Hong Kong lawmakers protest city leader over press crackdown

More than a dozen lawmakers have walked out while Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam laid out her vision for the city. The lawmakers warned of a press crackdown after a British journalist was given a week to leave the country.

Lawmakers in Hong Kong on Wednesday staged a protest against city leader Carrie Lam while she laid out her policy vision during an annual address in the legislature.

Society | 01.07.2017

More than a dozen lawmakers, including democratic legislators Claudio Mo and Ray Chan, chanted "Protect press freedom" and held up placards before being escorted out of the chamber by security.

Mo, who has campaigned for a democratic Hong Kong, said the walkout aimed to protest Lam and city authorities' failure to explain their decision to reject a veteran British journalist's visa, according to Hong Kong Free Press.

Read more: 'The Communist Party keeps their people well-fed, but in a cage'

'Politically motivated'

Last week, Hong Kong rejected a visa renewal application for Victor Mallet, the Asia editor for the London-based Financial Times newspaper.

Earlier this year, Chinese authorities criticized the veteran journalist for hosting a speech by independence activist Andy Chan at the Foreign Correspondents' Club (FCC) in Hong Kong. However, it is unclear whether the event was a reason for the rejection.

The UK and US criticized the decision to deny Mallet's visa renewal application, with British Foreign Minister Jeremy Hunt saying it was "politically motivated."

'Fearlessly take actions'

During Lam's speech, she made clear that all efforts to separate Hong Kong from Beijing would be quashed.

"Hong Kong will not tolerate any acts that advocate Hong Kong's independence and threaten the country's sovereignty, security and development interests," said Lam.

"We will fearlessly take actions against such acts according to the law in order to safeguard the interests of the country and Hong Kong."

Related Subjects

Read more: China tightens grip on Hong Kong's pro-democracy movement

Waning democracy

Following British rule, Hong Kong was turned over to Beijing under a "one country, two systems" arrangement settled in 1997.

The agreement allowed Hong Kong to retain substantial autonomy, with the promise of eventual universal suffrage.

However, despite a budding pro-democracy movement birthed out of protests in 2014, Hong Kong has instead seen a growing crackdown on activists and the press.

Read more: Hong Kong's 20 years under Chinese rule – A failed project?

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Hong Kong's 20-year history since handover

1997: Historic moment

The handover of Hong Kong's sovereignty from the United Kingdom to the People's Republic of China took place on July 1, 1997. The territory on China's Pearl River Delta became a British colony in 1842 and was occupied by Japan during World War II. After Hong Kong's return to China, the political situation was described as "one country, two systems."

Hong Kong's 20-year history since handover

1999: No family reunions

Divided families, who had been split by the Hong Kong border, had hoped to be reunited after the territory's return to China. But with a daily quota of only 150 mainland Chinese allowed to settle in Hong Kong, many were left disapointed. This photo from 1999 shows mainland Chinese visitors protesting outside Hong Kong's Legal Aid Department after they were denied residency permits.

Hong Kong's 20-year history since handover

2002: Dashed hopes

The residency issue flared up again in April 2002 when Hong Kong began deporting some 4,000 mainland Chinese who had lost legal battles to stay in the territory. These desperate families were evicted from a central park where they had been protesting.

Hong Kong's 20-year history since handover

2003: The SARS pandemic hits

In 2003, the highly contagious SARS virus spread through Hong Kong. The territory was hard hit by the flu-like virus and in March, the WHO declared it a pandemic. This man attended Doctor Tse Yuen-man's funeral in May. Dr. Tse had volunteered to care for SARS patients and had contracted the virus herself. Hong Kong was declared SARS-free in June 2003. Almost 300 people had died of the disease.

Hong Kong's 20-year history since handover

2004: Rally for democracy

China's policy of "one country, two systems" has often created tension. In 2004, on the seventh anniversary of the handover, hundreds of thousands of people protested in Hong Kong, demanding political reform. They were calling for democracy and direct elections for Hong Kong's next leader.

Hong Kong's 20-year history since handover

2008: No place to live

Soaring property prices in Hong Kong forced rents higher. By 2008, it wasn't unusual to see people like Kong Siu-kau living in so-called "cage homes," 15-square-foot (1.4 square meters) wire mesh cubicles, eight of which were usually crammed into one room. Today an estimated 200,000 people call a wire cage, or a single bed in a shared apartment, home.

Hong Kong's 20-year history since handover

2009: Remembering Tiananmen Square

On the twentieth anniversary of the government's brutal crackdown in Tiananmen Square, Hong Kong residents gathered for a candlelight vigil in Victoria Park. It showed how different Hong Kong is from China, where the massacre of pro-democracy supporters and students on June 4, 1989, is usually only referred to as the June Fourth Incident.

Hong Kong's 20-year history since handover

2014: Occupy Central

Starting in September 2014, large-scale protests demanding more autonomy rocked Hong Kong for over two months. Beijing had announced that China would decide on the candidates for the 2017 election of Hong Kong's chief executive. The protests were referred to as the Umbrella Revolution, because protesters used umbrellas to fend off pepper spray and tear gas used by police.

Hong Kong's 20-year history since handover

2015: Sport becomes political

Less than a year after the Occupy Central protests ended, China played against Hong Kong in a soccer World Cup qualifiying match on November 17, 2015. The guests did not receive a friendly welcome in Hong Kong. Fans booed when the Chinese national anthem was played and held up posters saying "Hong Kong is not China." The match ended 0-0.

Hong Kong's 20-year history since handover

2016: Another bout of violence

In February 2016, Hong Kong's rough police tactics made headlines again. Authorities tried to remove illegal street vendors from a working-class Hong Kong neighborhood. They sent riot police, who used batons and pepper spray against protesters, and also fired live warning shots into the air. The street clashes were the worst since the Umbrella Revolution in 2014.

ls/kms (Reuters, dpa)