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Tiananmen author warns of HK crackdown

Link, co-editor of the best-selling Tiananmen Papers, says he was detained briefly on his way into Hong Kong
Link, co-editor of the best-selling Tiananmen Papers, says he was detained briefly on his way into Hong Kong  

By Willy Wo-Lap Lam
CNN Senior China Analyst

(CNN) -- American Sinologist Perry Link says there has been a deterioration in the freedom of expression in Hong Kong and the situation could get much worse if an anti-subversion law is introduced.

Link, a world-renowned China expert and co-editor of the best-selling Tiananmen Papers, was detained for 45 minutes by Hong Kong immigration Wednesday before he was allowed in.

Speaking at the Hong Kong Foreign Correspondents' Club Thursday, Link said it was possible state security authorities in Beijing wanted to extend their regime of control to Hong Kong.

He added another, perhaps more probable reason could be anxiety on the part of the authorities of the Special Administration Region (SAR) of Hong Kong to ensure that no "troublemaker" would be in town during the upcoming visit of Chinese President Jiang Zemin.

Jiang is due in Hong Kong Sunday to celebrate the fifth anniversary of Chinese rule -- and Hong Kong immigration and police have also turned away a number of overseas Falun Gong practitioners in the run-up to the occasion.

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Irrespective of the reason behind his unhappy experience at immigration, however, Link said, a "chilling effect" had been set off around the world.

"People who want to come to Hong Kong may think, 'I'd better be more careful'," said the professor.

Referring to other cases of overseas-based intellectuals who had recently been barred from Hong Kong, Link said serious doubts had been cast on the "one country, two systems" principle.

"When the Communists first went into the cities [in the mainland] in 1949, they made promises that nothing would be changed and they asked the people to carry on with what they were doing," he told an audience of mostly Hong Kong-based correspondents and diplomats.

"Yet one year later, Beijing started the campaign against landlords and capitalists."

Link, who was a friend of a number of dissidents active in the 1989 pro-democracy movement in Beijing, spent a few months in Hong Kong immediately after the Tiananmen Square massacre.

"In 1989, the [Hong Kong] media was highly critical of events in China and journalists were defensive of Hong Kong's independent values," he said.

Link said the atmosphere of freedom of expression and defiance against Beijing had largely gone when he revisited the SAR in March last year.

The Sinologist added he shared the concern of a lot of Hong Kong people that phenomena such as self-censorship would get much worse if the SAR administration were to enact an anti-subversion law.

Senior officials including Vice-Premier Qian Qichen have recently indicated there is a need for anti-subversion legislation in Hong Kong so as to prevent the SAR from becoming a base of subversion against central authorities.

Link pointed out Beijing had become increasingly sophisticated in inducing fear and self-censorship among Chinese and foreigners alike, a phenomenon he likened to an "anaconda in the chandelier."

"The giant snake curled round the chandelier does not need to move or be specific about its threats," he said.

"Its silent message is 'you yourself decide what to do,' after which everyone below makes his or her large and small adjustments -- all quite 'naturally'."

The professor said unlike the Soviets, Beijing does not lay down specific dos and don'ts, using vagueness as an effective weapon.

"Vagueness frightens more people than specific injunctions," Link said. "Vagueness pressures an individual to curtail a wider range of activities."

"Hong Kong's [chief executive] Tung Chee-hwa is also living under an anaconda in the chandelier," he said.

Link indicated Tung also had to do his tea-leaf reading about what Beijing was up to -- and to make adjustments accordingly.




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