Hong Kong Baptist collegian strikes at Beijing over missing bookstore owner

by Joni B. Hannigan |

HONG KONG (Christian Examiner) -- In a viral YouTube video criticizing China's communist government for interfering in Hong Kong's governance, a university student is decrying the loss of her home's independence – and asks if no one speaks for the booksellers, activists and journalists, who will be left to speak for the people?

The young woman, Agnes Chow, described in news reports as a second-year student at Hong Kong Baptist University, and a pro-democracy activist, recorded a video announcing what she has said is the disappearance of bookstore owner Lee Bo – within weeks of four of his associates.

Chow "speculated" the 65-year-old man had been abducted to mainland China by a "cross-border arrest" in order to intimidate the people of Hong Kong.

Lee sold political books forbidden in mainland China – as allowed under what Chow cited as the protection of a Sino-British Joint Declaration she believes gives residents of Hong Kong personal safety and basic human rights.

"Unlike the mainland China, Hong Kong did not adopt authoritarian governance. Citizens who sell politically sensitive books were not supposed to be suppressed by any threats of 'disappearance' and imprisonment with the existence of freedom of press and speech.

"In the past, we were safe because we lived in Hong Kong instead of the mainland China. However, the circumstances have changed with the abduction," Chow said in the video, citing changes to the "one country, two systems" rule that grants more freedom to Hong Kong residents than to those who reside in China.

Before admitting she is afraid for her personal safety, Chow, who took part in the "umbrella movement" protests in Hong Kong in 2014, urged those who watched the video to help spread awareness of the issue, and issued an inspirational warning. 

Evoking the expression of human rights activist Martin Luther King Jr., whom she called, "Pastor Martin," Chow said:

"First they came for the activists, and I did not speak out. Because I was not an activist.

Then they came for the journalists, and I did not speak out. Because I was not a journalist.

Then they came for the bookseller, and I did not speak out. Because I was not a bookseller.

Then they came for me and there was no one left to speak for me."

 

The full video is in English and transcribed below as it appears on the Scholarism's Facebook page:

"Hong Kong is not Hong Kong anymore, it is NAMED as Hong Kong only."

An Urgent Cry from Hong Kong

I am Agnes Chow, a member of Scholarism, a student activists organization from Hong Kong. I have an important message that I hope to spread to the world which is related to a bookseller who suddenly disappeared and had been abducted to Mainland.

A Hong Kong bookseller named Lee Bo who sold books criticizing the Communist Party of China and banned political books suddenly went missing weeks after four of his associates disappeared strangely. The Causeway Bay Bookstore, the bookstore established by Lee in 1994, is popular among mainland tourists as they can buy political books which are banned in their hometown.

On 30th December 2015, Lee was supposed to collect books from a warehouse at around 5:30pm. However, he was out of contact and could not be found even his wife arrived the warehouse, looking for him at 8:00pm. About 10:00, his wife received a call from her husband from Shenzhen. Lee used Mandarin unusually rather than Cantonese, and told his wife that he had temporarily gone back to cooperate with the investigation, 'They want me to assist the investigation, if I cooperate, it may be alright." Lee called his wife again soon to notice her that "you may already know what's going on" and "don't make the news public".

With the protection of the Sino-British Joint Declaration, Hongkongers are able to obtain personal safety and basic human rights under rule of law. Even some of the Hongkongers acted as dissents to voice out their disagreement towards the Communist Party of China, they would not face penalties. Unlike the mainland China, Hong Kong did not adopt authoritarian governance. Citizens who sell politically sensitive books were not supposed to be suppressed by any threats of 'disappearance' and imprisonment with the existence of freedom of press and speech.

In the past, we were safe because we lived in Hong Kong instead of the mainland China. However, the circumstances have changed with the abduction which was suspected to be done by the police in China towards this bookseller who kept being low profile before. Lee's wife has reported her husband's missing to the Hong Kong Police Force but still no one could contact Lee since 4 days before. With no departure record of Lee, and his Home Return Permit Card is left at his home in Hong Kong, it can be speculated that the police from the mainland organized cross-border arrest to threaten people in Hong Kong. If the above speculation is true, it indicates the erosion of "one country, two system" in the Basic Law of Hong Kong.

The reason for me to film this video is to raise the global awareness of this serious issue happened in Hong Kong, and I hope that more and more foreign medias can keep their attention and coverage on this white terror incident. We feel that Hong Kong is not Hong Kong anymore, it is NAMED as Hong Kong only. The most worrying thing finally happened. This incident evoke me the famous statement written by Pastor Martin in the 1950s.

"First they came for the activists, and I did not speak out. Because I was not an activist. Then they came for the journalists, and I did not speak out. Because I was not a journalist. Then they came for the bookseller, and I did not speak out. Because I was not a bookseller. Then they came for me and there was no one left to speak for me."

I hope everyone in the world who believes in universal values of freedom and human rights could stand up and speak for this incident to stop the political suppression.

Even I am also afraid of my personal safety after this incident happened, I still believe we should continuously fight for freedom from fear because it is an important core value that we should uphold . Let us stand up to show our discontent on this abduction and stop the further suppression to political dissents in Hong Kong.