Two years since the protests against proposed extradition laws, Hong Kongers have continued to relentlessly advocate for their fundamental freedoms amidst systematic repression from an authoritarian regime, said Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA), Asia Democracy Network (ADN), and Suara Rakyat Malaysia (SUARAM) in a joint statement on Friday (11 Jun).
“12 June 2019 marked a significant moment in Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement. It was the day when Hong Kongers marched to the Legislative Council building and demonstrated defiance against an authoritarian regime that disregards the will of people,” said the groups.
On that day, tens of thousands of peaceful demonstrators took to the streets ahead of a debate on proposed extradition laws, which would allow local and foreign suspects to be extradited to mainland China, undermining Hong Kong’s judicial independence and exposing suspects to risks of human rights violations.
Police’s violent crackdown injured at least 72 people.
The use of excessive and disproportionate violence characterised the clashes between demonstrators and police in the following months. Demonstrators and bystanders, including pregnant women and children, were met with batons, tear gas, and rubber bullets.
Since then, China and Hong Kong authorities have moved towards full-blown authoritarianism. In June 2020, China passed the National Security Law that would allow state officials to target anyone perceived to be against the Government, under vaguely defined notions of security.
Prominent pro-democracy activists and opposition leaders were charged under this law for their active participation in the pro-democracy movement. China’s national security office was installed in Hong Kong, cementing a culture of fear.
In April 2021, new amendments to electoral laws were introduced to overhaul Hong Kong’s electoral system which would favour pro-China candidates, including through a vetting committee which can ban anyone deemed disloyal to China from running in the elections, further diluting dissenting voices.
“Despite the increasing repression against Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement, the people of Hong Kong have continued to speak up for their rights even when living in exile. Hong Kongers overseas continue to reach out to one another, building and strengthening networks. The spirit and courage they demonstrated on 12 June 2019 remains strong today, and has continued to inspire other pro-democracy movements in the region,” said the groups.
“As we mark 12 June, the world must not forget that Hong Kong’s struggle for democracy has continued, and those who have been brave and courageous in the fight against unprecedented repression are not alone,” they added.