Wednesday 23 October 2019

Joshua Wong: 'Our stability's vital to the West - it must stand up for human rights'

Destruction: The Legislative Council of Hong Kong was damaged following a break-in by protesters. Photo: Johnson Lai/AP
Destruction: The Legislative Council of Hong Kong was damaged following a break-in by protesters. Photo: Johnson Lai/AP

Joshua Wong

A few days ago, my comrades marked the 22nd anniversary of Hong Kong's handover by storming into the legislature, embodying their discontent with ongoing political prosecution and the government's refusal to fully withdraw a provocative extradition bill, and - most fundamentally - with the undemocratic and inhumane government.

The protesters come from all walks of life. One young scholar removed his mask and shouted the reason why people have to occupy the chamber: "To win now or lose Hong Kong forever. If we fail, the authorities will purge dissidents and protest leaders. We are at the point of no return."

Their aims were simple: for the government to fully withdraw the extradition bill, stop defining the recent demonstrations as riots, drop all charges against protesters, hold police accountable for the use of force, and call for democratic reform.

However, since the authorities have been turning a blind eye to all these sensible appeals, the young and frustrated protesters eventually resorted to a more progressive method to make their voices heard.

Three protesters committed suicide within two weeks for the sake of showing their conviction and arousing the domestic and international concern about the current plight of Hong Kong.

The true culprit, who killed these young people and perpetuated social "instability", was not the protesters but the authority of Hong Kong.

Ostensibly, it seems that Hong Kong's stability is irrelevant to UK and Western countries' interests.

However, the stark fact is that Hong Kong has long been a free-world outpost to the West.

UK and western countries' interests and investments are deeply embedded into the Hong Kong market and hinge on Hong Kong's stability.

The international community should emulate the practice of the UK by prohibiting the export of tear gas and rubber bullets to Hong Kong until the matter of the excessive use of force by the Hong Kong police is thoroughly addressed.

And to maintain British influence and interest in Asia after Brexit, the British government should consider making good use of the human rights issue of Hong Kong when making trade deals with China in the future.

Including human rights clauses in future trade deals and coupling human rights and business arrangements would effectively and instrumentally strengthen the leverage of the UK in regards to China.

The United Kingdom and Hong Kong have had close ties to each other since the first opium war.

In 1841, Captain Charles Elliot said that the British crown had an obligation to retain Hong Kong not just for commercial and strategic interests, but as an act of justice and protection to the native population upon whom the crown had been so long dependent for assistance and supplies.

Now Hong Kong is in the midst of calamity and it is the high time the British Government stands up for Hong Kong; for justice, affection, business interests and, most importantly, human rights of all mankind.

Joshua Wong is a student activist and politician who is secretary-general of the pro-democracy party Demosisto

Irish Independent

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox every morning.

Don't Miss