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Hong Kong’s Freedoms: What China Promised and How It’s Cracking Down

  • Before the British government handed over Hong Kong in 1997, China agreed to allow the region considerable political autonomy for fifty years under a framework known as “one country, two systems.” 

  • In recent years, Beijing has cracked down on Hong Kong’s freedoms, stoking mass protests in the city and drawing international criticism. 

  • Beijing imposed a national security law in 2020 that gave it broad new powers to punish critics and silence dissenters and could fundamentally alter life for Hong Kongers.

China pledged to preserve much of what makes Hong Kong unique when the former British colony was handed over more than two decades ago. Beijing said it would give Hong Kong fifty years to keep its capitalist system and enjoy many freedoms not found in mainland Chinese cities. 

But it seems that these promises are fading. In recent years, Beijing has taken what critics say are brazen steps to encroach on Hong Kong’s political system and crac kdown on dissent. These moves sparked massive protests in Hong Kong and have drawn international condemnation. In 2020, Beijing passed a controversial national security law and arrested dozens of pro-democracy activists and lawmakers, dimming hopes that Hong Kong will ever become a full-fledged democracy.

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© The Council on Foreign Relations (CFR)

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Nathan Law was a normal student growing up in Hong Kong when he became involved in the Hong Kong pro-democracy movement. Today, living in exile, he is now one of the movement’s most prominent activists. In his Oslo Freedom Forum talk, Nathan discusses the global consequences of the situation in Hong Kong and what the world can do to help.

The Chinese government has been steadily eroding the freedoms enjoyed by the people in Hong Kong. Musician and LGBTQ activist, Denise Ho, spoke at the 2019 Oslo Freedom Forum about being on the frontlines of Hong Kong’s democracy movement, criticizing China’s expanding authoritarianism at every turn.

Glacier Kwong is a political and digital rights activist from Hong Kong. Previously, she was the founder and spokesperson of Keyboard Frontline, an organization dedicated to monitoring censorship and digital rights, and a columnist at Apple Daily. Glacier first got involved in activism in 2012 due to the Copyright Amendment Bill in Hong Kong. Now pursuing her Ph.D in Law at the University of Hamburg, she is currently one of the leading voices of Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement living in exile.

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Nathan Law

From Student Leader, Legislator, Political Prisoner to Activist in Exile

Nathan Law is a Hong Kong democratic activist, former student leader, and legislator, currently in exile and based in London. Due to the risk imposed by the draconian National Security Law, Nathan left Hong Kong and continues to speak up for Hong Kong people on the international level. In 2020, he was listed as one of the 100 most influential people in the world by TIME, received The Magnitsky Human Rights Awards.

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Joey Siu

Joey Siu is a Hongkongese-American student activist, a Policy Advisor of Hong Kong Watch and advisor to the Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China (IPAC). She participated actively in Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement by organizing local grassroot campaigns and also international advocacy for Hong Kong. Her focus is on human rights in Hong Kong, East Turkestan, Tibet and other regions in China. She also writes on U.S. - China relations and Hong Kong politics. She has testified before the U.S. Congress twice, spoken in the U.K. Parliament and United Nations in Geneva, and given briefings at the European Union Delegation office at the U.N.

Twitter: @jooeysiiu

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HONG KONG WATCH

Hong Kong Watch is a UK-based registered charity which researches and monitors threats to Hong Kong’s basic freedoms, the rule of law and autonomy as promised under the ‘one country, two systems’ principle which is enshrined in the Basic Law and the Sino-British Joint Declaration. Hong Kong Watch provides independent, comprehensive analysis and thought leadership on freedom and human rights in Hong Kong.  

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Webpage: www.hongkongwatch.org/

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HONG KONG DC

Hong Kong Democracy Council is a Washington, D.C.-based nonpartisan, nonprofit organization founded in 2019 by Hong Kongers amid the pro-democracy movement. We aim to foster a coherent and collaborative diasporic community in order to enrich the global dialogue about Hong Kong’s democratic development and human rights issues. Our work focuses on educational outreach, community empowerment, and policy advocacy.

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港民國際連橫 - Hong Kong Global Connect. Independent non-partisan organization run by anonymous Hong Kong activists. Updates and analyses on HK and China. DMs open.

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