“Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death!” – Hong Kong Protesters

Narration: On September 17, Hong Kong activists testified on Capitol Hill.

Joshua Wong: I would describe now is the collapse of one country two systems.

Dennis Ho: They get arrested for being young.  People are arrested for being young.

Sharon Hom: “We only need to look at Tibet and Xinjiang for what the Communist Party means by [autonomy]. It means no culture, no language, no history and no right to practice your belief or faith.”

Narration: The delegation’s core message to Congress is to pass the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act.

Simone: If the US revoke the status, the special status, Hong Kong will be just another city like any other city in mainland China. Have you thought of that?

Sunny Cheung: Sometimes you fight for something you have to sacrifice something.

Narration: With the looming 70th anniversary of the Chinese Communist Party’s takeover of China, and the possibility of declaring emergency rule in Hong Kong, what do the Hong Kong people most want from the free world? And what are they willing to sacrifice for their freedom? Today I share my observations and interviews with some core members of this movement.

Host: I am Simone Gao, and you are watching Zooming In.

Narration: On September 17, Hong Kong activists testified on Capitol Hill.

Joshua Wong: I would describe now is the collapse of one country two systems.

Denise Ho: People are arrested for being young.

Sharon Hom: “We only need to look at Tibet and Xinjiang for what the Communist Party means by [autonomy]. It means no culture, no language, no history and no right to practice your belief or faith.”

Narration: The delegation’s core message to Congress is to pass the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act.

Simone: If the US revoke the status, the special status, Hong Kong will be just another city like any other city in mainland China. Have you thought of that?

Sunny Cheung: Sometimes you fight for something you have to sacrifice something.

Narration: With the looming 70th anniversary of the Chinese Communist Party’s takeover of China, and the possibility of declaring emergency rule in Hong Kong, what do the Hong Kong people most want from the free world? And what are they willing to sacrifice for their freedom? Today I share my observations and interviews with some core members of this movement.

Host: I am Simone Gao, and you are watching Zooming In.

Title: “Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death!” — Hong Kong Protesters

Narration: On September 17, a group of Hong Kong pro-democracy activists appealed to U.S. lawmakers to support their fight by exerting maximum pressure on Chinese Communist Party leadership.  They claimed the One Country Two Systems is basically dead.

Marco Rubio: So my question to all the panelists is: How would you describe the state of Hong Kong autonomy today?

Joshua Wong: During the last congressional hearing, I strongly aware how one country two system eroded to be one country, one and a half system. But the recent political crisis by how Hong Kong and Beijing government turns such a global city into the police state with more violence and even white terror. I would describe now is the collapse of one country two system. And also we are facing the death under (of) the current constitutional framework. And I think now is also the time and the reason which we hope to seek for bipartisan support. Support Hong Kong separatization should not be the matter of left or right issue, but a matter of right or wrong.

Denise Ho: So on a more cultural and social context, there is an immense fear among the people, to speak their minds, which is a result of how the businesses and the government institutions, they have put pressure onto their employees or the people to keep their mouth shut, basically. And so this has a huge impact on the economy because without this freedom of speech, it’s very difficult for the economy and also the society to thrive. Because in the sense we are already in somewhat of a “China city” situation where people would fear for their safety if they spoke out about their political stance.

Sunny Cheung: Last year the USCC published a report, (regarding) concerns that Hong Kong is becoming more like any other Chinese city. And that means that our autonomy is already gone. And actually even the USCC has issued a report to claim that the autonomy of Hong Kong is already in danger. In UK when I met some politicians, I would tell them that the Chinese government already breached the Sino-British, joint declaration. And that’s why I would say the autonomy of Hong Kong is already dead. And that’s why we urge the US governments and other free world countries to try to help with Hong Kong with many…like passing the Human Rights and Democracy Act. And you can pass the Global Magnitsky in other countries, and urge your allies to pass them, to let other free world countries to stand with Hong Kong.

Sharon Hom: Autonomy, (to understand) what it means for the Communist Party is we only need to look at the so-called autonomous regions in Tibet and Xinjiang. What autonomy means is: no cultural, no language, no history, no right to believe or practice your faith under the sinicization of religion, which is an oxymoron. And their understanding of autonomy even extends to past life. As you know, the party is trying to now control reincarnation. So they also tried to impose a notion of Chinese-ness. What kind of Chinese-ness? Well, Xi Jinping’s notion of Chinese-ness under the Chinese dream and what is Chinese. But Hong Kongers are quite complex as a history and language and culture. And I think Hong Kongers are going, and are negotiating what it means to be a Hong Konger. Whether it includes being a Chinese. Does it mean that? And I think that’s what it means to be free, the right to decide and determine in this complex way, what does it mean to be who we are. And that is absolutely antithetical to the DNA of the communist party and its notion of autonomy because it doesn’t exist.

Narration: Their core demand presented before the Congressional-Executive Commission on China is for the US congress to pass the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act of 2019.

