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  • On this episode of Hong Kong Uncensored:

  • You go to jail.

  • You go to jail.

  • Everyone goes to jail!

  • Welcome back to China Uncensored,

  • I'm Chris Chappell.

  • The Hong Kong government has just made

  • a huge mistake.

  • Um, yes, but sending political activists to prison

  • is not exactly the mistake I'm talking about.

  • The mistake is:

  • If you're going to secretly undermine

  • the freedoms of your people,

  • you have to do it in secret!

  • Like, if you're coming home at 3 am

  • after sneaking out to a party:

  • get your friend to drop you off down the street,

  • and climb back into your room

  • through the window.

  • I'm just saying.

  • That's just common sense

  • and is not based on personal experience, Mom.

  • Anyway, Hong Kong authorities

  • are still kinda new at this,

  • which makes them inexperienced and foolish.

  • Because when the Hong Kong court

  • sentenced these three political activists

  • to prison on August 17,

  • it really let the cat out of the box:

  • The Hong Kong government

  • is undermining the freedoms of its people.

  • Of course, Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam

  • defended the move.

  • "Rights and freedoms of Hong Kong people

  • are protected under the Basic Law.”

  • Ah yes, Basic Law.

  • That was the agreement the CCP and the UK

  • made ahead of the 1997 handover.

  • Under the One Country, Two Systems principle,

  • the Basic Law guarantees Hong Kong

  • a variety of rights and freedoms

  • even rights and freedoms denied

  • to people in the rest of China.

  • Anyway, go on Ms. Lam.

  • But the exercise of these rights and freedoms...

  • is not without limit.”

  • So what limits did three dangerous criminals violate?

  • Well, Joshua Wong, Nathan Law, and Alex Chow

  • were influential leaders of the 2014 Umbrella Movement.

  • The 2014 protests

  • known as the Umbrella Movement

  • were triggered after Wong and his colleagues

  • stormed the city's government headquarters.

  • They were later found guilty of unlawful assembly

  • and were sentenced to community service.”

  • Just to clarify,

  • storming government headquartersin this case

  • meant jumping police barriers

  • in front of a popular protest location

  • outside the central government offices

  • known as Civic Square.

  • Anyway, go on.

  • But that wasn't enough for the department of justice

  • which applied for a review....

  • Joshua Wong will spend the next six months

  • behind bars.”

  • So Joshua Wong and the other two less famous guys

  • were sentenced to community service.

  • Which they served.

  • And then the court decided to sentence them again

  • this time to 6 months,

  • 8 months,

  • and 7 months respectively in prison.

  • Why?

  • Well, the Hong Kong Department of Justice

  • decided that the punishments weren't harsh enough,

  • and that they wanted a review of the sentences.

  • Of course Hong Kong Chief Executive

  • Carrie Lam will assure you,

  • Beijing had nothing to do with the decision.

  • "Our courts are exercising judicial powers independently,

  • free from any interference.

  • So any allegation that in these particular cases

  • that judges in the Court of Appeal

  • have made decisions under political interference,

  • again, are totally unfounded.”

  • That's like when you sneak out at night

  • and then try to convince your parents the next day

  • that the lump in your bed that night

  • was you all along,

  • and totally not the pillows from the guest bedroom.

  • What's interesting here

  • is that Lam defends the judges

  • as being politically unbiased,

  • but there are signs that the Justice Department itself

  • wasn't politically unbiased when deciding

  • toreviewthe sentences.

  • For one, it's highly unusual for them

  • to review the sentences in the first place.

  • There are reports that Secretary of Justice Rimsky Yuen

  • overrode his own prosecutors

  • in order to get those harsher sentences

  • even though his prosecutors didn't want to do it.

  • Interestingly, Rimsky Yuen is also a member

  • of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference,

  • the terribly-named rubber-stamp advisory body

  • to China's rubber stamp legislature.

  • Being in the CPPCC

  • is a marker of status and influence.

  • And you can get kicked out

  • for not toeing the Party line.

  • But I'm sure he made his decisions

  • about the Hong Kong activists

  • completely without any political agenda.

  • So when the courts handed down the prison sentences,

  • their ruling talked about the importance

  • of deterrent sentences.

  • That is, by severely punishing these three people,

  • they would make Hong Kongers not want to protest...

  • sorry, I mean, “unlawfully assemble

  • in the future.

  • Which worked incredibly well.

  • In fact, the sentencing reinvigorated the movement

  • for rights and freedoms in Hong Kong

  • with over twenty thousand people taking to the streets.

  • There's more uproar over this than for other recent events

  • that eroded Hong Kong's freedoms.

