Voice of America

Voice of America 22 May 2020

Scuffles Break Out as Hong Kong Opposition Slams China Security Law


▶️Scuffles broke out in the Hong Kong Legislative Council Friday, May 22, as opposition legislators protested against the move, with two legislators forcibly dragged out of the chamber.

Pro-Beijing Hong Kong legislator Starry Lee had to be escorted out of the chamber as she was surrounded by chanting demonstrators.

As pro-democracy lawmakers scuffle with security in Hong Kong, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo asks China to reconsider its push to impose national security law on semiautonomous territory #UnitedStates #China #HongKong
Hong Kong's authorities are braced for protests this weekend after China announced plans to impose a new security law on the city.
It would ban activity Beijing considers subversive. Activists say the law signals the end of autonomy and have called for demonstrations.
Al Jazeera's Adrian Brown reports.
As Hong Kong moved from 2019 to COVID-19, streets once jammed with protesters suddenly lay empty. The pandemic could not have come at a better time for the Beijing and Hong Kong authorities.

Following months of mass demonstrations - which saw hundreds of thousands of Hong Kongers demand independence from China - critics say both governments have been using COVID as a cover to crack down on dissent and push through laws that would further curb the city's freedoms.

"Beijing certainly wants to ensure that the protests, the likes of which we saw last year, cannot be allowed to happen again. So they may be pushing through some controversial legislation, including national security laws and we've also seen pro-democracy figures rounded up. To be having all of this happening with a backdrop of COVID-19 and the social distancing measures in place I think, is no coincidence", explains Tom Grundy, co-founder of the news outlet, Hong Kong Free Press.

One of the 15 prominent pro-democracy figures rounded up last month was a businessman called Jimmy Lai. Lai is a billionaire who owns the Apple Daily, Hong Kong's second-largest newspaper and the city's only openly pro-democracy mainstream outlet.

The Listening Post's Johanna Hoes spoke with Mark Simon, an executive at Next Digital, the media conglomerate that owns the Apple Daily, and he made the point that: "Beijing was not gonna let a crisis go to waste. Lai and Apple Daily have been a thorn in the side of the Beijing-appointed government for as long as, basically, we've been around, since 1997. Arresting these people, that was a major move that they knew they could get away with just because of the coronavirus."

In a media landscape dominated by news outlets that are either under direct control of the Chinese Communist Party or in the hands of businesses with close ties to the mainland, Apple Daily's coverage of the protests was hugely popular among those on the streets.

But it was not the only outlet demonstrators turned to for news. For many nascent, digital media organisations, the democracy movement presented a news story - and even a financial opportunity - like no other.

"People really saw that the independent, newer outfits were the ones that were showing what was really happening on the front lines and they didn't feel that they were compromised in the same way that they perceived the mainstream media to be. So there was real support for these outlets", explains Yuen Chan, senior lecturer at City University in London.

One of the protesters' go-to new media outlets was Stand News. Its deputy assignment editor, Ronson Chan, explains his organisation's new-found popularity resulted in a huge financial boost. But as soon as the pandemic hit, those resources started to dry up.

"For Stand News, the entire movement presented such a change - we had a significant increase in donations and our team grew from 10 to 30. But the pandemic has affected the economy. A lot of our readers who previously sponsored us are newly unemployed. Plus, we have seen fewer demonstrations so we have fewer live broadcasts and people have less interest in our platform."

New protests this past week - albeit on a smaller scale - may be a sign that Hong Kongers are ready to return to the streets, despite the pandemic. The question is whether it is too late for outlets like Stand News.

Produced by: Johanna Hoes


Mark Simon - Executive, Apple Daily

Yuen Chan - Senior Lecturer, City University of London

Ronson Chan - Deputy Assignment Editor, Stand News

Tom Grundy - Co-founder, Hong Kong Free Press
A fight has broken out in Hong Kong's parliament.
There was fury from pro-democracy politicians after a pro-Beijing politician was elected as chairwoman for a key committee.

And, 15 anti-government protesters are appearing in a Hong Kong court, charged over last year's mass rallies.
The group was arrested in April, accused of helping to organise protests which were banned by the city's authorities.
UN human rights experts have called for all of them to be released and for charges to be dropped.
The first Hong Kong protester to admit to rioting charges was sentenced to four years in prison on Friday
Al Jazeera's Adrian Brown reports.

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