/ 31 May 2024

Some serious beef with China

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The Squiz 

Fourteen of the pro-democracy activists known as the ‘Hong Kong 47’ have been convicted of “conspiracy to commit subversion” under China’s controversial National Security Law (NSL), 3 years after they were arrested. They were part of a group of 16 defendants who pleaded not guilty – the others have pleaded guilty and are set to be sentenced, and 2 have been acquitted. The 8 women and 39 men were accused of attempting to overthrow the Beijing-controlled Hong Kong Government by running unofficial primary elections to pick opposition candidates for a vote in 2020. Yesterday, the 3 judges agreed with the prosecution that their actions could have caused a “constitutional crisis”. It’s notable because these people are Hong Kong’s best-known democracy activists and leaders, and they now face prison sentences – in some cases for life. 

How did it come to this?

It came after China’s crackdown on dissent in the territory that kicked off in 2019 and the introduction of the NSL, which has stripped Hong Kongers of their democratic rights. As part of that, Beijing mandated that only “patriotic” figures would be able to run for election to its Legislative Committee. It was a whole thing – we talked a lot about it at the time because it was big in the news (and you can refresh your memory with this Squiz Shortcut…). A big part of the conversation is about China’s increasingly authoritarian rule, which has put it at odds with several other countries… UK Foreign Secretary David Cameron called the NSL “a clear breach” of the agreement the UK Government struck with China when it handed over the former British colony that has “significantly eroded” rights and freedoms. 

How’s Australia’s beef with China going?

We like what you did there… Our relationship was impacted by things like China’s moves in Hong Kong, but the thaw continues… Another step was taken yesterday with the announcement that China will lift its export bans on 5 big Aussie meat exporters. Agriculture Minister Murray Watt called it “fantastic news” for our beef industry that will provide an $11.5 billion shot in the arm for our producers. One thing to note is that one of those convicted yesterday is Australian-Hong Kong dual citizen Gordon Ng, and his supporters have urged the government to keep him in mind. “We can’t even forget about people like Gordon or [jailed Australian writer] Yang Hengjun just because we’re getting our meat back”, said Melbourne lawyer Kevin Yam. 

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