Hong Kong political scientist Ivan Choy has announced he is halting his weekly newspaper column after 15 years because authorities have stopped listening to critical voices following the passage of the national security law and electoral changes.
The senior politics lecturer at the Chinese University of Hong Kong told HKFP on Thursday that he decided to terminate his column for Ming Pao because of the “poor political climate” in the city.
The scholar published his first article in Ming Pao in October 1995 and in 2006 started a weekly column on local politics. Choy wrote in his last article for the newspaper on Wednesday that he has penned more than 900 pieces for the publication.
Choy said that following the enactment of the Beijing-imposed security legislation last June, he thought the local and central authorities no longer cared about public opinion. He said it had become difficult to reason with the government.
“You [used to have] some room to convince them to accept your political and policy proposals. But after the passing of the national security law and the changing of the electoral system, you see that the whole process was a very top-down approach,” he said.
“The political climate in Hong Kong is very poor at this moment,” he added.
The electoral overhaul imposed by Beijing aims to ensure only patriots hold power in Hong Kong. Local election experts have said the revamp – which will sharply reduce democratic representation in the legislature – signified a major regression in democracy.
The controversial national security law outlaws secession, subversion, collusion with foreign powers and terrorist acts. The maximum penalty is life imprisonment.
The CUHK lecturer said the security law and the electoral shake-up prompted him and other political commentators to rethink whether it was meaningful to keep writing political commentaries: “[I]t takes you a lot of time to write a political commentary, say those 3,000-word-long ones. You think that it becomes a burden but achieves nothing.”
The arrests of pro-democracy figures and media workers under the sweeping security legislation also made Choy believe it was time to take a break from his column. He said many of those arrested were his friends.
“It made my mood very poor. I need to take some rest,” he said.
So far, 115 people have been arrested under the national security law and more than 50 of them were charged. The biggest case involves 47 democrats who stand accused of “conspiracy to commit subversion” in connection with an unofficial legislative primary election last July.
The latest arrests under the security legislation involved five senior executives and a columnist at pro-democracy newspaper Apple Daily, which was forced to shut down after the government froze HK$18 million worth of company assets.
The publication printed its last-ever edition on Wednesday evening, with the one million copies printed quickly snapped up by Hongkongers in the early hours on Thursday.
Asked if Hong Kong would still hear critical voices, Choy said many people were still writing political commentaries and he would also continue to comment on current affairs. He added that while young academics may be reluctant to write commentaries for fear of damaging their careers, he himself was near retirement age.
“I think I have the obligation to be a political commentator and to comment on current affairs,” he said.