Guten Tag. Thank you, Chairman Wendt, and Members of the Committee, for organizing today’s hearing and for the opportunity to contribute to the committee’s work in support of the pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong.
Sitting here today, I am sure that I would be arrested for violating national security law if I returned to Hong Kong. The alleged charge would be ‘‘colluding with foreign forces’. At the time when freedom becomes a crime, my status as a Hong Konger in exile– which I considered to be a badge of honour– well illustrates Beijing’s threats. Yet, because I reside in Germany, my fate pales in comparison to those of the thousands of freedom-loving Hong Kongers facing the very real prospect of years behind bars today.
Drastically, the National Security Law erodes the crumbling pillars of the city’s rule of law and democracy. Hong Kongers now live in a quasi-police state and mass surveillance. The vaguely termed law overrides the Basic Law and the Common Law system. Earlier this month, 55 political figures were arrested just because they ran in in a primary. Pro-Beijing lawmakers are also pushing for surveillance cameras in classrooms to monitor teachers’ speeches. Dissents’ bank accounts were frozen, with websites blocked.
Under Beijing’s intensifying crackdown on Hong Kong, the recent investment deal will damage Germany and the Union’s human rights credibility. By putting aside human rights dimensions, the deal is making a mockery of Germany’s commitment to values. While China fails to honor its commitment in international treaties like the Joint declaration in Hong Kong, it is a matter of doubt if China will adhere to its promise in the new deal.
Worse still, the deal undermines Germany and the Union’s strategic autonomy from China, as economic dependency deepens and leverages weaken. We hand Beijing our diplomatic leverage on human right abuses in Hong Kong, Xinjiang and civil societies in China. Whenever EU calls for condemnation, Beijing can use it as its new lever to avert sanctions by strategically blackmailing individual Member States. Instead of making European companies more competitive, the deal makes them increasingly vulnerable to a flawed legal system and unpredictable political risks.
Therefore, Germany, as a main economic partner in Europe, should have a real and robust policy on China. In the face of the recent crackdown on election runners in Hong Kong, Germany should follow the resolution adopted by the European Parliament and implement targeted sanction against individuals in Hong Kong and China under the EU Human Rights Global Sanction Regime, to hold China accountable and honor Germany’s commitment to democratic values.
As fear prevails, freedom-seeking souls now live in a bigger cage. That is why more and more people choose to seek asylum overseas. The current arrangement requires political asylum seekers to apply in person in Germany. But pandemic makes it difficult to secure visas. For that reason, Germany could consider allowing Hong Kongers to enter and reside in the Federal territory without a visa under Section 41(1) of the Residence Ordinance, before securing residence permits. As Hong Kong Watch suggests the job-seeker visa for graduates could also be extended to 24 months, increasing their employment possibilities without running the risk of returning to Hong Kong or entering the asylum system. As Germany’s population has fallen for the first time in a decade, the influx of Hong Kongers could also be beneficial to the country, with our knowledge, skills, capital and entrepreneurship.
Hong Kong used to be a safe harbour. But now Hong Kong needs a safe harbour.
Germany, as a freedom-loving country, will always honour its promise made under the Treaty of European Union, to defend human rights. Generations of Germans had fought hard to win fundamental rights. We, Hong Kongers can no longer express our thoughts freely without the risk of prison. But, many Hong Kongers still choose to remain in the territory and continue our fight. It is still our home. Once we know the free world has our backs, Hong Kongers will continue standing up for our fundamental rights and democracy with even more creativity, fervor, and resilience. Because human rights is simply ‘the rights to have rights’. They don’t apply more to some and less to us.
Eleanor Roosevelt famously said “The immediate test is not only the extent to which human rights and freedoms have already been achieved, but the direction in which the world is moving” Engagement should not be equivalent to appeasement nor public silence. Berlin should play a more active role in human rights issues. Amid pandemic and major democracies backsliding, the world looks up to Germany and Europe to set the bar. It is time for us to move the world in the right direction– to make human rights universal.