Joshua Wong: Co-Chairman Rubio is also right for recently writing that “Hong Kong’s special status,” under American law, “depends on the city being treated as a separate customs area, Beijing shouldn’t have it both ways, reaping all the economic benefits of Hong Kong’s standing in the world while eradicating our socio-political identity. This is the most important reason why the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act enjoys the broad support of Hong Kong’s civil society, a point which I want every member of Congress to take note.

Narration: To these Hongkongers, the reason they’re pushing for this legislation is simply that nothing else has worked. The Hong Kong government and the Communist Party leadership, which is really in control, has ignored the voice of millions of Hong Kong people for the past three and-a-half months.

Sunny Cheung: The US government should help HK people to have the right to decide our future. Therefore, we urge the US Congress to pass the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act, to expand the current sanction list to all individuals who infringe our human rights. The US government should not acknowledge the special status of Hong Kong. The US must send a strong signal that this special status should be cancelled if HK lost its autonomy in order to put pressure on China. Otherwise, China will keep taking advantage of Hong Kong as an international society but hollow out our liberal values. With such an assertive policy, it’s demonstrated that America will no longer tolerate totalitarianism. Hong Kong people will take every step with the last inch of our effort to fight for democracy and freedom.

Narration: Beijing responded swiftly after the hearing. Foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang warned against the U.S. effort to back the protestors.

旁白:美國聽證會後,北京迅速做出了回應。 外交部發言人耿爽警告美國不得支持示威者。

Narration: The Hong Kong government also issued a statement on Wednesday defending the police handling of the protest as being restrained and rejecting the activists’ allegations as “serious and unfounded”.

Narration: The group had a packed schedule touring New York and Washington DC, including an invitation to the Hong Kong Human Rights Forum organized by the Victims of Communism Foundation and an invitation to a film screening by the Global Taiwan Institute.

Bumper: Coming up, an interview with Hong Kong student leader Sunny Cheung.

Part Two

Narration: Sunny Cheung is the spokesperson of the Hong Kong Higher Education International Affairs Delegation. He was one of the witnesses that testified in front of the Congressional-Executive China Committee on September 17. I had the opportunity to interview him during his trip to Washington DC.

Simone: All right. Thank you so much. So for this trip, all of you emphasized that you want the US government to pass the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act. I want to know which part of the act is most important to you?

Sunny: I think the sanction list actually provides a very effective mechanism to the US government (who can then) try to monitor the situation in Hong Kong. Especially, we know that many Hong Kong officials, they really grossly undermine and violate the human rights situation in Hong Kong and this gradually becomes a humanitarian crisis in Hong Kong. And by this bill, if the US government can use this sanction as a mechanism to try to hold them accountable it will be very effective and very encouraging for Hong Kong people.

Simone: There is also a very controversial part of this bill and it is the one that requires the State Department, the Secretary of State to review the status of Hong Kong every year. So if Hong Kong doesn’t pass the review the special status might be revoked. So what is your thinking of that?

Sunny: I definitely think if the special status of Hong Kong is continually manipulated by the Chinese government, I think the US government should actively consider to abolish their recognition of our Hong Kong special status. Because only if they do so and then actually they can try to give a very immense pressure on the Chinese government. We know that in previous years, the Chinese government tried to manipulate Hong Kong as the back door of the world liberal system, to do many illegal trading under the table with Iran and North Korea and this trading apparently violates many weapon embargoes under the United Nations. And when China uses Hong Kong to do trade with Iran, this also violates the order from the Department of State in the US and this undermines and harms the interest of the Americans.

Sunny: That’s why actually, it makes sense to see that if the Department of State in the United States, they really considered to abolish the recognition of Hong Kong Special Status in order to stop China from using Hong Kong to harm the free world countries.

Simone: There’s one part I have always been, you know, just wanting to know your real feelings about this. It is a big blow to the communist party but it will also hurt Hong Kong very much, right? Isn’t this what you have fought for? Freedom and stuff? If the US revokes the status, the special status, Hong Kong will be just another city…Like another city in mainland China. Have you thought of that?

Sunny: Sometimes you fight for something you have to sacrifice something. I mean after all, if our aim is not just limited to fighting for the freedom in Hong Kong. We also fight for justice in China. We are willing to fight for a very global containment…Try to against China. If this is the ultimate aim for us and then I thinks its very reasonable for Hong Kong people to urge the world and also to urge the US government to abolish the status of Hong Kong in order to harm the Chinese government.

Simone: So, in other words, all the Hong Kong people are fully aware of the consequences of this Human Rights and Democracy Act. Passing this act may mean the Hong Kong Special Status may be revoked. You are fully aware of that. And you support it.

Sunny: I want to mention that if the Hong Kong government tries to violate human rights, of course, those individuals will be sanctioned. And I think individuals being sanctioned does not mean that the whole Special Status of Hong Kong will be revoked. What I want to point out is that if the Chinese Government try to manipulate Hong Kong and if this situation worsens in the long run, and its not just about passing the Human Rights and Democracy Act, it’s about abolishing the Hong Kong policy act in 1992. Only by doing so…actually this can really frighten the Hong Kong and Chinese government.

