Hong Kong democratic leaders call for unity during seminar to mark Umbrella Movement Anniversary

On 28 September 2018, the fourth anniversary of the Umbrella Movement, the Henry Jackson Society and Hong Kong Watch co-hosted a seminar entitled: ‘The Future of Hong Kong’.

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Guest speakers from Hong Kong included founder of the Democratic Party Mr Martin Chu-ming Lee SC, pro-democracy HKU law professor Dr Benny Yiu-ting Tai, Professor Joseph Yi-zheng Lian, and leading student activist Mr Nathan Kwun-chung Law.

Martin Lee, Professor Joseph Lian and Dr Benny Tai highlighted that unity in the democratic camp was vital to challenge the erosion of Hong Kong’s basic rights and freedoms. Professor Joseph Lian said that it was critical for the different factions of the pan-democratic movement to work together if they are to be effective.  

Expanding on this, Dr Benny Tai said:

“The democratic camp must put aside our differences and form a much stronger political coalition. We need a comprehensive political campaign in the coming elections.”

He proposed that a campaign was needed to boost pro-democracy voter turn-out. He said that in the District Council and the Legislative Council elections: “the [pan-democrats] need to send out a clear message to voters that we have a commitment to win and a commitment to govern.”

He continued: “In semi-authoritarian Hong Kong, our goal has to be adjusted. We have not given up the long-term goal – democracy. But the immediate goal of the democratic movement in Hong Kong is to counteract the further advancement of the authoritarianism. We may not be able to achieve genuine democracy right now, but I think our work will be important because we may be able to counteract the impact of Sharp Power. A well-planned campaign in the coming elections is essential.”

The seminar follows the recent decision to ban the Hong Kong National Party. Nathan Law expressed fears that Demosisto could be the next party to be banned:  

“We think Demosisto may be the next party to be banned. We take this trend very seriously. It is just part of Hong Kong’s suppression. The UK and other parties in the world must issue much stronger statements,” he said.

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Speakers from Hong Kong were joined by UK experts including Hong Kong Watch Chair Benedict Rogers, Professor Kerry Brown of King’s College London, Professor Christopher Hughes of LSE, Evan Fowler the co-founder of Hong Kong Free Press, and the Executive Director of the Henry Jackson Society Dr Alan Mendoza.

A key topic which was raised was the importance of the rule of law for British interests in the region.

Martin Lee said: “‘If we don’t have democracy then they will introduce Chinese corruption into Hong Kong by compromising the rule of law. I hope the British government knows that.”

Benedict Rogers said: “If Britain wants to trade with China, is it really in our interests to let them trample over an international treaty that was signed with them?”  

“I believe it is a myth that in order to trade with China you have to be silent on human rights. The one world leader who proves that it is a myth is Angela Merkel who has consistently spoken out on human rights for many years, and yet Germany remains China’s biggest trade partner in Europe.” 

Panels were chaired by Evan Fowler and John Hemmings, Asia Director at the Henry Jackson Society. Hong Kong Watch trustee Gray Sergeant gave some opening remarks. 

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