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Freedom in Hong Kong Continues to Spiral Downward

October 19, 2018

The author first visited Hong Kong in 1968 in route to an unknown future in Southeast Asia. The Peninsula Hotel was a rare treat with all of the trappings of a British Colonial Empire. For the next nineteen years, Hong Kong represented a place of respite from the jungles of Southeast Asia, a duty-free place to shop and a gateway to Mainland China.

When Prince Adisrasuriwongse retired as the General Auditor of Esso Thailand at the mandatory retirement age of 55, the author arranged a connected Thai to go to Hong Kong and purchase a TEAC 6010 reel-to-reel tape recorder given the Prince’s avowed love of music. However, at the party he took a greater interest in the lovely singer than the tape recorder. Nonetheless, in those days in Thailand, no expense or challenge was too great to keep the General Auditor happy.

Sadly, on July 1, 1997, the former British Colony reverted to China given the termination of the 99-year lease that had been awarded to Great Britain by the weakened Qing dynasty. With great pomp and circumstance, the former colony became the Special Autonomous Region of Hong Kong.

Many people occupied great seats in the stands and sipped champagne later while all we got was the T-shirt below which still provides caring service unlike the authorities of Hong Kong today.

For many years following the handover, the author continued to spend time in Hong Kong as the director of a listed Hong Kong company. The major incentive was that the Managing Director was the daughter of a gentleman who headed the Military Police of China which was a handy business card to have available on frequent trips to the mainland. During that period, there was increasing evidence of corruption in Hong Kong with massive amounts of money being made by the local “honkies” - often at the expense of the more “country bumpkin” mainland Chinese. There was a saying, “Do not waste time on hard money as there is plenty of easy money around.” However, the concept of political dissent and personal freedoms began to fade into the past.

Survival has dictated that the Hong Kong government move closer to Beijing and take a tough line on political dissent. Lau Siu-lai, a member of the Hong Kong government was stripped of her seat in the legislature last year. In the last few months, the special administrative region has banned the Hong Kong National Party of which she is a member as it promotes separation from China. Recently, she was precluded from running in an upcoming bi-election.

The Education Bureau informed all secondary schools that they must prohibit the “penetration” of the National Party or risk prosecution. Increasing pressure is being placed by the elite police force of Security Wing. One law professor speculated that the only remaining course might be the court system.

Recently, Victor Mallet of the Financial Times discovered that his visa was revoked despite the fact that he had worked in Hong Kong for seven years. Although there was no reason given for the revocation of his visa, it appeared linked to his chairing of a controversial luncheon talk at the Foreign Correspondent’s Club. He was the acting president of the press club at the time. He is shown below as he made his way to the departure lounge to leave Hong Kong.

The British Chamber of Commerce stressed that Hong Kong’s rights and freedoms including speech, expression, information and rule of law are “core features” of Hong Kong’s special status under China’s governing principle of “one country, two systems” and essential to its role as an international business center.

Officially, there was no reason given for the position of the immigration authorities which the Chief Administrative Executive of Hong Kong, Carrie Lam, said had been handed down by them. She did say that the government “will not tolerate any advocacy of Hong Kong independence and things that harm national security, territorial integrity and developmental issues.” Interestingly, she did say that freedom of reporting and expression were “still core values” which is hard to correlate with her previous comment.

It is not a coincidence that the individual being removed from a demonstration shown previously is Andy Chan, the founder of the Hong Kong National Party. It is he that is sitting next to Victor Mallet at the Foreign Correspondent’s Club. Interestingly, few people outside of Hong Kong had ever heard of Andy Chan and the Hong Kong National Party until now.

Having a visa revoked as a journalist for the Financial Times is still a better situation than having your life revoked as a Washington Post journalist when Jamal Khashoggi entered the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul -- never to be seen again.

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