Tens of Thousands Take to the Streets in Hong Kong
Freedom of Association
On 28th April, the National People’s Congress passed a new law designed to impede the work of foreign NGOs in China. The law places impediments on receiving foreign funding, limits foreign NGOs to only one office in mainland China and gives authorities more power to place domestic and international civil society groups under unnecessarily stringent surveillance. In a context where independent civil society already struggles to flourish, the new law compounds the isolation of Chinese civil society making it impossible for local groups to work with internationally focused and unregistered international NGOs. The ruling party justified the punitive restrictions by claiming that they are necessary to protect China's national unity and security.
On 18th June, tens of thousands of protestors took the streets in Hong Kong in a pro-democracy rally sparked by the abduction and mistreatment of book seller Lam King-Wee in mainland China. Citizens in China’s freest city took advantage of their ability to assemble to demonstrate their opposition to the authorities’ clampdown on freedom of expression. Despite mass media coverage and a heavy police presence, the protests took place peacefully. On the 23rd June thousands of citizens took to the streets for five days in the Southern Village of Wukan in mainland China. The confession and subsequent arrest of local politician Lin Zuluan on corruption charges, coupled with allegations of land grabs, spurred protestors onto the street for five days. Despite a standoff between police and protestors, the gathering took place peacefully.
On 16th June, Lam Wing-Kee detailed his enforced disappearance and 5-month detention at the hands of the Chinese authorities for allegedly selling politically sensitive books, which are banned in mainland China. Lam’s reports of mistreatment and a forced confession have stoked growing fears over the fate of Gui Minhai, who is still in detention for the same crime. The regime’s draconian approach to freedom of expression since 2012 has even attracted criticism from within the Communist Party of China. On 20th March, communist party advisors highlighted the worsening conditions for expression and dissent during a highly publicised conference over China’s future.