Imprisoned without trial while Hong Kong was a British colony, former underground communist Lau Man-shing said he feared that a new generation of dissidents would suffer the same fate once Beijing imposed its new national security law.
Now 91, Lau was one of a group of prominent dissidents detained in an unofficial British detention center during leftist riots that swept through Hong Kong in 1967.
At the time, Lau was a staunch supporter of the Chinese Communist Party and a committed anti-colonial activist.
Five decades later, he aspired to democracy, convinced that the city’s inhabitants had exchanged one authoritarian master for another after the 1997 transfer to China.
“Many people believed in Beijing’s promise that Hong Kong would gradually and eventually win universal suffrage,” Lau told AFP.
“But Beijing is asserting more and more control over Hong Kong and is using the greatest force to suppress opposing voices.”
Faced with growing popular unrest, Beijing on Tuesday imposed a radical security law in Hong Kong, according to local media.
In an unprecedented move, anti-subversion legislation was drafted in Beijing, bypassing the semi-autonomous legislature of Hong Kong.
The law is a response to months of huge and often violent pro-democracy protests.
The last time Hong Kong went through a similar political turmoil, Lau was at the center.
Fueled by the resentment of colonial rule and inspired by the cultural revolution taking place in China, the riots of 1967 left 51 dead.
What started as a labor dispute in a time of poverty and corruption has become a large-scale street battle.
The demonstrators initially had a certain popular attraction.
But public opinion backfired when left-wing bombs killed dozens of people – including two children – and a prominent anti-communist radio host was burned to death in his car.
Britain responded with a multitude of emergency decrees, banning demonstrations and many leftist publications.
At the start of the unrest, Lau went on strike at the water authority, where he worked as an inspector.
He was one of 52 protest leaders assembled and detained without charge in an establishment that was known as the “white house” because of the color of its walls.
Known only to his inmate number 459, he spent 13 months there until his sudden release.
“I never knew when it was going to end,” he recalls.
Lau said he had never been tortured and that the conditions were better than the more dismal descriptions given by former detainees who remained loyal to Beijing.
“The guards there were all people from Hong Kong who were rather polite to us,” he said.
When released, Lau felt abandoned by leftist Hong Kong groups who distrusted him because he refused to say he had been tortured and stopped helping after losing his well-paying job in the public service.
The last drop for Lau – who was born in Beijing in 1929 and fled with his family to Hong Kong – came in 1970 when his older sister died during the purges of the Cultural Revolution.
The same movement for which he had sacrificed his freedom and his career had come for his family.
“My heart still hurts,” said Lau.
– “Resist resistance” –
Earlier this month, the South China Morning Post quoted government sources as saying that it planned to set up detention centers dedicated to national security affairs, along the lines of the “white house” of colonial rule. .
Now fragile and dependent on a wheelchair, Lau said that he felt that the radicalism of his youth was due to “being deceived by the Chinese communists and blinded by the leftists in Hong Kong”.
Many current pro-democracy protesters have also adopted confrontations with the police and more violent tactics.
Lau said he thought the Hong Kong people had no choice after years of peaceful protests, little success since Beijing.
“People have broken a lot, but what other means have they left?” He asked, describing the current harvest of protesters as “informed and educated citizens fighting for universal values”.
Beijing, he said, “wants to stifle resistance once and for all”.
“But will Hong Kong become calm and stable afterwards? Will the Hong Kong people become obedient under the repression? I don’t think so.”
(This story has not been edited by GalacticGaming staff and is automatically generated from a syndicated feed.)