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China drops the hammer on Hong Kong democracy — but activists aren’t backing down

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China drops the hammer on Hong Kong democracy — but activists aren’t backing down

On Sunday, 47 pro-democracy lawmakers and activists in Hong Kong were charged with subversion under China’s new national-security law — a law designed to snuff out personal liberties. Darkness has fallen on the freedom-loving territory.

Sunday’s was the largest mass charge of the opposition since the law went into effect last June: The 47 had all been arrested in January, released on bail while police continued their investigation, rounded up again and now charged. 

Their “crime”? Organizing and participating in a primary election for pro-democracy candidates last summer. Beijing authorities assert the move was akin to trying to overthrow the government. Never mind that the primary was an unofficial one, aimed at helping decide which candidates stand the strongest chance of winning an election, as happens in all normal democracies.

The territory’s Beijing-backed chief executive, Carrie Lam, had warned the pro-democracy folks that their participation might violate the new security law. And it isn’t at all hard to violate the law, since it more or less criminalizes any resistance to the Chinese Communist Party — the territory’s long-independent legal system and local laws be damned; China simply can’t abide democracy prevailing in any form.

Despite the obvious threat, the opposition charged ahead with the informal poll, and 600,000 Hong Kongers showed Beijing exactly what they thought about such fear-mongering by showing up to cast their votes anyway. I’d call it a democratic middle finger to Lam and Chinese strongman Xi Jinping, except Hong Kongers are studiously polite.

The charging of the activists — 39 men and eight women, ages 23 to 64 — gives proof that the Communists don’t care who, or how old, you are. 

Those arrested include 73-year-old Jimmy Lai, the outspoken and defiant founder of Hong Kong’s biggest pro-democracy newspaper; 56-year-old political strategist and legal scholar Benny Tai; and 24-year-old activist Joshua Wong. All three are “extremely vile anti-China elements” who deserve to be severely punished, according to China’s top official on Hong Kong affairs, Xia Baolong.

Among the others arrested: Carol Ng, a fearless union organizer for the democratic cause; 33-year-old Jimmy Sham, who helped organized the massive 2019 protests; former lawmakers Claudia Mo and Alvin Leung; and activist Lester Shum.

“We have long before decided that we would not bow to authoritarianism,” Shum said of Sunday’s charges, saying the road to the current moment was paved by the 2019 protests. “I hope that everyone will carry this decision in the very difficult days ahead.”

There is hope that the people won’t back down: On Monday, several hundred citizens queued up outside the West Kowloon Magistrates’ courts to protest and show their solidarity for the 47 charged. Police tried to disperse the crowd, raising a purple flag, signaling a warning that national-security violations might be occurring by their “unlawful assembly.”

Nevertheless, the supporters, led by Civil Human Rights Front leader Figo Chan, unfurled banners and chanted “release all political prisoners” and “liberate Hong Kong, revolution of our time!” The latter slogan is no doubt deemed illegal under the national-security law.

If the political prisoners are indeed convicted — as it looks likely — they will all face up to 10 years behind bars. Or worse, as is feared for the billionaire Lai, life in prison.

Hong Kong Watch’s Benedict Rogers painted the reality of what’s going on quite starkly: “Today marks the first time that almost every prominent Hong Kong pro-democracy activist is either in jail, exile or on trial awaiting sentencing.” He adds that “the charging of pro-democracy organizers and candidates” is “a new low in Hong Kong’s steady decline into authoritarian rule.”

But one thing is certain, Samuel Chu at the Hong Kong Democracy Council tells me: Hong Kongers aren’t afraid. “The CCP and Hong Kong authorities are much more scared of Hong Kongers” than the other way round. “And nobody is taking their eyes off Hong Kong, as much as China wants that to be the case.”

Elisha Maldonado is a member of the New York Post Editorial Board and a senior fellow at the Independent Women’s Forum.

Twitter: @ElishaMaldonado

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Opinion

Letters to the Editor — April 10, 2021

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Letters to the Editor — April 10, 2021

The Issue: The Post’s suggestions on how the city can recover from the pandemic and residents moving away.

Conspicuous in its absence from The Post’s advice to heal Gotham is the issue of people working from home (“How new leader can heal Goth­am,” Editorial, April 8).