  • Like allowing Chinese police to patrol in Hong Kong.

  • Or saying the joint declaration Hong Kong Basic Law

  • is founded on no longer has meaning.

  • Or kicking out democratically elected

  • pro-democracy lawmakers.

  • Again.

  • As you can see,

  • the Chinese Communist Party's influence over Hong Kong

  • has been getting really blatant lately.

  • So the question is why?

  • This carries serious risks for the CCP.

  • It clearly shows that the One Country Two Systems policy

  • that the CCP promised the UK

  • is being thrown out the window.

  • And that makes it hard for anyone

  • to trust the CCP about any agreement.

  • As Financial Times puts it,

  • If a bilateral treaty,

  • signed by two heads of state

  • and registered with the UN,

  • can be unilaterally ignored,

  • what is stopping China from trashing

  • any other treaty it does not like?”

  • So why would the CCP take this risk?

  • Well, one factor is that the CCP

  • doesn't care as much as it used to

  • if the lack of independence

  • hurts Hong Kong's economy.

  • In 1997,

  • when the UK handover happened,

  • Hong Kong made up 20% of China's GDP.

  • It was also the only real way for China

  • to access Western investment.

  • But now, 20 years later,

  • other parts of China have grown so much

  • that Hong Kong's contribution to China's GDP

  • has fallen from 20%

  • to just 3%.

  • So why bother appeasing Hong Kongers with pesky freedoms

  • unless those freedoms have limits?

  • Another factor is that the government of the UK,

  • and every other country,

  • still wants to do business in with China

  • even if they're not super happy

  • about this latest move.

  • I mean yeah the CCP is terrible

  • and breaks its promises,

  • but...cha-ching!

  • So put on that awkward smile

  • and move on.

  • And here's another factor:

  • After the 2014 Umbrella movement was over,

  • many of the young people

  • who participated in the protests

  • tried to continue to change the system from within.

  • For example, Joshua Wong and Nathan Law

  • founded a political party so they could

  • officially join Hong Kong's democratic process.

  • Nathan Law even won a seat

  • in the legislature last year,

  • along with many other new

  • pro-democracy lawmakers.

  • Unfortunately, Law was kicked out of office

  • last month for adding a Gandhi quote

  • while taking his oath of office.

  • That's another topic.

  • But now, their long prison sentences

  • trigger a rule that disqualifies them

  • from running for office for the next five years.

  • So the Hong Kong government

  • is effectively shutting them out of the political process.

  • It seems like a side effect,

  • but I think it's actually one of the main reasons

  • the Hong Kong government did it.

  • By disqualifying and shutting out pro-democracy legislators,

  • the pro-Beijing government is more likely

  • to be able to pass laws that the CCP wants,

  • but Hong Kongers have resisted for years,

  • like the patriotic education law,

  • or Article 23,

  • that anti-subversion law that would let police

  • search people's homes without a warrant.

  • But here's the thing:

  • This move is extremely stupid!

  • What happens when you force people

  • to operate outside the system?

  • When you show them that protesting

  • is the only way to prevent the government

  • from stomping all over your rights

  • in order to appease the Communist Party?

  • You get this!

  • Twenty thousand angry people protesting.

  • And we're probably going to see

  • more protests in the future

  • because the Hong Kong government's decision

  • tells the people one thing clearly:

  • Civil disobedience is now the only way to make

  • effective political change in Hong Kong.

  • Now, as for Joshua Wong,

  • Alex Chow, and Nathan Law,

  • they've already started their prison sentences,

  • although their lawyers say they will appeal.

  • Hopefully prison won't harden them too much.

  • Joshua has already shaved his head

  • and talked about taking graphic design classes.

  • Good luck, kid.

  • Now, I personally admire these guys,

  • and for viewers who feel the same,

  • why don't you head over to Twitter,

  • and send them some words of support

  • from the China Uncensored 50-cent army.

  • Their twitter handles are in the description below,

  • and their accounts are being managed

  • by friends while they're in prison.

  • Don't forget to tag @chinauncensored

  • so I can see your tweets as well.

  • And as always,

  • let me know what you think

  • in the comments below.

  • Coming up after the break,

  • if only getting political prisoners out of China

  • were as easy as getting money out.

  • When I was in Hong Kong last December,

  • I was lucky enough to sit down

  • with Joshua Wong for an interview.

  • We talked about his plans

  • for the future of Hong Kong,

  • and we even sang a song of angry men

  • from my favorite musical, Les Mis.

  • Of course, this is before I realized

  • Joshua Wong was a dangerous criminal.

  • So click here on the left

  • to watch that interview now.