Simone: I know you have reached this understanding and awareness right now but have your thoughts evolved during this whole process? At the beginning when…I think the bill was introduced on June 12th. So have your thoughts evolved during this process?

Sunny: I mean, no one could have anticipated what happened in Hong Kong. I mean a few months ago when there was 1 million people marching on the street and then…We know 1 million people marching on the street is quite impressive, but we didn’t anticipate the movement will continue for so long. And this time Hong Kong people are really quite determined and no one can possibly anticipate it. But we know that it’s the right timing for the American government to have this bill and only with this bill, this can pressurize the Hong Kong government. You can see that after yesterday’s hearing in the CECC, I spoke there and Joshua spoke there and even Denise Ho spoke there. And then the Hong Kong government,I think this morning they immediately, issued a statement, try to say that our accusation against the Hong Kong government is not correct, (and that the) the Hong Kong government still protects the political rights of Hong Kong individuals. You can see that. I mean we spoke in a US Congress hearing. Actually that scares the Hong Kong government. They’re really scared that the (bill) will be passed and that means we are doing the right thing.

Simone: Regarding the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act, I know all of you support it. You want the US Congress to pass it. Can you represent the 2 million people on the Hong Kong Street? Do you think they support this as well?

Sunny: This is a leaderless movement so I cannot represent two million people on the street. But what I believe…and I believe that Hong Kong do have a lot of people that supports the US government, or all the free world countries to do something to support Hong Kong and try to contain the Chinese government. And I also think that this is a consensus. This is a consensus that Hong Kong government or Hong Kong people do want the support from the free world countries. This is a consensus. We want the support from the free world countries.

Simone: Next step after the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act, the next step is Hong Kong Policy Act. So you…Just now you said, you even support that act to be revoked, right?

Sunny: I mean if the Chinese government, they keep continuing to manipulate Hong Kong and I think… Actually yesterday when I spoke in the CECC, my speech also mentioned that if the Chinese government continues to manipulate Hong Kong, the US government should immediately abolish the Hong Kong Policy Act to try to sanction the whole Hong Kong entity in order to pressurize the Chinese government.

Simone: So do you think Hong Kong can obtain true freedom? With the communist party still ruling mainland China?

Sunny: Nothing is impossible. I mean, no one can anticipate the collapse of Soviet Union. No one could possibly expect the occurrence of World War 1. These politics, I mean our human history, we fight, we conquer. We insist for what we are doing and maybe then miracles will happen.

Simone: About the emergency, the state of emergency. What do you think about it? I mean, do you think the Hong Kong government will really declare a state of emergency in Hong Kong? How big of a possibility is there?

Sunny: If I am correct, actually the emergency law overrides the Hong Kong government to do many things. I mean including, trying to shut down the airport, try to shut down all the public communication as long as they wish. And that’s why this law, this emergency law indeed is something very similar to those colonial or ancient martial law, which happen again and again in those autocratic countries. If Hong Kong government, if they cannot really deploy PLA then it’s very likely for them to use the Emergency Law to implement in Hong Kong society to get the control over us.

Simone: So you think it’s very likely that they will do that?

Sunny: Yeah, because if they really apply the law…actually it doesn’t mean that they will…they will fully practice the law but at least they can still do something which is very detrimental to our civil society. Like they can actually legislate a bill about prohibiting people wearing mask and this can be done by the emergency law.

Simone: How big of an impact is that? I mean psychologically is that some important benchmark that if they issued the emergency law then the US government should really do something, maybe revoke the Hong Kong Policy Act? Do you think that will amount to that degree?

Sunny: It depends on our demand. I mean, if we talked to those senators and congressman in the US Congress (and explained) that we feel like if Hong Kong government really dares to implement the Emergency Law then I think the US congress should really abolish the Hong Kong Policy Act. It depends on what we tell them. If we really making this demand and I think they will actively consider.

Simone: You have five demands, right? So how likely do you think those five demands will be met if the communist party of China is still ruling?

Sunny: We are quite determined. I mean, even the Soviet Union could fall within one day. Why communist party could not make a concession to us? Yeah. We believe in people power. We believe in the legacy of our human history. When liberalism and democracy always prevail. When dictatorship and often terrorism always fail. And Yeah. I do hope that Hong Kong People this time can obtain what we deserve. We can try to change the consequences five years ago in the umbrella movement. We failed that time. We won’t fail again.

Simone: I just want to know the determination of the Hong Kong people, you know, we have watched this process very closely… Paying attention to how Hong Kong people are performing and stuff. And at some point, I think a couple months ago, maybe a month ago, when the movement the demonstration was dying down a little bit. So people are thinking: “Okay, how do you make things…make this demonstration a longterm thing.” So how would you describe the determination of the Hong Kong people? Can you sustain a long-term demonstration?

Sunny: We already did. After 100 days, we already did. We already demonstrated to the world that we are so determined. And the protest will not die down naturally, In the short term, I believe, unless the government or the Chinese government, they really make a considerable concession. It would not die down.