Hong Kong 2 Essay, Research Paper
It s March of 1997, and a political cartoonist who goes by the pen name Zunzi , sketches in a cafe in Hong Kong. Many Americans take this right for granted. Zunzi, however, is thankful that his newspaper is among the few that have avoided self-censoring as the Chinese take-over approaches, bringing with it harsh censorship laws. He draws a picture of a smiling man outfitted in the lower half of a dog costume, preparing to put on it s head. The man symbolizes wealthy businessmen in Hong Kong, and the costume symbolizes their willingness to obey Beijing by assuming positions of power, such as the Preparatory Committee and the Provisional Legislature. They change their costume and identity in whichever group they are in while remaining loyal to China by acting as China s puppets . This way, China has a strong grip on political affairs in Hong Kong. Zunzi is aware his days in Hong Kong are limited (Sesser 21). As China takes over many laws that restrict Hong Kong s free speech are being put into effect, causing uneasiness among citizens. Despite China s attempt to control, Hong Kong citizens struggle to maintain the democratic lifestyle to which they are accustomed.
The Chinese government s restriction of free speech has oppressed many citizens of Hong Kong. Before the hand-over on July 1, 1997, a vigil was held in Hong Kong s Victoria Park for the victims of the June 4, 1989 massacre at Tianemen Square. Fifty-thousand people attended the vigil, which remembered
those who died while rallying for democracy. Said pro-democracy campaigner Szeto Wah, Tonight. we are again using sparks of candlelight, solidified drops of tears, to remember you and mourn you.” However, demonstrations like this are not looked on by approval by the new government that will come with the
hand-over. The soon-to-be executive chief Tung Chee-hwa expressed his disapproval of the vigil by saying that it is …time to set aside the burden of June 4 . New laws proposed by the Provisional Legislative Council required demonstrations and societies to register with the government. Those considered dangerous to national security will be banned (Baird 30). These new lawsthreaten to make demonstrations like the one held in Victoria Park impossible.
The disapproval and Tung Chee-hwa and the emergence of restrictive laws pose a threat to citizens who value their right to free speech.
Hong Kong citizens fear expressing themselves through art because of China s control. Many contemporary choreographers use the theater as a way to express political turmoil and other problems in Hong Kong. Issues range from AIDS, gay rights, and communism versus democracy. The theater has become a place to find different approaches in communicating with the audience, says Jacky Yu, choreographer from the E-Side Dance Company. The government,
however, is trying to thwart the production of controversial dances. Three weeks after the hand-over, a new policy pledged to firmly ban decadent ideas and practices from abroad. This has forced choreographers to censor their own projects to avoid trouble from the government. Said Andy Wong, the artistic director of DanceArt, A don t-rock-the-boat attitude is a means of survival. (Ries 50). Censorship could destroy this medium where expressing political and
often controversial ideas to their audiences is important. To dancers, choreographers, and the audience, censorship is unacceptable. It is likely that many dance supporters will become democracy supporters in order to have the right to express any political idea they want without persecution.
In response to censorship and other downfalls of the Chinese system of government, citizens have supported democracy. Martin Lee, the leader of the democratic party in Hong Kong, believes that democracy is the only way Hong Kong can keep its thriving culture and economy. While the rest of the world is going towards democracy and the rule of law, Hong Kong is condemned to go in the opposite direction. His goals for Hong Kong is for all the seats on the Legislative Council to be filled by democrats, and the people to elect it s leader in the year 2000 , rather than picked by China like Tung. Lee s views have earned him many enemies in China, and some speculate he will eventually be arrested (Fields-Meyer 67). However, the people of Hong Kong support him and his democratic ideals. Increasing unemployment and bad economy make voters bitter towards Tung, and enthusiastic towards the democratic party. In a 1998 election for Legislative Council, 60% of the popular votes were won by the democratic party. Popularly voted seats make up one-third of the Legislative Council, so Lee does not hold much power (Einhorn 72). Nevertheless, the voters have made it clear that they favor the democracy they had when they were under British rule. Censorship, a bad economy, and unemployment have driven the citizens of Hong Kong into the arms of a democratic system similar to the one they once knew.
Hong Kong fears that China s legal system will control theirs, and attempts to assert autonomy. The trial of gangster Cheung Tze-keung has caused many to feel that China is controlling Hong Kong s legal system. Known as Big Spender , Cheung Tze-keung was known for his excessive gambling and arrogance. After three years in jail for stealing $33 million, he was released on a
technicality in 1995. The next crime committed was kidnapping Victor Li, elder son of Li Ka-shing, one of the world s richest men. He received $275 million for ransom. The crime outraged China s President Jiang Zemin . He was sentenced to death in China for these and other various crimes committed in Hong Kong. This decision alarmed many lawyers who believe this case could set a precedent that would allow China to try a crime committed in Hong Kong in their court system. Former bar association chairwoman Gladys Li has attacked the supine attitude of local authorities in not asserting the autonomy and jurisdiction of Hong Kong, as guaranteed in its mini-constitution, the Basic Law (Baird 91). The Basic Law is the legal foundation both China and Hong Kong agreed would serve after the hand-over. Many citizens believe China was controlling Hong Kong and not treating it as independent. Another example of clashing legal systems was a court ruling regarding immigration. On February 10, 1999, Hong Kong s highest court ruled that children born to citizens of Hong Kong are citizens regardless of where or when they were born. China openly calls this court decision a mistake , as Hong Kong could not disregard Chinese legislation . Instead of Chinese legislation, the court justices followed the Basic Law. Many believe that the justices made this decision to assert Hong Kong s autonomy. Wrote law professor Yash Ghai in the South China morning post, The court asserted in this way both the self-government of Hong Kong and the necessity of rights and rule of law. Through this court decision, Hong Kong justices attempted to gain independence from China (Rosenthal A14).
The citizens of Hong Kong are threatened by the controlling Chinese government. Artists and political activists face censorship that they never did in British Hong Kong. Many in Hong Kong also believe that China is becoming too involved in their legal system. For these reasons, Hong Kong pushes for democracy, the democracy they used to have when they were under Britain. The different forms of government were switched too quickly on people, and they have not had time to adjust to the drastically different systems. It will be a challenge to keep going on, half Chinese rule and half democracy. Eventually a choice will need to be made, and if Hong Kong citizens could have their way, democracy will win.
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