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Human Rights in Hong Kong at Lowest Point Since 1997 Handover: Amnesty

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Lam Kwok-lap  |  Radio Free Asia

Members of the Democratic Party demonstrate in from of the Hong Kong Central Government office on behalf of local reporters detained and beaten covering protests in Wukan, China, Sept. 15, 2016.  RFA
Members of the Democratic Party demonstrate in from of the Hong Kong Central Government office on behalf of local reporters detained and beaten covering protests in Wukan, China, Sept. 15, 2016.

Human rights in Hong Kong deteriorated to their lowest point ever last year, according to an annual report by Amnesty International.

Authorities in the former British colony “failed on many fronts” to protect the city’s traditional rights and freedoms, which are now at their lowest ebb since the 1997 handover to Chinese rule, the report said.

Citing a lack of official engagement with the disappearances of five Hong Kong booksellers detained by Chinese police for selling controversial political books to customers across the internal immigration border in mainland China, the report said there are now doubts over whether the physical safety of Hong Kong people is sufficiently guaranteed.

The report came after two former student leaders of the 2014 Occupy Central pro-democracy movement, Nathan Law and Joshua Wong, were attacked during and on their return from a trip to Taiwan.

Law, now Hong Kong’s youngest lawmaker, said he was jostled on Sunday night by protesters at the city’s international airport on his return from a speaking tour to visit pro-democracy activists in Taiwan.

Two people were arrested after anti-independence protesters threw liquid in his face and tried to attack Law, 23, who was shown stumbling down a staircase in video footage of the melee, as protesters shouted “Traitor!” and “Fall down and die!”

The alleged attackers, aged 53 and 71, were arrested on suspicion of assault occasioning actual bodily harm and unlawful assembly, local media reported.

Earlier, Wong and Law, whose Demosisto party embraces the idea of self-determination for Hong Kong, were met by some 200 protesters in Taiwan, some of whom tried to throw punches at Wong.

Police in Taiwan said on Wednesday they have arrested eight people with suspected triad connections over the attempted attack, which came ahead of a political forum organized by the pro-independence New Power Party, at which the pair were speaking.

Repeated warnings

The attacks came after repeated warnings by Chinese officials that talk of independence for Hong Kong won’t be tolerated, although it only emerged after widespread calls for fully democratic elections were ignored by Beijing.

Law denied that Demosisto is a pro-independence party, however.

“We are clearly not advocating independence for Hong Kong; I don’t think that any of our three elected politicians are,” he said following the attack on Sunday.

“But I don’t think that I, as an elected representative, should be subjected to physical attacks, whatever my political views,” Law said. “They couldn’t even guarantee the safety of a lawmaker.”

Meanwhile, Amnesty also cited an interpretation by Beijing of Hong Kong’s constitution last October, which prompted the disqualification of two pro-independence lawmakers as calling into question Beijing’s promises that the city would maintain a “high degree of autonomy.”

“The Hong Kong government and civil servants should make defending the rights of Hong Kong people their first priority,” the report said.

Spokeswoman Raees Baig told reporters that violence against journalists and diminishing freedom of expression are “escalating.”

“We see this year that there are escalating cases of violence against reporters, and a very … confined space [for] press freedom, or freedom of expression,” Baig said.

“So these are actually escalating problems … Is it the worst year [to date]? I guess we can generally say yes,” she said.

No meeting with Trump

The reports come as Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen starts a visit to the Americas this week, after Beijing protested her unofficial trip to Washington. Tsai won’t be meeting with president-elect Donald Trump, however.

While the Chinese Communist Party has never ruled Taiwan, it regards the democratic island as a province awaiting reunification, and has threatened to invade if its government seeks formal statehood.

Beijing’s diplomatic partners are required to cut ties with the government in Taiwan, which was taken over by the Kuomintang nationalist government after World War II, ending 50 years of Japanese rule there.

Repeated polls have shown that many of Taiwan’s 23 million residents identify as Taiwanese rather than Chinese, and that there is broad political support for de facto self-rule, if not formal independence.

President Tsai’s Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) swept to power earlier this year amid fears of growing Chinese influence over Taiwan under her predecessor Ma Ying-jeou.

The party has a staunchly pro-independence wing.

Copyright © 1998-2016, RFA. Used with the permission of Radio Free Asia, 2025 M St. NW, Suite 300, Washington DC 20036

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