Index has a proud history of providing a platform for dissidents, we exist to protect and promote the concept of freedom of expression not just as a fundamental human right, which it is, but also as the ultimate right in a democratic society. The creation of art, journalism, comedy, academia, plays, poetry, novels and even placards. These are the ultimate expressions of a free society and for those of us who are able to celebrate our own freedoms it is something we should cherish.
However in recent days we have been once again reminded of how quickly repression and dogma can overwhelm a notionally free society and how tyrants seek to not only control their own citizens at home but also to undermine their freedoms when they have escaped the boundaries of their former home nations.
This week’s case in point is China and Xi Jinping’s CCP. This has been yet another awful week for the people of Hong Kong and the global diaspora, especially those who seek to speak out against Xi’s rule. Under the guise of the National Security Law the Hong Kong Police Force has issued arrest warrants for eight political dissidents who live in democratic societies. Their ‘crime’ was to challenge the CCP’s efforts to end the One Nation, Two Systems constitutional settlement, which had been granted to Hong Kong when British sovereignty ceased to apply to the territory in 1997. In other words they sought to protect the democratic society that they had built in Hong Kong. (Read what two of the UK-based activists had to say here.)
Each of them has had to flee their homes in Hong Kong, leave their lives and their loved ones behind in order to ensure their own liberty. They now live in exile with little likelihood that they will ever be able to return. But even that isn’t enough for the Chinese government.
It’s incredibly important that we know and celebrate the bravery of the dissidents who the Chinese Communist Party fear – they represent thousands of others, but today we must say their names.
We are lucky to live in a democratic society and therefore we have a responsibility to protect those who have had to free their repressive governments in order to speak out. They inspire us, so we must protect them.
The National Security Law is a disgrace and the worst example of a coordinated effort of transnational repression. But it’s not just the eight Hongkongers who the CCP seek to silence. It’s the rest of us too.
Last week Index hosted an evening of art and culture created and performed by Chinese dissidents. It was an incredible evening and an amazing success. However in the run up to the event our website was attacked and the webpage advertising the event was corrupted. It was the only part of our website to be affected. One of our artists, Badiucao, was threatened and advised to not attend and had to be accompanied throughout his visit to London. In recent months we have documented exactly what is happening to Chinese dissidents who seek to speak out against the CCP in Europe and you can read all of our work on our new website – while it’s still up!
This week my friend Lord Leong spoke in the UK Parliament about how the CCP was seeking to silence people. So do end my blog today I am going to leave you with his words:
In closing, I will quote the opening verse of “Glory to Hong Kong”. It has become the anthem of their struggle. Brave individuals in Hong Kong have been arrested and detained for singing it. The Chinese Government are trying to remove all traces of the lyrics online. I know that if I say them here, in this Chamber at the heart of the mother of Parliaments, these words will be forever recorded in Hansard. This will, I hope, encourage those brave souls, by demonstrating that their voices are being heard on the other side of the world despite Beijing’s attempts to silence them:
“We pledge: No more tears on our land,
In wrath, doubts dispelled we make our stand.
Arise! Ye who would not be slaves again:
For Hong Kong, may freedom reign!”