Young Hong Kong protester at Feb 1 democracy rally Photo ©2015 John WheatonHong Kong residents used to enjoy British-style freedom of the press, expression and free assembly, but that was before the former British colony rejoined the Chinese mainland in 1997.
Despite its official policy of “One nation, two systems,” the Beijing government wants to keep relatively freewheeling Hong Kong on a short leash. Organizers of the 79-day long Occupy Central democracy movement, in particular, are being closely monitored — and harassed — by pro-Beijing forces.
They are followed as they go about their business. Their email accounts have been hacked. People photograph them, send them funeral wreaths and threatening messages. Posters denouncing them have appeared in their neighborhoods, and their employers have been pressured to fire them.
Verna Yu, of The Christian Science Monitor, has a detailed report reprinted by Yahoo News.
Cases of mainland Chinese activists and dissidents targeted by state security agents are well documented. These include arbitrary detention, being followed, having phone and computer communications tapped, and seeing loved ones harassed. In some cases, their children are followed to school and the employers of their spouses are pressured to sack them.
Other leaders of the Occupy movement have also been targeted, the Monitor has found.
Reverend Chu Yiu-ming is so used to telephone harassment that he no longer uses his mobile phone; his church office phone still receive hundreds of nuisance calls. At the start of the Occupy movement, Rev. Chu’s son noticed he was being followed and filmed when taking his own child to kindergarten. Footage of the film was later sent to Chu as an implicit threat. Chu’s son also found posters with photos of himself and his parents posted near his home and his church, urging them to “repent.”
Occupy Central supporters, such as the student pictured here, want the Chinese government to abide by its 1997 promise to grant universal suffrage by the 2017 election of the Hong Kong chief executive. Occupy Central wants citizens to be able to nominate candidates for the post; Beijing instead is requiring that only candidates approved by a special committee and vetted by Beijing can stand for election.
A 79-day sit-in protest in several busy Hong Kong districts, which ended mid-December, largely failed in getting Beijing to yield. Occupy Central held a pro-democracy rally Feb. 1 in the Causeway Bay shopping district, but turnout was relatively modest.