Last weekend, riot police broke up a candlelight vigil for Chow Tsz-lok, the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology student, who died back in November. He had fallen a story from a parking garage as Hong Kong police were “clearing a group of anti-government protesters.”
“Police said they seized petrol bombs, bricks and other protest items from the car park where the memorial was held,” reports the South China Morning Post. “Officers then stopped rally-goers from leaving and checked their identity cards and bags, arresting more than 40 people for unlawful assembly.”
If the police can be believed.
As Tom Grundy, editor-in-chief of Hong Kong Free Press, puts it: “[P]eople just don’t trust the Government.”
While people were violently arrested, it wasn’t for violence or weapons. It was for daring to use what we call “freedom of assembly.”
Now with the spread of the COVID-19 virus, protesters have been reluctant to call for mass gatherings. Nicholas Bequelin, a Hong Kong-based regional director of Amnesty International, told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, “The authorities may be counting on the coronavirus epidemic to extinguish the unrest.”*
On Friday, authorities used the lull to charge three prominent pro-democracy leaders — Jimmy Lai, owner of media highly critical of China; Yeung Sum, the former Democratic Party chairman; and the Labour Party vice-chairman, Lee Cheuk-yan — for taking part in a protest march last year.
They join more than 7,000 demonstrators arrested since the protest movement began last June.
Young people — and some not-so-young — are risking their very lives for freedom, for the right to choose their leaders . . . knowing that without such basic mechanisms, they have no defense against the Butchers of Beijing.
This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.
* Amnesty International has called for an “independent investigation into police violence.”