Hong Kong democracy activists in exile have revealed plans to set up an overseas “shadow parliament” in a bid to reflect the city’s seven million permanent residents internationally amid an ever-widening crackdown on dissent under a national security law imposed by Beijing since July 1.
“In view of the rapid and deep erosion of the rights and freedoms of the Hong Kong people, there is a pressing need for a deliberative mechanism which genuinely manifests the will of the Hong Kong people,” the activists said in a statement on the website of the proposed Hong Kong Shadow Parliament.
The move comes after pro-democracy lawmakers resigned en masse from Hong Kong’s Legislative Council (LegCo) after four of their colleagues were “disqualified” from the legislature by China’s National People’s Congress (NPC) standing committee.
The activists, who include U.K.-based former consular employee Simon Cheng, said they want to build a “transparent, inclusive and accountable platform” that chooses democratically elected representatives to speak on behalf of the people of Hong Kong internationally.
It would not, however, function as a government-in-exile along the lines of the Tibetan Government in Exile in India, the statement said.
The proposals are still at an early stage, and will undergo public consultation before the body is set up, according to the group’s website.
“At this very critical moment, we hope to provide new hope and vision for Hongkongers: to trigger their imagination … and to keep the flame of democracy alive,” it said, adding that the national security law has undermined any genuine political opposition in Hong Kong itself.
The group in charge of the project includes advocacy groups, prominent activists, political figures, and in particular, heavyweight scholars on legal studies or political science with experience of pro-democracy coordination in Hong Kong elections, it said.
The move comes as police in Hong Kong charged three former pro-democracy lawmakers for taking part in or inciting others to take part in an “illegal assembly” protesting the national security law on July 1.
Leung, former Democratic Party chairman Wu Chi-wai, former LegCo member Eddie Chu and six others were released on bail but are unable to leave Hong Kong.
US issues travel warning
In Washington, the U.S. State Department called on U.S. citizens to “reconsider” any plans they had to travel to Hong Kong, “due to arbitrary enforcement of local laws.”
“U.S. citizens traveling or residing in [China], including Hong Kong, may be detained without access to U.S. consular services or information about their alleged crime,” the State Department travel advisory said.
“U.S. citizens may be subjected to prolonged interrogations and extended detention without due process of law,” it said, adding that U.S. citizens could be detained and/or deported for sending private electronic messages critical of the ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP).
It said China has “unilaterally and arbitrarily” deployed the power of police and national security officers in Hong Kong since the national security law took effect.
“[China] has demonstrated an intention to use this authority to target a broad range of activities it defines as acts of secession, subversion, terrorism, and collusion with foreign entities,” the advisory said.
The law covers words or deeds anywhere in the world, meaning that U.S. citizens who have been publicly critical of the CCP run “a heightened risk of arrest, detention, expulsion, or prosecution.”
It said China’s state security police now freely operate out of Hong Kong with no judicial oversight by the city’s courts.