For good or bad, the pandemic caused the flight of commuters from the city. The trickle-down economy that once flowed from the Midtown office workforce has paused, and there’s little evidence of a comeback.

If this exodus is not addressed, the entire economy of New York and other cities will be turned upside down, not unlike what e-commerce has done to the retail sector.

Richard J. Carhidi
Manhattan

The enforcement issues delegated to the NYPD is one of several items highlighted in The Post April 8 editorial.

No doubt, ineffective governing at all levels has resulted in legislation and guidelines that negatively affect the personal performance of NYPD officers and have contributed to the debacle.

Reduced membership, funding and the imposition of restrictive guidelines have affected job performance.

The City Council’s vindictive attitude is evident in its elimination of qualified immunity for the NYPD.

John Gargiulo
Whitestone

The fix for New York City doesn’t begin with more police, better schools or lower taxes, although that’s all needed — it begins with an electorate that realizes those whom they elect will determine what changes happen.

Voters can’t continue to elect and re-elect Democrats, like Mayor de Blasio, Gov. Cuomo and those who dominate the state Legislature.

It’s like going go to a “Dr. Feel Good” who tells you to eat two Twinkies every day, instead of going to a medical specialist who tells you that you need to make changes in your lifestyle to live longer.

The public listens to the lies of the Democrats because they’re a tasty Twinkie, but The Post knows better.

John Brindisi
Manhattan

If the mayor of New York, or a candidate for mayor, wants to save the city from decline and darkness, he or she has to focus on and commit to just one thing: fighting crime — crime on the streets immediately, and eventually crime behind closed doors (meaning corruption) as well.

I am not being cute or simplistic. All those other things — education, housing, transportation, more — are important and not easy to fix, but people from all walks of life will come forward to address them if the mayor will commit to fighting crime.

It will not be easy to fix overnight, but it will be simple and achievable in a surprisingly brief period of time. But you’ve got to want it.

Brian Burke
Branford, Conn.

The Post article covered the main points on what’s needed to turn around this great city.

I would add that communities must be involved with policing their neighborhoods, and the teachers union needs more accountability, among other things. Yet these are just a couple of fine points.

But The Post hit the nail on head with its comments on the “crazy progressives.” They are the real culprits for most if not all the madness going on right now. They are but a small faction dictating to the masses.

I think most people will agree with The Post’s assessment: Time to flush them out with the dirty water.

B. Tonuzi
Wanaque, NJ

I couldn’t agree more with your solutions to heal Gotham, especially addressing the issue of the homeless, which includes not allowing public sleeping and living.

In Central Park this week, I saw a homeless woman go into the flowerbed bushes to do her business. The people sitting on benches to enjoy the beautiful spring flowers were treated to the smell and a hunk of nasty, used toilet paper blowing away.

It is too bad if they don’t want to go to a shelter to sleep. It’s often a mental illness and drug or alcohol problems.

And pulling all NYCThrive funding is a great idea.

Carol Meltzer
Manhattan

Want to weigh in on today’s stories? Send your thoughts (along with your full name and city of residence) to [email protected]. Letters are subject to editing for clarity, length, accuracy and style.

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Opinion

De Blasio must order NYC teachers back to school

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De Blasio must order NYC teachers back to school

It’s past time for Mayor Bill de Blasio to reopen all public schools, full time, shut down hybrid learning and end remote instruction. Period.  

Instead, all he’s done is give parents one last chance to opt-in to in-person classes —because that’s the most United Federation of Teachers chief Mike Mulgrew will agree to.

But why is de Blasio still kowtowing to Mulgrew, when the union boss regularly insults him in public? Just this week, he said all the problems with reopening are de Blasio’s fault, and even got mayoral wannabe Andrew Yang to endorse that lie.

The union plainly has no use left for the lame-duck mayor, except as a convenient scapegoat. He dumped huge pay hikes on its members in exchange for . . . nothing, even awarding “retroactive” raises. When COVID hit, he caved to almost all of the union’s demands, such that the great majority of its members are still teaching from homes while earning full pay, tenure credits and priority for the lifesaving vaccine.

They’re also more immune from accountability than ever, with most grading standards suspended so parents have no idea what their kids might have failed to learn.

