Editorial | Truth or dare

Paulo Coutinho

“The truth is nice but a rumor is priceless.”
Mortdecai (fictional character in ‘Mortdecai’)

We did not have to wait for a revision of our own National Security Law under article 23 of the Basic Law to feel the reverberations of the imposition of similar legislation by the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress (NPC) in Hong Kong, on June 30.
This week, the Cultural Affairs Bureau (IC) removed a book authored by activist Joshua Wong (I am Not a Child) from the Seac Pai Van public library, as reported by Hoje Macau.
According to the IC, the book was removed from the shelves for analysis of its contents. In a reply to the Portuguese daily, the IC explained that they are conducting one of their regular inspections on the catalog of public libraries, which operate under the UNESCO Manifest. This internationally accepted manifest repudiates the selection of a collection for public libraries based on ideological considerations, and encourages pluralism.
The removal of Wong’s book was exposed on social media posts which affirm that the title was available at the library as recently as last month.
We generally do not believe in coincidences, but particularly not in this one.
So, for those who came out fast in defense of a revision of the current legislation adopted in Macau under article 23, in 2009, they should rest easy. We do not need an enhancement for our local government departments to act in accordance with the draconian legislation imposed on the people of our sister SAR.
To be completely honest, we do not need a National Security Law at all. Acts of vandalism, crimes against property or the authority and the symbols of state and government, and against the “one country” integrity are all covered by the general law.
Look at the Hong Kong situation. During the year-long protests, some regrettably violent, the Hong Kong police force made 8,981 arrests between June 9, 2019, and May 29, 2020. 1,547 were prosecuted and are awaiting trial. 5,724 people are on bail pending further investigation or pending further investigation after refusing bail.
According to data compiled by SCMP, 1,439 were released unconditionally “but could still face investigation.”
All these alleged offenders were detained, questioned, prosecuted before the implementation of the National Security Law with the pre-existing general legislation that deals with criminal activities.
So, why overrule the Legislative Council of Hong Kong and, according to constitutional experts, even violate the Basic Law?
The answer may be found in a paradox.
You may already have forgotten – in the middle of all this chaos, disinformation, and the pandemic – but the initial single request of millions of peaceful demonstrators was, solely, the withdrawal of an unpopular extradition bill promoted by Carrie Lam.
For months, chief executive Lam stubbornly refused to appease the protesters – comprising basically half of Hong Kong’s population – only to suspend the bill in the first instance and finally drop it when the situation had already escalated to such violence and disruption that brought the financial hub to a standstill.
Why didn’t she drop the extradition bill right after the first two demonstrations that brought to the streets of Hong Kong, on average, a person per household?!
The answer is that bill was useless in the eyes of the mainland legislator.
Under the new law, extradition is there, with aggravation even, as some crimes deemed more “serious” or “complex” may be trialed by mainland courts.
Under the new legislation, police have been granted sweeping powers, including the ability to conduct raids without a warrant and secretly monitor suspects.
And if it is incredibly rewarding to those who obey, it is even more so to those who denounce those who deviate from the official line.
A rumor is all it takes.

Categories Editorial Macau Opinion