According to the Los Angeles Times, some pro-democracy organisers in Hong Kong have had their bank accounts frozen because of recent pro-Beijing legislation intended to move the region past the ‘one-country two-systems’ era. Although the pro-democratic opposition has recently resigned on-mass from Hong Kong’s Legislative Council, and not held large protests for some time, this has not stopped the city’s national security police department from going after those previously involved with the pro-democracy movement.
Hong Kong’s most prominent banking institution, HSBC, has frozen several accounts, at least, targeting well-known leaders to lesser-known ‘activists.’ A pastor of a church in Hong Kong, Roy Chan, discovered in early December he could no longer access his accounts and that his church’s accounts were also frozen, likely a result of his religiosity and involvement in the protests last year. Additionally, while currently in the United Kingdom, he also disclosed that the police searched two of his church’s properties in the city and “arrested a staffer and former director,” for the purposes of investigating supposed ‘fraud.’
These occurrences also come after prominent businessman and pro-democracy supporter Jimmy Lai was officially charged on December 11 with endangering national security and fraud after criticising the new legislation earlier this year in newspapers and online. Similarly, his media company Next Digital was raided earlier in the year, after his arrest, with his account at HSBC also frozen. This follows the sentencing of prominent pro-democracy leaders Joshua Wong, Agnes Chow, and Ivan Lam, on December 2 for organising and encouraging the protests over the past year.
While these events have had condemnation around the globe for being punitive, another important part of this story is the recent revelations that China’s Communist Party has many members in various organisations around the world according to a database leak. HSBC has 335 members, according to an investigation by The Daily Telegraph, while another bank supportive of Hong Kong’s new national security legislation, Standard Chartered, probably has a similar number.
While HSBC arguably has the shield of Hong Kong’s government calling these outcomes ‘non-political,’ as they must adhere to the laws of whatever country they operate in, when China’s government appears to be involved implicitly, or explicitly, behind the city-state’s freedoms backsliding, it is unsurprising but shocking to see that punishments are being handed out for past actions that were not even criminal earlier in the year.
While China legally has the right to increasingly incorporate Hong Kong into its nation, its own citizens and other countries around the globe should ponder what value is lost in prohibiting the freedom that everyone should be able to determine their own futures in all aspects of their lives. The benevolence and prestige of a great country, or company, hardly lies then in the coercive force of either in suppressing or creating problems where there need not be interference. Revenge is a fool’s game after all, and the country which said that it does not wish to impose its will on the world should reflect if domestically religious or financial repression will end up causing more harm than having tolerance for all kinds of freedom.
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