Tue. Dec 7th, 2021

The Hong Kong group, which had been practicing for several months, reluctantly agreed to remove the umbrellas. It just wanted the chance to perform. Then they were told that the festival unfortunately could not supply them with audio equipment. Undaunted, the performers said they would bring their own.

On September 29, the festival said all the performances scheduled to take place at Lucky Dumpling Market had been canceled due to COVID restrictions (South Australia registered 0 cases that day).

But when Leung picked up a booklet for the festival two weeks later, she found that there was room for performances from other groups, including at least five from mainland Chinese associations.

A spokeswoman for OzAsia said all performances or workshops from other groups were already planned in the initial planning.

“There were no vacancies to reorganize the Hong Kong Cultural Association of South Australia,” she said.

An official told Leung that if “the Chinese group or other people are not happy with your yellow umbrella screen, we will be in trouble”.

Leung said the group “just wanted to be part of the community”.

Hong Kong CEO Carrie Lam.

Hong Kong CEO Carrie Lam. Credit:AP

“We live in Australia, which is a democratic and free country, and we have freedom of speech and expression. This was a cultural event, not political propaganda. We are concerned about political censorship, and we are also concerned about foreign interference. We really want an answer. ”

The group has written to Communications Minister Paul Fletcher, whose department is sponsoring part of the festival seeking just that. He has not yet answered. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs was contacted for a comment.

OzAsia said the workshop was canceled because they needed more staff for additional COVID cleaning measures. A spokeswoman said the Moon Lantern Trail and Lucky Dumpling Market were inclusive community and family events, “and as such, activities with political or religious content are not planned”.

The first incident, first reported by SBS Cantonese and independently verified by Sydney Tomorrow Herald and Aging, is not an isolated. Another Hong Kong market stall selling handicrafts at Brisbane Riverside Markets has been moved away from the main street after nearly 10 months.

Peter Hackworth, who runs some of Brisbane’s most popular markets, said the stall was relocated due to lack of space. “As we lack space on Riverside in the Garden Market, we do not accept political or charitable organizations in the main market area,” she said.

Hong Kong Stall at Brisbane's Riverside Markets.

Hong Kong Stall at Brisbane’s Riverside Markets.

But the organizers of the Brisbane stall, which sells knick-knacks and t-shirts, have a different version of events.

“Pro-Beijing people came to our stall, shouted and quarreled with us and then complained to the organizer of the market,” said Hong Kong stall host Jacob, who only asked to be mentioned by his first name because of concerns about his family security in Hong Kong.

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Jacob and others associated with the stalls are so concerned about the national security laws that Beijing has imposed on Hong Kong that they are afraid to comment on umbrellas displayed in Adelaide or t-shirts sold in Brisbane.

The national security laws are extraterritorial, which means that they apply to any activity around the world that can be interpreted as dissent. They are so wide that the Adelaide umbrellas can be seen as a threat to the Chinese state, putting the families of those involved in the stalls in danger.

The market events are smaller compared to the censorship and political purges that are going on in Hong Kong, but the impact on freedom of expression almost 6000 kilometers away in Australia shows how insidious the laws have become.

In Hong Kong, civil society is withdrawing from the human rights group Amnesty International’s withdrawal from the territory due to fears of staff security. A dozen unions and civil rights groups have been disbanded after the laws were implemented to end more than 18 months of protests in the former British colony.

Anjhula Mya Singh Bais, chair of Amnesty International’s board, said the decision to close its operations in Hong Kong was “driven by Hong Kong’s national security law”.

“The recent targeting of local human rights and trade union groups signals an intensification of the authorities’ campaign to rid the city of all dissenting voices,” she said. “It’s getting harder and harder for us to keep operating in such an unstable environment.”

Even closure is now seen as a defiance. Pro-Beijing lawmaker Holden Chow Ho-ding accused Amnesty of “smearing national security law” by daring to leave the city.

Hong Kong CEO Carrie Lam said no organization should be concerned about their “legitimate operations in Hong Kong”.

“[But] if there are individuals and organizations that have used Hong Kong to spread news or participate in activities [that] undermines national security, then of course they must be concerned. “

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