Since last June, when nearly identical articles about me first appeared in Chinese Communist Party-owned Wen Wei Po and Ta Kung Pao, I have been continually doxxed and defamed by pro-CCP media. As I mentioned in a recent column, these attacks have come in waves, peaking again recently.

The Great Hall. Photo: Lukas Messmer/HKFP.

I sense that, beyond those involved in the freedom struggle, there may not have full awareness of the risks faced by people involved in fighting for Hong Kong’s freedom. If you live in a free society or even if you live in Hong Kong but have not been involved, it may be hard to understand just how increasingly intense the persecution is.

I speak as someone who has not had to face nearly as much persecution as many others, but my case illustrates how the whole pro-CCP ecosystem of disinformation, propaganda and oppression works. Its purpose is to sow confusion and create a climate of fear and intimidation.

Personal information about me that has nothing to do with my activism, such as my Hong Kong ID number, where I lived, and the identities of family members, has been widely spread online. My children’s photos have been disseminated, sometimes with threatening messages. The pro-CCP District Councillor in the place I lived participated in this harassment by sharing “information” about me online. I was frequently followed and threatened. After one of these incidents, my partner brought bandages to a demonstration we attended, just in case I was stabbed. (A pro-democracy activist had just been stabbed while leafleting on the streets). Every time I went home, I took circuitous routes and doubled back to make sure no one was following me.

Photo: May James/HKFP.

In May, around the time the Party announced it would impose a draconian “national security law”, a list was compiled by Party allies of some 250 Hong Kong people “guilty” of “subverting the state”. My name was on that list. I don’t know who made it, but I knew that if I stayed in Hong Kong, I would face the prospect of being arrested under the NSL—which is intended to be like a sword of Damocles hanging over many—and of my children growing up without a father. (Crimes like “subverting the state” and “collusion with foreign forces” carry sentences of up to life imprisonment.)

These are just the things I can mention. Perhaps one day I will be able to tell the full story.

Many of these experiences are not unique to me. Virtually everyone in the freedom struggle has taken increasingly vigilant precautionary measures, both on- and offline, against surveillance and attacks. We know that it doesn’t have to do only with our own individual safety, but with that of those around us.

And why have I been targeted? For going to protests, for writing about my experiences and ideas, for unambiguously being a part of the Hong Kong freedom struggle in both my activism and my writing, and, more recently, for thinking that I could afford myself, my brothers and sisters in the struggle, and my loved ones some modicum of protection by using a pen name. The irony is that throughout this past year and more of protests, I have been among the few protesters who did not wear a mask or disguise their identities. All of the people in the freedom struggle know the price you pay for not doing so.

File photo: Tom Grundy/HKFP.

The baseless allegations against me have continually shifted and accumulated, one upon another: CIA agent, foreign interference, trying to foment a Color Revolution, inciting young people to violence, a ringleader of rioters, and, most recently, impersonating an ethnically Chinese person.

As to that last allegation—that I was “faking” my identity, the case was based on the assertion that I attempted to impersonate a Chinese man by posting a photo as a profile pic on Twitter. This is a blatant misrepresentation, easily disproven. The photo in question is that of Duan Changlong, a Tiananmen Massacre victim. I posted the photo in the lead-up to the thirtieth anniversary of June 4 in 2019 as a means of commemoration, and when I did, I tweeted the following explanation:

I did something similar in the case of the disappeared Uighur anthropologist Rahile Dawut. Before Rahile Dawut, I had a photo of Liu Xia, wife of Nobel Peace Prize laureate Liu Xiaobo, as my profile pic until she was allowed to leave China:

Clearly in none of the above cases did I have any intention of pretending I was the person in question. I have never asserted that I am ethnically Chinese. This disinformation campaign is meant to discredit first of all me and secondly the Hong Kong freedom struggle.

Those who’ve tried to “expose” my identity—as if a gweilo can’t be every bit as legitimate and authentic a member of the Hong Kong freedom struggle as anyone else—have refused to engage with anything I’ve written in order to rebut or argue with it. Nor are they interested in the fact that I have participated in hundreds of demonstrations and other activities of the pro-democracy movement going back many years. It’s all been politically motivated character assassination. 

Photo: May James/HKFP.

They do real damage to real people. I am an Hong Kong person who has now joined hundreds of other Hong Kong people in exile, having lost our home. Not a single one of us wished to leave; we believed we had no other option.

But however nefarious and oppressive their actions, the Communist Party and its allies won’t be able to indefinitely repress the real demands of the Hong Kong people for freedom and democracy. These will remain and one day be realized.

HKFP is an impartial platform & does not necessarily share the views of opinion writers or advertisers. HKFP presents a diversity of views & regularly invites figures across the political spectrum to write for us. Press freedom is guaranteed under the Basic Law, security law, Bill of Rights and Chinese constitution. Opinion pieces aim to point out errors or defects in the government, law or policies, or aim to suggest ideas or alterations via legal means without an intention of hatred, discontent or hostility against the authorities or other communities.

Kong Tsung-gan

Kong Tsung-gan is the pen name of the author of Liberate Hong Kong: Stories from the Freedom Struggle and two other books about Hong Kong.