Hong Kong dissidents continue to languish in jail, and Beijing hopes the world will forget. So it’s good news that more than a dozen academics from 10 countries have nominated five of the city’s most prominent democracy advocates for the 2022 Nobel Peace Prize.
Among the nominees are our friend Jimmy Lai, founder of Apple Daily, and Gwyneth Ho, former journalist for Stand News. The police forced the closure of the two publications, seized their assets without due process and imprisoned some of their employees. Nobel nominees also include Lee Cheuk-yan and Chow Hang-tung, who helped organize Hong Kong’s annual vigil for victims of the Tiananmen Square massacre; and Joshua Wong, who first angered Beijing as the teenage leader of the 2014 Umbrella Movement.
The Sino-British Joint Declaration and the Basic Law of Hong Kong guarantee freedoms, including freedom of press, speech and assembly. Yet under the National Security Act of 2020, these five Nobel Prize nominees face life in prison for exercising these fundamental rights. The five are exceptional in their courage, but authorities have arrested some 150 people under the security law.
The effect of the law was evident again on Monday as the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Hong Kong announced the suspension of its annual human rights press awards. “Over the past two years, journalists in Hong Kong have operated under new ‘red lines’ on what is and is not allowed, but there remain significant areas of uncertainty and we do not wish to unintentionally violate law,” Chairman Keith Richburg said in a statement.
The decision symbolizes the now daily self-censorship in the territory. Over the past year, Hong Kong authorities have demanded that foreign tech companies help them censor the speech of overseas exiles and have threatened legal action against British human rights activist Benedict Rogers and these pages.
Foreign governments have imposed little on China for breaking its treaty with Britain over Hong Kong. But the rest of us can attest to the bravery of those who resisted at great cost. A Nobel for the Hong Kong Five would be a fitting tribute and have the added benefit of embarrassing Beijing.
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Appeared in the April 26, 2022 print edition as “Hong Kong’s Nobel Nominees”.