A former Hong Kong independence activist now living with refugee status in Germany warned Tuesday, 30 years after the Tiananmen crackdown, that a “brutal” China is now eroding democratic freedoms in the former British colony.

While the regime’s bloody suppression of Beijing pro-democracy protests in 1989 shocked the world, “China is now more brutal than ever,” asserted Ray Wong, 25, speaking in Berlin.

Ray Wong Alan Li
Ray Wong and Alan Li. Photo: RTHK Screenshot.

“The free world must wake up… and defend the honour and dignity of Hong Kong,” he said, arguing that the people of the special territory fear “becoming like Tibet or Xinjiang”, two autonomous regions tightly ruled by Beijing.

Hong Kong enjoys freedom of speech and assembly rights unseen on the Chinese mainland under a 50-year handover agreement between former colonial power Britain and China, but many fear those liberties are being eroded.

Wong and fellow activist Alan Li took part in Hong Kong’s so-called “Fishball Revolution” of 2016 which saw the city’s worst violence for decades, leaving scores of people injured and dozens arrested.

The two men were due to stand trial on riot charges but fled Hong Kong in November 2017 and flew to Germany where they were granted refugee status about a year ago.

Their asylum cases are among the first for dissenters from the semi-autonomous Chinese city, which returned to Chinese rule in 1997.

 ‘Democracy fighters’ 

Wong said that the “one country, two systems” rule was under threat as Hong Kong looks set to pass a new law allowing extraditions to mainland China.

ray wong alan li
This handout courtesy of Ray Wong taken in June 2018 and released on May 22, 2019 shows activists Ray Wong (L) and Alan Li posing for a photo in Berlin. Photo: AFP Handout.

“How can the Hong Kong government agree to extradite its own citizens if it knows they will likely be mistreated?” he asked.

Wong was speaking at a German Greens Party event to mark 30 years since the Chinese pro-democracy protests were brutally quelled by tanks and soldiers on June 4, 1989, leaving hundreds, possibly more than 1,000, dead.

Berlin-based Chinese dissident artist Ai Weiwei, 61, praised Germany for taking in the “young democracy fighters” from Hong Kong.

He too voiced concern that “recently the communist regime has applied pressure and Hong Kong has started leaning more and more toward mainland China”.

Ai said about Hong Kong that “in many, many ways they have started changing, even changing their law, which is very unfortunate”, calling the proposed extradition law “extremely dangerous”.

Photo: Todd Darling/HKFP.
Hong Kong’s annual Tiananmen Square Massacre vigil, 2019. Photo: Todd Darling.

The outspoken artist, who was detained by China’s communist government in 2011, praised Germany for taking in dissidents despite its strong trade and investment ties with the world’s second largest economy.

“As we all know, Germany has strong relations with China, but at the same time Germany always acts with some principles, such as accepting me and also accepting the wife of (late Tiananmen protest veteran and Nobel Peace Prize winner) Liu Xiaobo, Liu Xia, and accepting these two refugees from Hong Kong.

“I think this sends the world a very positive message.”

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