Beijing curbs Hong Kong rights


Beijing curbs Hong Kong rights

By Eva Cheng

The Beijing-appointed chief executive of Hong Kong after the British withdrawal on July 1, Tung Chee-hwa, on April 9 announced plans to curtail basic democratic rights.

Under the sweeping cover of "national security", civil rights laws — enacted only in the last few years — would be seriously compromised. Rights of peaceful assembly will be restricted "in the interests of national security or public safety, public order, the protection of public health or morals or the protection of rights and freedoms of others".

A similar cap will be put on the freedom of association, which covers the right to form and join trade unions.

Societies and political parties would have to be registered and would be refused registration if they have ties to or receive donations from foreign political organisations or individuals. An executive of the post-July 1 government said Hong Kong emigrants as well as entities in Taiwan would be considered foreign.

At the moment, a demonstration can be held simply by notifying the police. In the future, permission has to be sought seven days in advance.

Warnings of such repressive changes triggered widespread street protests in Hong Kong earlier this year. A spokesperson for the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of the Patriotic Democratic Movement in China, formed in 1989 to support democracy in China, warned on April 9 that the proposed changes "slid open the door" for repression against the alliance, which is branded "subversive" by Beijing.

Many activist groups in Hong Kong are financed to various extents by overseas sources, including labour groups and church organisations.