A pro-China petition circulating in Hong Kong claiming to include signatures by famous artists and celebrities featured names of people unaware the petition existed, some of the celebrities in question said this weekend.
The Hong Kong Free Press (HKFP) gathered several confused statements from artists and entertainers who said no one asked them to sign a petition in support of the communist “national security” law Beijing’s National People’s Congress (NPC) passed last week, which allows the Communist Party extensive powers to detain and silence anyone the Party believes is a challenge to the stability of the regime. One “signatory” said it appeared that someone less famous with the same name as him signed the petition.
Beijing boasted that a petition in favor of the law had attracted two million signatures as recently as this Monday.
According to the HKFP, the petition read in part, “[we] fully understand safeguarding national security is the utmost importance to Hong Kong, and [we] support the decision of the National People’s Congress (NPC) to impose national security laws in Hong Kong.”
“[We] hope that when the NPC Standing Committee makes the relevant laws to block national security loopholes, it can at the same time guarantee the industry’s normal level of creative freedom and development,” the petition reportedly concluded. At the time of the HKFP’s publishing, the petition had over 2,600 signatories.
Signatories reportedly included several prominent Chinese celebrities. Some, such as martial arts movie star Jackie Chan, have long histories of supporting China’s communist regime.
“Actor and former singer Ram Chiang’s Chinese name was on the list of signatories. But he clarified via his Facebook fan page on Sunday that he had not signed the petition,” the outlet noted, adding that Chiang confirmed that it appeared someone with the same name had signed the petition.
“I have no idea where the statement came from, I was never asked to sign anything,” another artist, pianist Jacqueline Li, told Hong Kong’s Stand News after her name appeared on the petition.
At least one other celebrity, Taiwanese actress Barbie Hsu, said she was not aware of the petition at all, much less that she had allegedly signed it.
Hong Kong has seen a year of ongoing protests against increasing attempts by the Chinese Communist Party to abandon its promise to allow the city democracy and autonomy. As Hong Kong was for decades a British colony, it has an extensive history of Western-style civil rights that do not exist in China. Last year, pro-China Hong Kong officials attempted to pass a law that would have allowed China to extradite anyone in Hong Kong accused of violating Chinese laws – which, among other activities – ban unapproved worship, criticism of the regime or dictator Xi Jinping, and other basic civic activity.
Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam announced in September that the city’s legislature would table the extradition bill. The Beijing-passed “national security” law, however, allows China much broader control over detaining Hong Kong residents for political reasons.
Included in the activities the NPC law allows police action against is support for “secession,” meaning an end to communist rule of Hong Kong, and “attempts to subvert state power.” Many fear that police can now arrest Hongkongers for acts as simply as waving an American flag or singing Hong Kong protest songs. The popular protest “Liberate Hong Kong, Revolution of Our Time” can also be interpreted as an act of “secession.”
Chinese propaganda outlets are attempting to use petitions to show that Hong Kong residents agree with the law. Xinhua reported on Monday that nearly 3 million Hong Kong residents had signed a supportive petition organized by “a newly established organization,” the “United Front Supporting National Security Legislation.” The Chinese state regularly fabricates “groups” that support it and has used the tactic to claim popular support in Hong Kong for the Communist Party throughout the past year.
Xinhua did not make clear if this was the same petition that the HKFP exposed as having fraudulent signatures on it. Carrie Lam reportedly signed the “United Front” petition.
Artists, academics, and entertainers organized a separate, grassroots petition that has so far attracted over 1,500 signatures opposing the law. The text of the petition suggests that artists are particularly vulnerable under the national security law because any cultural mention of information banned in China could now become a threat to China’s “national security” – for example, discussion and mention of the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre, the 31st anniversary of which is on Thursday.
“Will a stage drama about June 4 be regarded as a subversion of state power? Will participating in an international arts festival or inviting foreign artists to Hong Kong for artistic exchange be considered as inducing intervention by foreign countries or foreign forces?” the petition asked. “Will lyrics about anti-extradition protests be labeled as inciting terrorist activities?”
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