On February 28th MP Guri Melby of the Liberal Party in Norway (Venstre) arranged a mini-hearing on the situation in Hong Kong in the parliament). The hearing was live streamed and the recording remains available here (jump to 06:15 for the start of the meeting). Several Norwegian politicians were in attendance, including members of parliament. Co-arranging Hong Kong Committee in Norway was visibly present, as were several NGOs like the Norwegian Tibet Committee, the Norwegian Uighur Committee, Amnesty International Norway and the Nordic Committee for Human Rights.
Hong Kong in the latest nine months
We were told first hand accounts of the still on-going protests, starting with events in June last year and continuing right up to the present day. Those who reported were representatives from Hong Kong’s Legislative Council, the local District Councils, the Bar Association and front line protesters. Their stories described a situation with repeated encroachments of the freedoms enjoyed in Hong Kong, such as freedom of speech, freedom of the press, and the right to legal representation. The ever-increasing police brutality is particularly worrying. The pro bono lawyer who was present told us about detained demonstrators who where badly beaten inside police stations, out of sight of witnesses, the press, and cameras.
A significant majority majority of the population in Hong Kong remain ardently opposed to the disproportional use of force by the Hong Kong police, acting on instructions from Beijing’s proxies in Hong Kong under the leadership of Carrie Lam. Since last summer the police force, now with a tripled budget, no longer has upholding law and order as its top priority, but has resorted to become an instrument which commits acts of violence to clamp down on regular citizens defending their rights as given by Hong Kong’s Basic Law
Norway can contribute – as partner in international alliances
When asked what Norway can do, members of the Hong Kong delegation replied that small nations might join in broad coalitions in order to stand up to threats and economic retaliations from China, aiming to silence all criticisms of the human rights situation. The Norwegian parliament could follow the example of EU, and several countries outside the EU, and legislate a regime in which persons, not countries, are subject to sanctions. These persons should include the worst human rights offenders who should have their overseas assets frozen, and denied entry through applying a persona non grata status.
The delegation members were baffled to learn that the Norwegian government had signed a statement on normalization of bilateral relations with China, in which the government accepts the concept and implementation of self-censorship in contexts where the Chinese authorities finds criticism to be unacceptable (see article 3). The delegation members emphasized that they were bewildered by this, given Norway’s positive reputation for engaging in international endeavors to promote human rights. The normalization agreement marks a most unfortunate reversal of Norway’s engagement on this important issue. The economic pressure exerted by China on Norway, a small country outside the EU, in response to Liu Xiaobo being awarded the Nobel peace price is recognizable as China’s modus operandi.
The essential message from the delegation members was than authoritarianism and totalitarian rule is on the rise worldwide. Undemocratic ideas and values are permeating even into western democracies. This observation was echoed some days later in the annual report from Freedom House. Chinese expansionism plays a major role in this picture, and so Hong Kong’s fight for freedom and human rights is the free world’s front line defense against a further world-wide deterioration. Free societies around the world should unite and exert maximum pressure against the authorities in Beijing as well as their Hong Kong proxies in order to halt the present decline and slippage away from freedom.
The original version of this article was written in Norwegian, and posted online on 1 March.