The first message I read on my phone this morning, on a secure messaging service, was from a friend in Hong Kong.
An academic, not taken to hyperbole（評 1）, he wrote: “I’m not sure if you’ve noticed, but the era of online self-censorship has hit for me. Would be good to talk.”
For the past weeks, since Beijing announced that it intended to by-pass Hong Kong’s legislature and enact national security legislation in Hong Kong, I have been inundated with messages. Some are genuinely fearful. All are despairing. They come from people from many different backgrounds, political persuasions and from different walks of life.
Most messages are short, as if words simply cannot do their feelings justice. One, from a usually exuberant artist simply read “Really wish you were here.”（評 2）
The decision by Beijing to impose by diktat national security legislation is monumental.（評 3）That it is within Beijing’s legal right to unilaterally amend Hong Kong’s constitution, the Basic Law, highlights the inherent weakness of the Sino-British Joint Declaration: a reliance on good will in Beijing.（評 4）
It is a weakness well understood both in Whitehall and in Central, and which has defined the way the UK has approach our relationship with both Hong Kong and China.
There is nothing wrong with having national security legislation, which under Article 23 of the Basic Law the Hong Kong government is legally obliged to pass. The issue arises from the way these laws are understood and applied by Beijing.
Since taking power in 2013, Xi Jinping has overseen the effective suppression of civil society in China. Central to this has been what Xi calls “rule according to law”. The professionalisation of China’s legal system provides a sheen of legitimacy for what has in fact become a more tightly controlled political instrument.（評 5）The widespread use of these laws to suppress dissent, and not just political dissent, is fundamentally incompatible with the notions of justice and the rule of law as practiced in Hong Kong.
Under Article 23 the Hong Kong government is instructed to enact Hong Kong legislation to address issues of national security. What Beijing has chosen to do is quite different: it is extending Chinese law, legal concepts and the security apparatus of the Chinese Communist Party into Hong Kong. The law provides the right for CCP intelligence gathering and enforcement bodies to operate openly within the city. This alone represents a grave breach of the Joint Declaration, and in practice would leave Hong Kong in violation of it’s legal obligation under the ICCPR.
These laws cannot simply be affixed to Hong Kong’s within affecting its promised high degree of autonomy. The legislation comes on the back of a consistent narrative in Beijing, echoed by the Hong Kong government, that the city free press, liberal education system and legal system, including its independent judiciary, are in need of “improvement”. The legislation is not meant only to empower but be part of a series of measures to fundamentally revise Hong Kong’s core institutions.
At stake are not only the freedoms, values and institutions upon that define Hong Kong and upon which the city’s success was built. To focus on the economic ramification, which to a degree may be mitigated, is to miss what is really at stake: it is the very nature and spirit of the city itself. It is this — not economic and social issues, or even high-minded political ideals — that drove millions of people onto the streets in protests over the last year, and resulted in a record turn-out and landslide victory for pro-democratic candidates in last years district council elections.
Hong Kong is not fighting for a better future, but to have a future at all.（評 6）
- Not taken to hyperbole：不算誇張。Hyperbole 通常指修辭手法的良性誇張，譬如「一日千里」指進步神速；「朝聞道，夕死可矣」不是指說的那個人輕視生命，而是指說道的人，是如何令人聽了覺得震撼。相反，「扛 200 斤麥子十里山路不換肩」，就不能稱得上是 Hyperbole。
- Wish you were here，由於你不在，但願你在，所以這個 were 不是過去式，而是 Subjunctive。70 年代英國歌星 Pink Floyd 有一首歌，就叫做「但願你在這裡（Wish You Were Here）」。1987 年，英國小品喜劇電影也以此曲名為名。這句話今日已成典故。英文中典故很多，典故不要太艱僻，要通俗，如 Archille’s heel 便是一例。
- diktat，指「未徵得同意單方面加諸頭上」的橫蠻無理之舉。而 monumental，不是「里程碑」，而是形容「泰山壓頂」般重大。
- the professionalisation of China’s legal system：指中國的「法制」愈見「健全」，由於社會本質是一黨專政，而且處處收緊，因此「法律條文」細化，變成更嚴酷的專制工具。這一點與香港特區的一些官員所說「中國法制愈來愈健全、而且有改革」的概念完全不同。