from Chow Hang-tung, human rights activist, organizer and vigilance lawyer in Tiananmen, currently imprisoned in Hong Kong
It was a sad moment when Amnesty International closed its offices in Hong Kong after staying for more than 40 years in my hometown.
This organization is very important to me and not just because they have been campaigning for my release since I was imprisoned last year.
Amnesty has been the window that gives an international perspective to my work on human rights. Watching it fall is like watching parts of myself disappear, leaving an empty shell floating in the rubble.
My relationship with Amnesty did not start in Hong Kong, but when I was in the UK to study at Cambridge. At the time, as an unsuspecting college student, I assumed there would be plenty of societies dedicated to the Tiananmen strike or other China-related issues.
But finding no specialist in that particular field, I enrolled at Cambridge Amnesty International (CUAI).
Just after joining, I learned that Amnesty is the world’s largest membership – based human rights organization, with millions of members in more than a hundred countries – deciding democratically on the issues and areas it wants to focus on. regardless of any policy. national power or force. I was amazed at the idea that the unifying power of an idea could be so great.
A bottom-up approach to organization can transcend cultures and boundaries, uniting the power of ordinary people into a force that no country can ignore. I got the nerve to run for executive committee and became an executive member – organizing letter groups for prisoners of conscience around the world, as well as exhibitions, lectures, debates, performances, fundraising galas, and even competitive writing competitions of letters.
I felt good that I, as an individual and a member of a collective, could do something to fight injustice.
CUAI’s most iconic event is CAGE! A group of students lock themselves in the relay in a cage set on the lawn of King’s College for 24 hours a day while asking people to sign, donate or take action. Now I’m one of those prisoners of conscience we campaigned for, and I really sleep on a firm bed in prison. But I do not really feel so uncomfortable.
CUAI has a high degree of freedom and my first attempt to organize a June 4 memorial in Cambridge was under the CUAI umbrella. Amnesty was the inspiration for my defense. Without that period of experimentation and experience, I probably would not be the person I am now.
When I returned to Hong Kong in 2010, I represented Amnesty by working with colleagues around the world. I learned that by listening to more stories and battles of other people, you feel less trapped in your own problems. This helps you understand that your fight is not the only one.
For a decade I was passionately involved in the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of China’s Democratic Patriotic Movements (Alliance), which organized the Tiananmen City vigil until it was forced to disband last year with many of our most prominent members arrested.
The Alliance is a world away from Amnesty. It was a small organization, with a single issue, run by dedicated and enthusiastic members, yet it is respected and loved by the people of Hong Kong.
I have had the privilege of experiencing a time when Hong Kong was still open and pluralistic, and when global human rights organizations were not viewed with suspicion and hostility because of their international status. People were able to participate in both local and international organizations, collaborate and interact with a range of groups, so that different experiences could complement each other and civil society as a whole could grow and prosper. in a diverse and communicative way, making Hong Kong truly a world city.
This is not Hong Kong that the next generation will inherit. Hong Kong as a society is moving in exactly the opposite direction – denying diversity, hostile to foreign views, with an increasingly detached and hit civil society afraid to cooperate with each other. This makes it difficult for groups like mine to survive, which is certainly the goal.
Amnesty’s departure is an unmistakable warning to the outside world of the dire human rights situation in Hong Kong. There can be no more claims to freedom.
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