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China’s crackdown on Hong Kong


In the year since China passed a comprehensive national security law for Hong Kong, the mainland government has tightened its control of the city and crushed the pro-democracy movement.

Officials said they would censor films from Hong Kong that they viewed as a threat to Beijing’s sovereignty, a sharp blow to the city’s artistic spirit. In March, pro-Beijing lawmakers called for the work of dissident artist Ai Weiwei to be banned from a museum. Courts have sentenced democratic activists to prison terms. And last week, police raided Apple Daily, the city’s largest openly pro-democracy newspaper, arrested its top editors and froze their bank accounts. Today the newspaper said it would close this week.

Vivian Wang, who reports on Hong Kong for The Times, informs us of the situation.

Claire: The last time we talked to you about Hong Kong in this newsletter was in March. What has happened since then?

Vivian: Much has changed, but all in line with a general trend: increasingly harsh and open repression of the rights that set Hong Kong apart from mainland China. An annual June 4th vigil to commemorate the Tiananmen Square massacre against pro-democracy protesters in Beijing has been banned.

Tell us about China’s participation in the Hong Kong elections.

China has revised the electoral system in Hong Kong. Before anyone can run for office, they must pass an examination board set up by Beijing. The central government had worried that the pro-democracy residents would try to win the upcoming parliamentary elections. As with the Security Act, Beijing issued another top-down order.

There are a few major changes. Only “patriots” defined by an examination board are allowed to apply for office.

In addition, in the past half of the seats in the legislature were directly elected (the other half was reserved for representatives from industry groups, often dominated by pro-propeking candidates). Now less than a quarter are directly elected.

Many pro-democratic leaders are in jail. What does this mean for the movement?

The convicts range from some of the most seasoned pro-democracy leaders to people in their twenties who were considered the next generation. The government is sending a message: Those who get too prominent or too loud are putting themselves at risk. These numbers were definitely important in building public morale and providing people with someone to rally around.

Not much can change that on a logistical level. In the past year there have been basically no protests or organized pro-democracy events, and the pro-democracy parties are limited in their options for action, especially with the new electoral system.

You mentioned censorship. What does this mean for pop culture in Hong Kong?

Hong Kong has always had a strong film industry and is trying to transform itself into an arts center. But with the new rules on film censorship and other recent attempts to ban art from museums, it’s hard to imagine how the city could hold the reputation it wants.

There are still attempts to keep Hong Kong’s cultural world alive, particularly through independent bookstores. But the market in mainland China is so big that many creatives, especially in the corporate world, don’t want to alienate it. That probably means a shrinking space for everything critical.

What is the mood like in the democracy movement?

It’s still dark. Some people say protesters will come out again when the pandemic ends completely and social distancing rules can no longer be used to ban public gatherings. But a lot of the people I speak to say that they are really scared.

For more: A 23-year-old protester is the first defendant to stand trial under the Security Act. He faces a life sentence.

  • With nearly all personal ballots counted, Eric Adams led the Democratic primary for the Mayor of New York City. Maya Wiley finished second.

  • Andrew Yang, the former presidential candidate, admitted.

  • These results are not final and we may not know the winner for weeks. The city must continue to count postal and ranking votes. (New Yorkers could nominate up to five candidates in order of preference.)

  • For more: a detailed map of how people voted, takeaway information, and the latest vote count.

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The Britney Spears Conservatory case is back in court today, and The Times has received court records that offer a rare glimpse into their perspective. Spears will address the court directly, although it is unclear whether she will make her statements public.

Established in 2008, the Conservatory restricts Spears’ rights and forbids her to make most of the decisions. Her father, Jamie Spears, is the manager of her roughly $ 60 million fortune. Among the results on the record: Spears, now 39, couldn’t make friends or keep her kitchen cabinets back without her father’s approval.

Nursing homes are meant to be a last resort for people who cannot take care of themselves, such as elderly people with dementia. The Spears case caught the public eye in part because it has been occurring regularly for the past decade.

Spear’s father and others at the Conservatory have claimed it was a frictionless machine that saved the star after public struggles and mental health concerns. But the court records tell a different story: Spears pushed for years to end the conservatories. It “comes with a lot of fear,” she said.

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