It doesn’t matter how many times Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor repeats herself. Saying over and over again that Hong Kong is as free as it ever was doesn’t make it true. There is now a tightening noose around our freedom.
We all know this – even the Beijing loyalists. The only difference is that they choose to remain silent.
If we still had the exact same rights as before, would Chief Secretary Matthew Cheung Kin-chung need to reassure a sceptical UN Human Rights Council in Geneva this month? Would Secretary for Security John Lee Ka-chiu have to insist the entry ban on journalist Victor Mallet had nothing to do with press freedom? It had everything to do with media freedom.
I am a lifelong journalist and it insults my intelligence for our leaders to say nothing has changed when much has changed.
In the past year or so, Hong Kong has blacklisted Mallet, barred British human rights activist Benedict Rogers from entering and banned young activists such as Agnes Chow Ting from running for the Legislative Council: developments that, in sum, have made me wake up to the fact that I no longer recognise the city where I was born, raised and now work as a journalist.
I am not judging whether it’s right or wrong for the authorities to tamper with the freedoms we have grown up with. All I am saying is that things are no longer what they were. Wouldn’t it be better for Lam’s credibility if she could admit that Beijing sees Hong Kong through a different lens from that of our former colonial rulers – if she could stop pretending that things are the same?
If Beijing wants Hong Kong to remain the jewel in its crown, it must tightening its grip on the city for fear threats to national security. I can fully understand Beijing’s determination to safeguard national security but surely that can be done without strangling Hong Kong’s freedoms.
Michael Chugani is a Hong Kong journalist and TV show host