Letter from Chow Hang-tung: 6th anniversary of China’s “709 Crackdown”
Editor’s note: July 9th marked the 6th anniversary of China’s “709 Crackdown”. Coincidentally, it was also the day Hang Tung returned to the West Kowloon Magistrates’ Courts for the first time for bail review.
The 709 Crackdown has always been on Hang Tung’s mind. To her, it was not just a mass arrest targeting human rights lawyers in mainland China, but a sweeping clampdown of the entire civil society, with its aftershocks still being felt. Lawyer Zhou Shifeng, Pastor Wu Shigen, political cartoonist Butcher Wu Gan are still being imprisoned. Even Yu Wensheng, the lawyer who helped the other arrested lawyers, could not be spared. Now, only the government’s voice is deemed “correct” and allowed in the society….
In her self-defence statement in the court, she had similar words to say. But according to Hang Tung, the Magistrate cut short her statement right in the beginning and declared rejection to her bail application. Hence, she has decided to put in writing what she did not manage to say in the court.
The accusation I am made to face right now is blatantly a case of incarceration for writings or speeches. It is the authorities’ attempt to wipe out our memories of the June 4th. It is one of their maneuvers to silence to the civil society, an injustice done in the name of law.
Six years ago, when the 709 Crackdown struck in mainland China, we immediately realized that it was an unjust political persecution. Our colleagues in the legal profession then launched a stand-in-silence protest, demanding the release of lawyers Wang Quanzhang and Li Heping. We criticised the state media for the conviction without trial and condemned the court for its blind collaboration with the authorities. We reckoned it necessary to demand the Chinese government to respect human rights.
But after six years, when now the same thing has come to us, we seem to have lost the ability to discern the essence of the issue. Our court – allowing me to say this – is just acting in accordance with the government’s script, by sending the political prisoners into jail one after another and by keeping them in detention indefinitely. The most important principle of the rule of law, and the most sacred task of the court is to countercheck the power of the state and protect the rights of the people. Political persecution, via means of the criminal procedures, is exactly the most common and worst form of power abuse. To condone this kind of abuse of the legal procedures will give the public the impression that the court is an accomplice. It will also drain the credit of the court.
Six years after the 709 Crackdown, we can see how devastated the civil society in China has now become. The official voice is the only voice left in the society. No more diverse discussions or free speculative thoughts. Is this the Hong Kong we all want to see become?
I made this application because I am convinced that it is my right to get bail and my right to enjoy free speech. The prosecution and the request for me to be remanded is infringing my constitutional rights to the freedoms of expression and of personal movement.
I made this application because I am convinced that in this context when power is so much tilted, the court has the responsibility to proactively defend people’s civil rights and to countercheck the state’s assaults on citizens’ rights to freedoms.
I made this application because I don’t want to see the Hong Kong society being silenced like the one in the mainland, and no one will speak up when human rights are trespassed.
It rests upon everyone’s thought of the moment to decide whether we should allow incarceration for writing/ speeches to exist in Hong Kong or to say no to arbitrary arrests.