Editor’s note: In the previous “one country, two systems” Hong Kong that had prevailed since 1997, Chow Hang-Tung was a human-rights lawyer, and an organizer of activities designed to commemorate June 4, 1989. In the current “national security law” Hong Kong that has existed since 2020 and is now just another Chinese city, she is a criminal. Below are her remarks to a court just before the most recent sentence the authorities imposed on her, on March 11, 2023.
Your Worship, we know as a matter of fact that we are no foreign agent, and nothing has emerged in this year long ordeal that proves otherwise. To sentence us in such circumstances is about punishing people for defending the truth.
The truth is that national security is being used as a hollow pretext to wage an all out war on civil society. The truth is that our movement for human rights and democracy is home grown and not some sinister foreign implant. The truth is that people here have a voice of their own that will not be silenced.
The Alliance is no stranger to the cost of speaking truth to power. We should know as we have been guarding the truth of the Tiananmen Massacre for over 30 years and have campaigned for many of those jailed and harassed and humiliated for telling that truth. We have long been prepared to pay the price.
With the notices and the degrading designation as foreign agent, the government was effectively saying to us, bend your knees, betray your friends, betray your cause, accept the state’s absolute authority to know all and decide all, and you shall have peace.
What we are saying with our action is simply one word: NEVER. An unjust peace is no peace at all. Never will we surrender our independence from the state. Never will we help delegitimise our own movement by endorsing the government’s false narrative. Never will we treat ourselves and our friends as potential criminals just because the government says we are.
Instead we will continue doing what we have always done, that is to fight falsehood with truth, indignity with dignity, secrecy with openness, madness with reason, division with solidarity. We will fight these injustices wherever we must, be it on the streets, in the courtroom, or from a prison cell. This battle including what we have done in this case, is a battle we have to fight, here in this city we call home. For our freedom to be ourselves is at stake. For the future of our city – and even of the wider world – is at stake.
Your worship, today’s hearing comes at an ironic time. While false people’s representatives are having their grand gatherings in Beijing, busy endorsing one man’s wishes as that of the nation’s, genuine voices of the people are being denied that recognition in this courtroom. When the nation’s interests is defined by one party, or indeed, one person, so called “national security” would inevitably become a threat to the people’s right and security, nationally and even globally, as demonstrated by Tiananmen, by Xinjiang, by Ukraine, and indeed Hong Kong.
Compared with those imagined agents of unidentifiable foreign entities, surely the concrete but unaccountable state power is the more dangerous beast. The government always emphasizes the priority of one country two system, but that doesn’t mean as citizens of this country, we bear the primary responsibility to rein in this beast that threatens the world. Which is why we did what we did, and why we can never give up.
Sir, sentence us for our insubordination if you must, but when the exercise of power is based on lies, being insubordinate is the only way to be human. This is my submission.