Zhou Fengsuo, a veteran of China's 1989 pro-democracy movement on Tiananmen Square, who now heads the U.S.-based rights group Humanitarian China, was denied entry to Hong Kong on Sunday after he arrived to support anti-extradition protests in the city. Zhou told RFA's Mandarin Service that police also caused minor injuries to his neck and wrists after he refused to leave:
RFA: What was the main reason for this visit to Hong Kong?
Zhou Fengsuo: I was, of course, trying to support the Hong Kong democracy movement. Everything that is going on in Hong Kong right now, the struggle of the Hong Kong people for freedom and democracy, is really exciting. They're not just doing all of this for their own freedom, but for the freedom of anyone in the world who is under threat from the Chinese Communist Party, whether that be Hong Kong, Taiwan, Tibet or Xinjiang or anywhere else in the world. All of the freedoms we currently enjoy represent an erosion of the Chinese Communist Party's massive and monolithic power, and Hong Kong people are on the front line. I really wanted to go there and stand with these people who are standing up to the Chinese government.
RFA: When was the last time you visited Hong Kong? What was your experience then?
Zhou Fengsuo: My last visit to Hong Kong was during the Umbrella Movement [for fully democratic elections] in 2014. That was also very exciting. I was very happy to have had the opportunity to experience the Hong Kong people’s fight for democracy. I stayed in a tent for seven days, I visited the main protest spots in Mong Kok and Admiralty, and I also had close contact with various groups. The courage and resilience shown by the people of Hong Kong during that time of resistance was hugely inspiring to me. I saw in it the shades of the 1989 student movement.
[The denial of entry] this time may have been because I miscalculated. I thought I could sneak in. It was a shock to me that I didn't succeed on Sunday. They even tried to use force to send me back. One person was pressing down on my head, and three others grabbed my arms on either side, pulling them downwards. They basically used torture techniques to get me out of there.
RFA: Did they give any reason for denying you entry at the airport?
Zhou Fengsuo: No.
RFA: Why did they use force on you?
Zhou Fengsuo: Because I wouldn't leave willingly. They asked me to return to New York, and I refused. I wanted to try every possible way to stay in Hong Kong for a while. I thought there might not be time in the future.
RFA: What do you think about the protesters occupying and vandalizing the Legislative Council (LegCo)?
Zhou Fengsuo: I think that this is one way for these young people to express dissent, because there is no outlet for public opinion in Hong Kong. The "one country, two systems" framework has now conclusively shown us that the Hong Kong government does not have the support of the people.
My feeling is that public anger in Hong Kong is simmering away, but it needs a focal point. So, for many people, the occupation of LegCo was one way to give it expression. But that expression is still essentially oppositional. It hasn't yet gotten to the point of being constructive.
If "one country, two systems" is dead, I believe that Hong Kong needs to come up with a new plan for democracy, if they want a new, democratic future. For that, there needs to be a very specific statement: something like a Hong Kong Democracy Charter, to make things a lot clearer.
I really understand the mood of these people right now, but I think they need to express it more positively; turning it from protest to being the masters of Hong Kong's fate, and saying where they think Hong Kong should go in the future.
RFA: What do you think the rest of the world has learned from events that have transpired in Hong Kong during the past month?
Zhou Fengsuo: Hong Kong is showing us just how important democracy really is, and that there can be no freedom under the Chinese Communist Party, and that any freedoms will eventually be taken away. Taiwan has had the clearest understanding of this so far. They know that they need democracy to protect their freedoms, and I think that will be the direction for Hong Kong's efforts in the future.
Reported by Jia Ao for RFA's Mandarin Service. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.