What happened in CUHK and PolyU?
Before the triumph of the Hong Kong district election on 24th November, the protest situation intensified since the beginning of November. Police Force surrounded The Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK) and fired around 1,500 tear gas, numerous of rubber bullets and live ammunition into the campus, causing hundreds of protestors, mostly students, injured. Police tried to enter the campus for hours but retreated after strong defence of students. However, following the day-long battle in CUHK, police turned to besiege Polytechnic University (PolyU), using even more intense violence, attempting to evacuate the campus. Student union of Technische Universität (TU Asta) Berlin released a statement to support Poly U in early November and members of TU Asta received emails, even death threats in return, criticising TU Asta should not intervene in Chinese internal issues.1
Critics from these Chinese groups are paradoxical since they are not only intervening internal issues of TU Asta, however, also harming the freedom of speech and freedom of opinion. Is TU Asta the sole case happened in Germany? Does it only happen in Germany and what can we see from these kinds of incidences?
The Growing Censorship Pressure from China
Not long after TU Asta telling their death threats story, Gyde Jensen from FDP, parliament member of Germany claimed she had similar experiences regarding her comments on the human rights issue in the re-education camp in Uygurs. She then received many emails, which carried threatening messages. More ridiculously is after Heiko Mass, German Foreign Minister, meeting Hong Kong activist Joshua Wong in September at a press party, the words “Berlin process” were chopped out in UN from the text of a Security Council statement on Libya because of pressure from China.2 Not only are German citizens being threatened or their acts being restraint, but also people from China, who are now living in Germany. An Uygurian activist, who tried to tell Germans what is currently happening in Xinjiang, a province in China, received a call from his sister who still lives there, asked him to think of his family and not to do activism in Germany anymore.3 China tried to mute the voice of activists in Germany by using their family to threaten them. This act is obviously hurting freedom of speech in Germany and trying to influence activities within Germany. What is more disappointing is that despite a hearing in the parliament, there is no further action from Germany to protect her citizens.
Yet, this is not a particular issue happened in Germany. There are also some similar cases in France, the United States, Australia and some other countries, but only Australia adopted a new law, requiring anyone in Australia working on behalf of a foreign power to declare that connection to the government, in order to avoid China buying political interference. Bause from the Green who is banned from entering China because of her criticism on China also said laws should be set up to protect people who are trying to fight again totalitarian regime in Germany.
Germany should Stay Alert
In the case of the UN statement, it shows that China can influence international politics and it had also happened indirectly in Germany this year. According to Deutsche Welle, there is increasing company acquisition by Chinese investing since 2015, Chinese investment even increased to 37 billion US dollars in 2017, which take up a large part of the German economy.4 With the increasing Chinese economic influence in Germany, we suspect that it led to the rejection of the Bill from the Green in late October this year, asking the parliament to stand with the detainees in Xinjiang or protesters in Hong Kong. Based on what was happening in the past few months, we are strongly concerned if Germany can really take a strong stance to protect her freedom and her citizens. Is it really possible for Germany to legislate against China’s growing influence when German’s economy is becoming more and more dependeant on China?
- “Nach Solidaritätserklärung mit Hongkong Asta der TU Berlin erhält Morddrohungen”, Tagesspiegel (2019),URL=https://m.tagesspiegel.de/wissen/nach-solidaritaetserklaerung-mit-hongkong-asta-der-tu-berlin-erhaelt-morddrohungen/25280270.html?utm_referrer=https%3A%2F%2Fm.facebook.com%2F&fbclid=IwAR3aNFQIJIQLIp8bol0UT5-o5ozeNoTfObn4V1_WDfP2nugiqbbJTrgKFh4.
- “Hong Kong’s Protests Linked to Libya War in Only-at-the-UN Spat”, Bloomberg (2019), URL=https://www.bloombergquint.com/politics/hong-kong-s-protests-linked-to-libya-war-in-only-at-the-un-spat.
- “’Think of your family’: China threatens European citizens over Xinjiang protests”, The Guardian (2019), URL=https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/oct/17/think-of-your-family-china-threatens-european-citizens-over-xinjiang-protests.
- “China’s unsatisfied hunger for German companies”, Deutsche Welle (2017), URL=https://www.dw.com/en/chinas-unsatisfied-hunger-for-german-companies/a-39658363.