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Olympics Hit Hong Kong Freedoms
Proposal for Tibetan autonomy censored
David Kootnikoff (kaspian)     Print Article 
Published 2008-04-28 11:11 (KST)   
As the Olympic torch relay winds its way around the world attracting protests against China's dismal human rights record, Hong Kong has been experiencing an assault on its own civil liberties. As the only location anywhere in China where protests will be tolerated when the relay takes place here on May 2, Hong Kong's tenuous freedoms and autonomy are coming under attack.

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The Basic Law, the territory's mini-constitution, grants Hong Kong a high degree of autonomy from Beijing and protects civil liberties such as freedom of expression and the freedom of assembly, rights which are not permitted across the border in mainland China.

However, these fragile freedoms are being threatened in the run-up to Friday's torch relay. The most recent abuse involves the refused entry and harassment of three human rights activists trying to enter Hong Kong.

One of the activists was Danish artist Jens Galschiot, well known in the city for his sculpture "Pillar of Shame" on display at Hong Kong University and dedicated to the victims of the Tiananmen Square massacre of 1989. He arrived at Hong Kong Airport on Saturday evening with a documentary film crew and was immediately detained by immigration authorities.

He was then questioned for five hours before being put on a plane back to London. Galschiot has visited the city before, but no reason was given for the refusal to allow him to enter this time.

In another incident, Christina Chan, a 21-year-old Hong Kong University student, has been organizing a peaceful pro-Tibet protest for the torch relay. As a consequence, she has received anonymous death threats and daily phone calls from the police.

Chan posted a notice on her Facebook page that alerted police to her identity. They then asked her to appear at the police station for questioning.

"I do not know if it is the police's usual practice. But I will go because I do not want to be uncooperative," Chan said.

The Hong Kong authorities have not been the only ones busy curbing freedoms in the name of the Olympic torch relay. The Law Society of Hong Kong has been accused of censoring a commissioned article on Tibetan autonomy for its official journal, Hong Kong Lawyer.

Human rights lawyer Paul Harris, a founding member of Hong Kong Human Rights Monitor, wrote the article in question, "Is Tibet Entitled to Self-Determination?" for the May edition of the journal. In it he argues that Tibet does have a right to self-determination under international law and refutes Chinese claims of authority, stating:

There are at least three major historical difficulties with China's claim. Firstly it is doubtful whether the relationship between the Ching and the Yuan on the one hand, and Tibet on the other, was really one of sovereign and subject. The Kangxi Emperor occupied Tibet in 1720. After his death in 1722 this occupation continued under his successor the Yongzheng Emperor until 1728, and there were further Chinese invasions in 1750 and 1792. However, after the end of the occupation in 1728, and after each of the later invasions, the Chinese armies withdrew and Tibet had virtually complete independence in practice

Secondly, it was never suggested under either dynasty that the relationship made Tibet a part of metropolitan China. If it was a political relationship at all, it was one of dependency which translated into modern language was a colonial relationship. It is therefore a basis for concluding that Tibet is a colony and so entitled to self-determination.

Thirdly, and most importantly, there was no relationship -- either similar to that between Tibet and the Ching dynasty, or similar to the modern concept of sovereignty -- between Tibet and the Chinese Republic that succeeded the Ching dynasty in 1911. In 1912 the Thirteenth Dalai Lama made a formal declaration of Tibetan independence. Although the Chinese Republic responded by laying claim to Tibet, it never exercised any control over it, save for certain far eastern regions, where there had always been an ill-defined borderland, which it invaded and occupied. Tibet was entirely independent of foreign control between 1911 and 1950.
Harris concludes, "If Kosovo has a right to self-determination, the right of Tibet is infinitely stronger. The catalogue of gross oppression, the second-class citizen status of Tibetans under Chinese rule and the identity of Tibet as a country are all much clearer than in Kosovo's case."
©2008 OhmyNews
Other articles by reporter David Kootnikoff

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