HONG KONG — Ever since a new round of pro-democracy protests broke out in Hong Kong last year, journalists from both local and global media have exposed how freedoms are shrinking, human rights are deteriorating and police brutality is worsening in the city.
Now, with new sweeping powers under the national security law that China promulgated for Hong Kong on June 30, the news media themselves are in the Chinese government’s cross hairs.
The publisher Jimmy Lai, whose media company puts out the popular tabloid Apple Daily, has long been one of Beijing’s most vocal critics in Hong Kong. Mr. Lai was arrested on Monday morning under the recent law, for allegedly colluding with foreign forces. The paper’s office was raided by dozens of police officers. (Mr. Lai was released on bail late Tuesday night.)
A special unit has recently been created in the Hong Kong Immigration Department to vet visa applications that are deemed to be sensitive, including for foreign correspondents, according to The Standard.
Freedom of speech and of the press, both vital to the rule of law and the city’s vibrancy, are under attack. China is extending to Hong Kong the regime of media regulation and repression that it applies on the mainland.
Today, it’s the media.
Yesterday, it was legislators, contenders to political office and activists: Recently, just after disqualifying pro-democracy candidates from running in legislative elections scheduled for September, the Hong Kong authorities delayed the elections by a year — paving the way, I think, for their being canceled.
Tomorrow, who knows who will be China’s next targets here.
But I do know that many Hong Kongers will respond then, too, by demonstrating our solidarity, creatively.
In a show of support for Mr. Lai and Apple Daily, people have been buying up shares of his media company: The stock’s price surged by 1,200 percent in less than two days.
I began writing this Op-Ed on Monday evening. A few hours later I learned that Agnes Chow, a former colleague and ex-member of our political group Demosisto, was arrested, also for violating the national security law — also for allegedly “colluding with foreign forces.”
But Agnes had quit Demosisto on the morning of June 30, before the new law went into effect and its text was released, and she had ceased all activism; she even stopped updating her Twitter account. (She, too, was released on bail Tuesday night.)
Before her arrest, she had been tailed by unknown agents for days, she said. An infrared camera had been installed in front of the main entrance to her home, according to a neighbor. I fear that other dissenting voices in Hong Kong will also face this kind of surveillance, harassment and persecution.
On Tuesday, the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress in Beijing announced that in light of the delayed election, the term of Hong Kong’s current legislature would be extended for “no less than one year.” Carrie Lam, Hong Kong’s chief executive, expressed her “heartfelt gratitude” for that decision.
No limit has been placed on the term of this interim legislative body, meaning that it could be endlessly extended, with no further elections — more or less as happened in Taiwan during the island’s authoritarian decades, between the late 1940s and the early 1990s.
And yet, in the face of this darkest new era of censorship and repression, Hong Kong’s spirit of resistance is unflagging.
Many Hong Kongers lined up in the early hours of Tuesday to buy the day’s edition of Apple Daily. Some groups bought up stashes of the paper to distribute for free to passers-by. More than 500,000 copies had to be printed in total, five times the usual.
Hong Kongers will keep finding ways, big and small, to resist.
Joshua Wong is a democracy activist in Hong Kong. @joshuawongcf.