While Hong Kong’s influence over Guangzhou, capital of neighboring Guangdong province, is perhaps to be expected, it is now clear that people across China are seeking to make use of the freedoms of the largely autonomous city, carrying their grievances there. And, where mainland activists go, its security personnel are not far behind.
Ever since 2003, pro-democracy rallies have been held on July 1, which is a holiday to mark the reunification with the mainland.
While individual mainlanders may have marched alongside Hong Kong people in the past, this year there was a very visible mainland contingent, some of whom held up banners that identified themselves not only as being from the mainland but from various provinces and cities.
Subsequently, at least two of them were arrested when they returned to the mainland. The two, Song Ningsheng and Zeng Jiuzi, both of Jiangxi province, were sentenced to labor camp for 14 months. This is the first known instance of mainlanders being punished for protesting in Hong Kong.
Under the Chinese policy of “one country, two systems,” it is lawful for people in Hong Kong to hold such demonstrations. Under Hong Kong law, visitors can also take part. But evidently, China considers it illegal for mainlanders to join Hong Kong protests.
Mr. Song became a rights activities after his wife died in 2008 as a result of a medical blunder. Ms. Zeng’s husband died in mysterious circumstances while working in Shandong province. She had been petitioning without success for the reopening of an investigation into her husband’s death.
Liu Zhonghua, Ms. Zeng’s son, was quoted as saying that she went to Hong Kong because “there’s absolutely no way to fight for one’s rights here in mainland China.”
Another female activist, Li Guizhi, who is blind, was prevented from entering Hong Kong to publicize the death of her son in 2006. She says he was cremated without her permission and she has been demanding an investigation.
Ms. Li was held in a so-called “black jail” by the security authorities but managed to escape. However, she was recaptured after only a week of freedom.
All these people are desperate. They sought justice in Hong Kong because there were no avenues for doing so on the mainland.
Liu Weiping, leader of a group called the People’s Rights Union of China, said at a press conference in Hong Kong that he had helped about 100 mainlanders take part in the rally. He said that the two Jiangxi residents had been approached by someone who pretended to be a local reporter and asked where they were from and who had organized their visit.
This means that mainland security people are operating in Hong Kong, contrary to the rules of “one country, two systems,” under which the mainland has no police jurisdiction in Hong Kong.
Unless China provides avenues for redress of grievances to its citizens, they will continue to try to do so in Hong Kong. And the former British colony will continue in China’s eyes to be a base of subversion against the mainland.