An exciting message to the world from a young leader of pro-democracy protesters who are defying China
As my plane took off, for the last time, I looked melancholy at the city I love so much, with its skyscrapers, ferries and fantastic sparkling energy.
I said goodbye to Hong Kong. At the age of 26, I left my home, my parents, my two brothers, and my friends – even the few cats I rescued from the street who offered me unconditional love in return.
I didn’t feel like leaving this bustling, life-enhancing metropolis, where I’ve lived with my family from the Chinese border town of Shenzhen since I was six years old.
But like other activists fighting for democracy and freedom, I knew I would be the target of the communist leaders in Beijing under a sweeping new security law designed to silence the millions of Hong Kong people who oppose the slide to autocracy .
26-year-old Nathan Law (above) left Hong Kong because he knew he would be ‘the target of the communist leaders in Beijing under a sweeping new security law designed to silence the millions of Hong Kong people who are resisting the slide in autocracy to impose ‘.
A man is arrested by riot police during a demonstration against the new national security law on July 1, the 23rd anniversary of the transfer of Hong Kong to China
This is a dark moment for Hong Kong. China is openly tearing the One Country, Two Systems deal agreed with the UK in the 1997 transfer. It was meant to last 50 years and guard the freedoms that made my city so vibrant and a global beating financial center.
No one in Hong Kong has the illusion that Beijing is delivering on those promises or respecting their human rights.
My mother saw the horrors and violence of the cultural revolution in China half a century ago. This law sparks a new cultural revolution in Hong Kong.
So last week I had to board that plane and leave. Now I even have to hide where I am so that I can continue my advocacy work while urging the world to support my people and stand firm against totalitarianism.
None of us knew what was in the clamp account until it was suddenly imposed on us. Then, on Tuesday, we saw reality on the street – and it frightened us.
Carrie Lam, Beijing-appointed CEO of Hong Kong, now has the authority to determine whether an action violates national security. She can decide if someone like me should be placed under surveillance or if phones should be tapped.
A new security service has great powers and officials must submit to their iron will. The secret police can now operate openly in Hong Kong and no longer have to hide their presence as in the past. The terms of the legislation are intentionally vague, but the penalties are severe, with the possibility of secret trials without juries, extradition to China and life imprisonment.
The new law targets alleged foreign collusion – an approach taken under President Xi Jinping on mainland China to silence dissidents and quell any challenges.
China openly tears apart the one-country deal, two systems agreed with the UK in the 1997 transfer, which would last 50 years. Above, demonstrators raise their hands to symbolize the five demands of the pro-democracy movement
We have seen Demosisto, the political party I formed with my friend Joshua Wong and others after the previous wave of ‘Umbrella’ protests in 2014, be routinely smeared in the Chinese state media with false claims of CIA funding.
So when the new law came into force, I had to leave Demosisto, which has since been dissolved, like other groups advocating for democracy. We were too recognizable, the risks were too great.
The next day I spoke on video to the US Congressional Committee on Foreign Affairs. It was my third testimony on Capitol Hill, but speaking of Hong Kong’s plight in such a forum, it has become a violation of the law as “collusion.”
As I told those American politicians, so much has been lost in the city I love – especially the freedom to speak the truth. I knew my testimony would jeopardize my safety. Of course I am sorry to leave. Still, I look firmly at the future.
The world needs to understand that these events in Hong Kong reveal how China is becoming more assertive and autocratic under President Xi. The situation has been worsening for several years, with attempts to force China’s agenda on schoolchildren, weakening of freedom of expression and even seized booksellers for selling literature about their leaders.
In September 2014, the Umbrella Movement saw hundreds of thousands of people holding umbrellas and organizing peaceful sit-ins to demand democracy in response to China’s promises of universal suffrage. It ended with the police firing tear gas.
I was elected to the Hong Kong Legislative Council four years ago. Beijing eventually thwarted me by claiming that I had not taken the oath correctly because I quoted Mahatma Gandhi’s comment “you can never imprison my mind.”
A month after disqualification, I was jailed for involvement in the sit-ins. I sat with gangsters for a few months, which was unforgettable – although I didn’t have the internet, I had time to read and think.
Public rage exploded again last summer. The cause was an extradition law that could lead Hong Kong citizens to stand trial in China, where the legal system is designed to serve the interests of the ruling Communist Party.
Police staged massive demonstrations of up to two million people with tear gas and even gangsters hired to attack protesters. We’ve seen the images of assaults and beatings, spraying bystanders – even children – with pepper spray, shooting up close journalists with rubber bullets and bean bag rounds. I visited arrested protesters in prison.
Demosisto, the political party that Nathan Law (right) formed with Joshua Wong (left) after the previous wave of ‘Umbrella’ protests in 2014, is routinely smeared in Chinese state media with false claims of CIA funding
Nathan Law said he “didn’t want to leave his house,” but left the city for a secret location so he could continue to advocate for Hong Kong and “struggle for freedom on the world stage.”
Many were smart children, risking a bright future because they love their city and detest corruption. It was touching to see more than 100,000 people back on the street last week, even after the draconian new security law. This gives me hope.
Hong Kong’s traditional way of life is being extinguished, but people have shown how they value freedom. They must be supported in their epic struggle as they lead the way in a global struggle between authoritarianism and democracy.
We are grateful to the UK for hosting three million Hong Kong citizens. Now we must see a unified and powerful response from all nations that respect democracy to rule the new Chinese expansionism – otherwise Taiwan will be next.
Businesses must also show that they are not bought with Beijing money. China may offer lucrative deals, but in the longer term, Western companies risk selling their liberal values.
The protests can continue if the world shows support and prioritizes human rights before trade agreements. Despite all its fighting spirit and imperial dreams, China is not as strong as it seems, with an aging society and an unbalanced economy.
I didn’t want to leave my house. I was faced with the choice of keeping silent in the face of autocracy or leaving to continue the struggle for freedom on the world stage.
We will support our resistance on all fronts. Millions of brave people in Hong Kong facing China’s dictatorship have shown that their determination for democracy will not be easily destroyed. They give us hope. We must not disappoint them.