Freedom of Speech is Under Threat
The government’s withdrawal of the extradition bill reveals the success of Hong Kong’s civic protests in capturing global attention and support for Hong Kong’s democracy movement. But the systemic infringements upon the state of democracy which fueled this resistance movement are far from gone.
Under a democratic system people have the right to freedom of expression in public spaces. In the past 17 weeks, more than 1600 protesters have been arrested, undergoing brutal and excessive force by police. Some of the arrested protesters were detained in San Uk Lan Holding Centre, where the right to legal counsel and visits from family members were denied. Reports showed that some protesters have suffered from unusual injuries, including severe bruises and major bone fractures; yet injured protestors were not given proper medical treatment until hours later. Female protesters have been sexually harassed and assaulted by police during their detainment. Despite the severe allegations against the police issued by numerous protestors, the police ignored requests from lawmakers and judicial officers to grant to right to families and lawyers to visit the San Uk Lan Holding Centre. The lack of means of Hong Kong citizens to respond to widespread police brutality has fostered even more distrust between protestors and the government, and the dangers of protesting in the street are mounting.
Known as the Prince Edward station incident, on August 31st, 2019, riot police stormed into an MTR train compartment with batons and pepper spray, indiscriminately attacking innocent passengers returning home after dinner. Multiple civilians were injured; some were even beaten unconscious and blood-covered. The station was closed shortly after the attack; all journalists and medical responders were denied access.
At least 9 HKers have committed suicide as a form of political protest against the violent suppression of Hongkongers’ rights; 2 young professionals suffered permanent blindness and damage to their eyes due to police brutality, and some professionals have lost their jobs because of their political stances. 17 weeks of blood and sweat have exposed HK’s darkest, ugliest threats to civil society. Hongkongers will not back down until our demands are met.