offer low-barrier resettlement pathways for Hong Kongers. Most Hong Kongers cannot wait out the long complicated bureaucracy required by current immigration pathways.
Third, we urge the European Union and its members to continue monitoring Beijing’s formal and informal communications, changes in word choice, censorship tactics, and political posturing, for major insights on positions and policies within China.
Four, the European Union and its member states have a shared and important role to play on the international stage. Multilateral action is an effective way to confront Beijing’s actions in Hong Kong, and to coordinate a response to foreign authoritarian powers such as the PRC. It is imperative to expand the foreign and domestic policy toolbox to meet challenges we are facing now. As well as create room for proportionate and appropriate engagement with Beijing.
A common refrain you’ll hear from Hong Kongers is “remember to never become numb [to what is happening].” This is our call to resist the erasing of our collective memory. This is our call to remember why we protest.This is our call to remember that human right violations cannot become the norm. I ask this committee to remember and acknowledge the sacrifice that Hong Kongers have made and continue to make for the home we love.
Thank you again for this opportunity. I am happy to answer your questions.