Chow Hang Tung hopes to use her morality to save some possibilities to initiate changes in the future

After arresting her on September 8 along with Lee Cheuk Yan and Albert Ho from the Hong Kong Alliance, Hong Kong police have raised the charges against Chow Hang Tung to “inciting subversion of state power.” Her fiance Ye Du said the crackdown on her is a clear case of political manipulation.

DW: How do you view the Hong Kong government’s move to raise the charges against Chow Hang Tung and two other leaders of the Hong Kong Alliance as “inciting subversion of state power?”

Ye Du: Everyone knows very well that it is political manipulation, and the shocking part is that it is taking place in Hong Kong. In China, “inciting subversion of state power” has often been used to crack down on dissidents, but it has only become a common tool used by the government in Hong Kong since the National Security Law (NSL) came into power last year.

Using the law against Chow and others is ridiculous but it also shows everyone the degree of damage to freedom in Hong Kong over the last year.

DW: Are you surprised that Chow is facing a charge like this?

Ye Du: I’m not surprised at all by the result, but I didn’t expect the Hong Kong government to elevate the charges against them to “inciting subversion of state power” within such a short period of time. Previously, Chow has already been given two charges related to the June Fourth vigil last year and the June Fourth vigil this year. She will be sentenced in October and November.

I’ve always expected her to be sentenced in those two cases, but we didn’t expect her to face additional charges related to the works that she does at the alliance. I think this is the part that caught many people by surprise.

DW: What is your impression of Chow Hang Tung?

Ye Du: In my impression, the reason why we would be attracted to each other is not only because of her dedication to charity, which the public has already seen, it is also because she is a very attractive person.

She is a very naive and pure person, with an extraordinary persistence in what she thinks is right. The public can already see that kind of persistence through the interviews that Hang Tung has done over the last few months.

When she started to give interviews in May, I was quite worried about her, because, under the current situation in Hong Kong, we all knew very well that she would be immediately suppressed by the government if she chose to come forward.

But what she meant was that in the past year or so, under the National Security Law, entire Hong Kong seemed to have suddenly gone “silent”, with political groups announcing their disbandment, and different groups withdrawing from her original work or even leaving.

She understands the situation, but she also thinks that if Hong Kong people only retreat under political suppression, how will future generations view this era and she also wonders whether Hong Kong’s freedom will be reduced to the point where nothing will be left afterward.

Hang Tung does not think she can change this trend by standing up by herself now, because Hong Kong is actually very powerless under the pressure of China. This political situation cannot be changed by the efforts of one or two people or a few hundred people.

But Hang Tung does not want to be a retreating and silent individual in such a situation. Rather, she wants to use her morals and responsibility to preserve some possibility of change for the future. As we expected, she has been prosecuted by the authorities on various charges.

DW: You’ve been following the activities initiated by dissidents in China over the last few decades. How do you view the rapid change in Hong Kong over the last few years?

Ye Du: We need to understand why Hong Kong gets to where it is today. Following the “Umbrella Revolution” and the “anti-extradition bill protest,” the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) already views Hong Kong as a base that can possibly pose threat to its regime, since the last two large-scale movements in Hong Kong didn’t just affect internal affairs in Hong Kong, it also affected the situation in China.

There is no shortage of supporters of these two movements in China, and the effect of mobilization extended from those two movements can be felt in China, especially in private spaces.

From the CCP’s perspective, they can also see these signs clearly. In the age of the internet, the flow of information helps to spread the influence of social movements that originated from a certain region. To stabilize their regime, Beijing is willing to use all the power within its control to suppress the force of opposition in Hong Kong.

After those two social movements in Hong Kong, the CCP knows they can’t use their usual tactics to suppress the impact of these movements. Rather, they need to destroy Hong Kong’s civil society entirely, and the targets of this move include young protest leaders and protest-related organizations. They also need to destroy the foundation of civil society, which helps to sustain opposition.

In other words, Hong Kong’s civil society is the foundation for all the opposition forces, so the CCP needs to destroy it from its root. That makes organizations like the Hong Kong Alliance, which has long been dedicated to maintaining social movements in Hong Kong, the target of the CCP’s crackdown.

Additionally, we also see how the Chinese government destroys press freedom and civil liberties in Hong Kong. The “mainlandization” of Hong Kong is inevitable because Hong Kong is so tiny compared to China, which controls so many resources. The trend is irreversible.

DW: After Chow and other leaders from the Hong Kong Alliance were arrested and charged, do you think there are still spaces for people in Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement to operate?

Ye Du: I think Hang Tung’s spirit will encourage many people to continue their efforts. So far, I think the spaces for Hong Kong’s pro-democracy camp to operate are becoming smaller and smaller. They need to reevaluate the logic and methods that they use to initiate social movements in order to figure out how to defend the freedom that they are entitled to enjoy.

A lot of issues emerged from both the “Umbrella Movement” and the anti-extradition bill movement, but the biggest issue is how will Hong Kong defend its freedom in the face of the most resourceful authoritarian regime in human history. They need to find out ways to deal with these challenges.

DW: What were some of the last few exchanges that you have with Chow Hang Tung before she was arrested?

Ye Du: I have to say that since she was released on bail in August, all of her energy and time has been focused on the issues she is focusing on. It’s only been a month since she was released on bail on August 5, but we only have small talks every few days after she finishes work in the middle of the night.

I understand the pressure she’s experiencing, so I basically don’t talk about what she’s facing, since we both know exactly what she’s going to face. We talk about her current stress and what she’s focusing on, but not too much about the two of us personally.

She never regretted the decisions she made, and she never will, because everything she does is well thought out and she understands the moral obligation she must assume and the situation she will inevitably face.

In this regard, we only have to look at the letter she wrote in prison to understand that she is very open to this situation. In the month since she was released on bail, she is well aware that she will be sentenced in October or November, so she has used the rare month of free time to work like crazy.

DW: Do you have anything to say to Chow?

Ye Du: I said that although her sudden conviction for incitement was unexpected two days ago, I will not change my mind and the promise we made to each other will not change, no matter how many years of disaster she will face.

This is a promise we made to each other, and it is also a move to safeguard the beliefs and values we both pursue. I think this promise will never change.

DW: What are the things that you think the international community should realize from the crackdown on the Hong Kong Alliance and Chow Hang Tung?

Ye Du: The crackdown on the Hong Kong Alliance and Chow Hung Tung is a clear indication of how much damage has been imposed on Hong Kong’s freedom over the past year or so. Given the level of attention the international community has paid to Hong Kong in the past two years, it is impossible to imagine that they are not concerned about the development of the situation in Hong Kong. But due to the global pandemic and other geopolitical factors, there is still not enough attention on the development in China or in Hong Kong.

I hope this crackdown on organizations like the Hong Kong Alliance, a symbol of Hong Kong’s free spirit, will make more people realize that the rise of a totalitarian China is not only an infringement on the freedom of Chinese people but also a threat to the entire human society. Those who are suffering could be China in the past, and now it’s Hong Kong’s turn, and which place is going to be next? It depends on how the whole human society will face this situation.

was first published in Mandarin on DW’s Chinese website.

William Yang is a journalist based in Taiwan, where he writes about politics, society, and human rights issues in China, Taiwan, and Hong Kong.