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Call for a Worldwide Reading for the democracy movement in Hong Kong on 9 September 2020

In its tradition of engagement for and with artists in civil society (a few examples here, here or there), The international literature festival berlin calls for a wave of solidarity with the Hong Kong democracy movement.

j:mag endorses this call.


The international literature festival berlin [ilb] is calling on individuals, schools, universities, cultural institutions and the media for a worldwide reading for freedom of expression and assembly on 9 September 2020. These readings are intended to draw attention to the situation of freedom of expression, freedom of assembly and human rights in Hong Kong, which were adopted by the United Nations in Paris on 10 December 1948. Hong Kong’s parliamentary elections are also scheduled for September 2020.

The recent arrests of 15 representatives of civil society, the democratic camp and the media are part of a long tradition of sometimes subtle, sometimes offensive efforts by the People’s Republic of China to influence the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (SAR), which has been semi-autonomous since 1997, and its government formation.

New York Times May 22nd:

“On Hong Kong, the leadership struck a hard line at the annual meeting of China’s legislature, unveiling a plan to impose sweeping new security laws that would place the territory more firmly under Beijing’s thumb and crack down on antigovernment protests.”

The headline of the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung in Germany today:

“China wants to put an end to the protest movement in Hong Kong”.

— Hong Kong protests on Harcourt Road , 1 October 2014
Image: Studio Incendo –  licensed by CC BY 4.0

In 2014, the Chinese government stipulated that all candidates for the election of the head of government had to be approved beforehand in Beijing. Known as the “Umbrella Movement”, the population of Hong Kong responded with a series of large-scale demonstrations: Thousands of students and pupils, university teachers and intellectuals, artists, workers and employees demanded, among other things, the withdrawal of the resolution and the introduction of political reforms towards further democratization. There were numerous violent clashes between demonstrators and the police, who used pepper spray and tear gas against the largely peaceful demonstrators and arrested various.

At the end of 2015, five Hong Kong booksellers and publishers were abducted to mainland China where they were interned, interrogated and forced to confess. On February 24, 2020, one of the booksellers, Gui Minhai, was sentenced to 10 years in prison for “illegally passing secret information abroad”. While the Internet, newspapers, television and radio are officially uncensored in Hong Kong, most media are now owned by Chinese investors. Television and radio largely outdo each other in self-censorship.

Since March 2019, there have been renewed large-scale demonstrations against the pro-Beijing Hong Kong government over a draft bill that would also allow the extradition of wanted persons to China. Among other things, the demonstrators were demanding the withdrawal of the extradition bill, universal suffrage and the release of political prisoners. While the draft of the extradition bill was officially withdrawn by the government in September 2019, the responses to the other demands are being sat out. The result: over 1,000 protests and 8,000 arrests since then.

Due to COVID-19, the movement has largely shifted to the Internet in the form of memes and images. At the same time, a focus has been placed on the formation of trade unions in order to make the structures more sustainable. The recent arrests in April 2020 underline China’s ongoing efforts to stop critical voices and freedom of expression in Hong Kong. The leadership in Beijing is using the global crisis to quickly create facts and undermine the “one country, two systems” principle. It is challenging the constitutional requirement of non-interference in Hong Kong affairs and wants to introduce a new security law that can criminalize unpleasant political activities as terrorism. This course highlights the urgent need for international attention and solidarity at this time.

Institutions and persons who would like to participate with a reading on 9  September 2020 are asked to inform ilb and send information like: Name of the organizer, place, and date of the event, participants, language of the event, and, if you have, website link. The e-mail address is: worldwidereading@literaturfestival.com. The ilb will announce the events on the website  https://www.literaturfestival.com and on social media.

Read the 30 articles of human rights, which you can find in over 500 languages on the website of the United Nations and read for the What Matters project initiated by ilb in December 2017 for the human rights day by Vivienne Westwood, Nina Hoss, Can Dündar, Patti Smith, Simon Rattle, Ai Weiwei, Elfriede Jelinek, and David Grossman subtitled in the languages Arabic, Chinese, German, English, French, Hindi, Russian, Spanish, and Turkish.

© j:mag Tous droits réservés

Malik Berkati

Journaliste / Journalist - Rédacteur en chef j:mag / Editor-in-Chief j:mag

Malik Berkati has 830 posts and counting. See all posts by Malik Berkati

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