Teachers have had three months to get jabbed. With a few rare exceptions, they have no excuse for not going back. What’s the point of mayoral control if de Blasio can’t find the guts to order vaccinated teachers back into classrooms without Mulgrew’s signoff?

Even the mayor’s change in the “two-case” rule is pathetic. The rule of two positive tests shutting down entire buildings (and thus often multiple schools) was nuts, but he’s simply upped it to four positives in a week (albeit with a supposedly tougher “tied to the school” addendum) closing things down for up to 10 school days.

It’s a concession to Mulgrew that has no rational basis. School grounds aren’t transmission hotspots here or anywhere in the world.  

Mulgrew (like Randi Weingarten, the president of his national union) isn’t really worried about safety; he just doesn’t want his members to have to trek back to their workplace this semester.

De Blasio may think he needs the UFT’s support if he wants to, for instance, run for governor. But you know who he needs more? The votes of parents who are fed up with this intransigence. It’s your last months in office, Mr. Mayor — stand up to the UFT and stand up for New Yorkers.

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Let’s hope CBS just helped Ron DeSantis become the future of the GOP

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Let’s hope CBS just helped Ron DeSantis become the future of the GOP

If Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis ever sets up a presidential exploratory committee, it should have to disclose an enormous in-kind contribution from CBS News.

The “60 Minutes” segment last weekend alleging that DeSantis distributed the COVID vaccine through pharmacies at the Publix grocery store chain as part of a quid pro quo was so outlandishly wrong that even Democratic officials in the state have objected.

It’s not clear that the “60 Minutes” piece can even be called “journalistic malpractice,” since it barely qualifies as journalism.

The downside for DeSantis is that he’s been smeared by the most iconic news magazine show on American television; the upside is that this latest, swiftly debunked media attack contributes to his ongoing ascent in the Republican political firmament.

It’s much too early to know with any certainty what the post-Trump GOP will look like, or even if there will be a genuinely post-Trump GOP for years. But if a post-Trump GOP looks like Ron DeSantis, who has a populist edge and is combative with the press, yet is unquestionably serious about governing and is succeeding in the third-most populous state in the nation, it will have landed in a favorable place.

DeSantis has navigated the Trump years with a deft political touch. He obviously went out of his way to identify himself with President Donald Trump at the outset of his gubernatorial run in 2018, but it wasn’t a Matt Gaetz-style play to gain cable TV notoriety and become a Trump-world celebrity.

DeSantis took the boost he got from Trump’s support, won a contested Republican primary and then captured the Florida governorship with a clear idea of what he wanted do with it — indeed, near the end of his first year, prior to the pandemic, he had a 72 percent approval rating.

The governor checks key Trumpian boxes. Trump’s supporters want someone who is a fighter, who gives as good as he gets with the media, and has the right enemies.

Since the onset of the pandemic, the media has been determined to paint DeSantis as a villain flouting science to the detriment of his constituents. Actually, he had a considered approach focused on protecting the most vulnerable in the nursing homes and taking a light touch on government restrictions to try to get through the pandemic with a minimum of economic damage.

Any fair reading of the evidence — Florida has a death rate that’s about the national average, while its economy is in much better shape than New York’s and California’s — has to concede that at the very least this was an entirely reasonable strategy.

DeSantis has, rightly, been fierce in defending his record, but never gives the sense, as Trump often did, that fighting with the media is a good thing in its own right, over and above any substantive considerations.

If the rise of DeSantis is a Trump-era phenomenon, his record is rooted in traditional conservative priorities — textualist judges, school choice, tax cuts, spending restraint and law and order. He also has a more pragmatic side, increasing teacher pay even as he has pushed for educational reforms and pursuing a robust environmental agenda.

It always a fool’s errand forecasting a presidential race three years before it begins in earnest. Trump may decide to run again in 2024 and blot out the sun, and DeSantis has to win reelection in 2022.

On paper, though, he has obvious strength as a potential national candidate. He’s from a hugely important swing state. He’s been battle-tested — he won a brawl of a race in 2018, trailing in the polls throughout. He would perhaps be the only major candidate in 2024 holding an executive office, while his governing record would, in theory, allow him to appeal not just to the hardcore, but also to the key category of “somewhat conservative” voters in GOP primaries.

Certainly, “60 Minutes” has done its part.

Twitter: @RichLowry

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