New Threats to Civil Society and the Rule of Law in Hong Kong

May 14, 2019
12:00 pm - 02:00 pm

about the event

Harsh verdicts April 9 in Hong Kong for nine of the Umbrella Movement leaders make clear that Beijing’s grip is tightening over Hong Kong’s free society—including the judiciary. Across the board, Hong Kong’s human rights environment is under serious pressure, with its core values and every pillar of civil society under assault.

In a new troubling move, Beijing is pushing to put in place an extradition law that could legalize disappearances and kidnapping of peaceful critics in clear violation of the Joint Declaration and Basic Law, the 1997 agreement that established the fifty-year guarantee of “one country – two systems.”

Veteran Hong Kong legislator Martin Lee led a diverse delegation of fellow democrats to Washington, DC to explain these new tactics and the threats they pose to the many and diverse elements of democratic civil society, including basic human rights, freedom of the press, freedom of religion, the democratic process, and the rule of law. This front line group has sounded the alarm in defense of Hong Kong’s civil, political, and human rights.

About the SPEAKERS

Martin Lee is the founding chairman of the Democratic Party, Hong Kong’s flagship pro-democracy party. Known is the “Father of Democracy” in Hong Kong, he was an elected member of the Legislative Council from 1985 to 2008. He served as chairman of the Hong Kong Bar Association from 1980 to 1983 and took part in the discussions over Hong Kong’s 1997 handover from the United Kingdom to China, joining the Basic Law Drafting Committee in 1985. He continues to fight for democratic protections and is the territory’s top barrister and Senior Counsel taking on significant cases to protect the rule of law and the rights of political activists in Hong Kong.

Nathan Law is Demosisto’s founding chairman, and was the former secretary general of the Hong Kong Federation of Students. In 2016, he became Asia’s youngest democratically-elected lawmaker when, at age 23, he won a seat in the Hong Kong Legislative Council—before Beijing intervened and removed him from office. He was also one of Hong Kong’s first three political prisoners since 1997, sentenced in 2018 with Joshua Wong and Alex Chow for leadership roles in the peaceful protest “Umbrella Movement” in 2014. Law recently graduated from Lingnan University in Hong Kong, and will be pursuing a masters degree in Asian Studies at Yale University in autumn 2019.

Lee Cheuk Yan is a veteran labor leader and is on the Executive Committee of Hong Kong Civil Hub. He was a former member of the Legislative Council of Hong Kong since 1995, representing the New Territories West constituency for more than two decades. Lee worked for the Hong Kong Christian Industrial Committee since 1980, and in 1990 helped found the Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions, the independent Union Center in Hong Kong, and is its General Secretary. He co-founded and is Vice Chair of the Labour Party. He is Secretary of the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements in China, which organizes the annual candlelight memorial for Tiananmen Square—the only place the June 4, 1989 tragedy is recognized on Chinese soil.

Mak Yin-Ting has been a journalist in both print and electronic media for over 30 years. She is the former Chair of the Hong Kong Journalists Association and a co-author of the organization’s important annual report of freedom of expression in Hong Kong since the 90s. Mak began her career at the Hong Kong Daily News in 1984 as a reporter. Mak joined the Press Freedom Subcommittee at the Hong Kong Journalists Association in 1995. She has testified and spoken globally about the need to preserve press freedom in Hong Kong and was honoured in 2007 as a Champion of Freedom of Speech by the Visual Artists Guild.

Dr. Lynn Lee is the Associate Director for NED’s Asia Program.

Image adapted from original photograph by Studio Incendo (CC BY 2.0)