Friday, December 4, 2020

Arrests and Prison Sentences for Hong Kong Activists

Joshua Wong, Agnes Chow (whom I wrote about earlier this year), and Ivan Lam - three of the inspiring young adult leaders of Hong Kong's freedom movement - have been convicted and sentenced to prison terms of 7-13 months for various infractions related to their i
nvolvement in an "unlawful assembly" at police headquarters during the Summer 2019 protests. Agnes Chow received a 10 month prison sentence for her first "offense," on a matter that would ordinarily involve nothing more than "community service."

But there is nothing ordinary about Beijing's escalating tactics this year in their aggressive move to smash Hong Kong's civil society. This is only the beginning of their offensive. All three of the young people face further "charges," and they may end up being imprisoned for longer - even indefinitely if "national security" requires it.

Nevertheless, as Joshua Wong said, "Cages can't lock up souls." He is right. These kids are opening a new chapter in the history of their people.

Moreover, not all of Hong Kong's heroes are kids. 71-year-old Jimmy Lai - the main sponsor of the pro-Democracy media (and publisher of the popular opposition newspaper Apple Daily) - has been jailed without bail, and charged with a minor technicality involving the use of rented office space. This allegation of "fraud" pertains to an arguably perfectly reasonable use of the space, and is not financially related. It is clearly an attack on his courageous activism, which he has continued even after Beijing's imposition of the draconian "national security law" last Summer.

We are seeing new methods of repression in our time. Instead of employing tanks and the military as they did to massacre dissidents in 1989's Tiananmen Square protest, the 21st Century CCP wages what some have called "Lawfare" against its opponents, using bureaucratic legalism to make them "disappear."

A noteworthy point: Jimmy Lai was baptized into the Catholic Church in 1997, and has been a strong supporter of the precarious religious freedom preserved in Hong Kong (a freedom not likely to last much longer). My column in Magnificat only treats "conversion stories" of people who are dead. I hope I don't have the chance to write the story of Jimmy Lai anytime soon. But if the Chinese Communist PartyState "disappears him" from this world, then I WILL WRITE IT. Jimmy Lai will be first on my list.

But for now, let's all pray for his safety, as well as for Joshua, Ivan, and Agnes, and for an end to the repression of Hong Kong.