Chinese human rights lawyer Chen Qiushi confirmed that he has returned safely to mainland China after visiting Hong Kong last week to observe the protests and broadcast video commentaries about them on social media. Chen was forced to end his trip ahead of schedule after receiving pressure from Chinese authorities. South China Morning Post’s Laurie Chen reports:
While in Hong Kong, Chen uploaded several video diaries and observations about the protests to the Twitter-like Weibo, where his account has more than 770,000 followers. The diaries have since been deleted from his Weibo account but are still available on YouTube.
Chen indicated to the South China Morning Post on Wednesday evening that he was safe, then explained in audio messages on Thursday morning that he had returned to Beijing.
“No one sent me or invited me to Hong Kong. I went purely out of my curiosity about what was happening there,” Chen said.
“In my broadcast online, I only reported objectively what I saw and what I learned in the city.” [Source]
Chen explained that he wanted to see what was happening in Hong Kong for himself since he could not take filtered mainland state media reports at face value. Mainland coverage of the rallies have focused mainly on violent clashes and official sources have heavily criticized the protesters for disrupting order in the city. Censorship instructions were issued to mainland media earlier this week calling for specially curated reports on the protests to be promoted over others. Before his trip was called to an end, Chen was able to share a dozen videos showing a different side of the protests to his mainland followers on Weibo. From Qin Chen at Inkstone:
“I’m not a mainland agent, nor a journalist. I’m an ordinary mainland Chinese citizen, making a living as an attorney,” said Chen in Saturday broadcast.
“Hong Kong is going through a historical period, I want to come here and bear witness to this history,” he added.
Chen’s reporting and analysis put him squarely at odds with the nationalistic reporting from some official state-run media
In one video broadcast on Sunday morning, hours before a massive crowd of protesters marched in a peaceful assembly, Chen explained that most demonstrators were, in fact, not out for blood.
“Let me explain some concepts to you all. One is ‘peaceful,’ one is ‘aggressive’ and one is ‘no division.’ More than 2 million people have participated in the protests so far. But not all of them are rioters,” he said. [Source]
CDT has translated the last video Chen filmed before leaving Hong Kong:
Good evening everyone.
This is Qiushi.
Right now it is approximately 7PM on the evening of August 20.
I am at the Hong Kong airport and must immediately fly back to mainland China.
Why am I leaving so abruptly?
Because there is really a lot of pressure right now.
I’ve been getting calls from the Ministry of Public Security, the Ministry of Justice, my legal association, and my law firm.
“Qiushi quit staying in that sensitive place.”
“If you don’t come back right now no one is going to be able to protect you.”
In particular, my colleagues and my superiors might also become implicated.
This means that they will be held responsible for poor management.
But the reality is that I secretly came here by myself without telling anyone.
This really doesn’t have anything to do with other people.
The last thing I want is to see others become implicated because of me.
That is why I must quickly head back to give my colleagues and superiors an explanation.
The reason why I came to Hong Kong this time is that I believe we, the Mandarin media, should not be missing at such an important historical moment.
More than one million people gathered on August 18.
Thirty to 40 media organizations and journalists from all over the world were present at the event.
I’ve been trying the entire time to find a Chinese mainland journalist in their midst but it was very difficult.
That is why I am doing my own reporting.
But actually I am not too pleased with my own reporting.
Not to say that I didn’t get to interview Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor in person. As for those mask-wearing black-shirt protesters, those gun-firing policemen, or those rod-wielding white-shirt protesters, I also wasn’t able to interview and communicate with any of them up close.
You see, what kind of interview is this?
Basically I am leaving too abruptly.
There are so many topics that I don’t have time to cover.
I really want to look into the income levels of ordinary Hong Kong residents, their rental situation.
To find out whether it is true that they are a bunch of useless people who can’t survive and are therefore out to cause trouble, as it is said online.
I want to look into Hong Kong people’s average education situation.
I want to investigate election bribery,
To see whether it is true that there are people who would pick up a bus full of seniors from nursing homes to vote during elections.
Whether it is true that there are people in one building voting with tens of hukous.
What is the brown soil problem?
What is real estate hegemony?
Whether it is true that Hong Kong still has lots of land that can be used to build homes, but real estate developers are refusing to develop on those land, forcing the government to build low-cost housing. There is nothing you can do about it. You have to buy land from me.
I wasn’t able to investigate any of these issues.
I have to go in a state of confusion.
I feel very sorry to both my fellow citizens in Hong Kong and the mainland.
I was not able to deliver the most truthful and objective side of things to all of you.
These days, except from being tired as a dog, there wasn’t actually much substantial gain.
With this Hong Kong weather, it is sizzling when the sun is out and suffocating when the sun is not out.
When it finally gets windy and starts to rain, there stands more than one million people getting soaked for three, four hours.
Tell me, what are they after?
How much money would you have to spend to get more than one million people to endure this with you？
My colleague said to me: “Qiushi, us lawyers should just focus on our work, why are you doing this?”
I said: “Have you realized, the Hong Kong incident started over whether a bill should be passed. What they are struggling over has always been whether police enforcement complies with regulations; whether the election of legislators meets statuary procedures; whether the Hong Kong Basic Law has been thoroughly implemented and executed; whether the normative provisions of the Sino-British Joint Declaration have been implemented and executed. Everything comes down to the law. That’s why the Hong Kong problem is in essence not a political problem, it is a legal problem.”
As a legal practitioner, facing one of the world’s biggest legal conflicts and disputes, if we don’t come to the front lines to investigate, to research, who do we expect to come examine this?
Do we expect TikTok influencers and Kuaishou brothers to come investigate?
That’s why when we speak of legal practitioners, I need to show off a bit.
Let me show everyone my lawyer license.
Right, why show off?
Because it might not belong to me anymore after I go back.
I’m not some really smart person.
It took me three years to get this license.
What I am doing right now is not something that a smart person would do, right.
If you ask me whether it is worth it that I used these three days to destroy my three years of hard work,
it is definitely not worth it.
But there’s nothing I can do.
I am a person with this kind of personality.
There are clever people in the world hiding behind the scenes, taking care of their family and children.
Then there need to be people charging to the front, and taking responsibility.
This is the path that I chose for myself and I am willing to take responsibility alone.
I really don’t want to implicate any one else.
That’s why right now I need to go back to give my family, my superiors, and my colleagues an explanation.
There are even people giving me shady advice: “Qiushi, I’ll give you money, hurry and go hide overseas for a while.” I said: “That’s nonsense. Once I accept the money I won’t be able to make things clear anymore.”
And also, I am Chinese. That is my motherland, that is my home. I will go back no matter what happens.
I also believe that the One-China Policy will not change. We have to build a unified China.
But the problem is, simply being unified is not enough.
What we need is a unified, but also a civilized and progressive China.
To build a civilized and progressive China, we can not resort to violence. It should only be done through law. Using guns can only bring about unity, but it cannot bring about civility and rule of law.
That’s why I have to come here, to promote cross-strait communication and dialogue.
I don’t want asymmetrical information and misunderstanding to lead to disputes and even violent confrontations.
Here, I want to once again thank my superiors and colleagues for their help and support.
I thank the netizens, whether you like my channel or not.
I thank individuals in academia, law, and the media industry.
And those I’ve never met who are now saying to protect me, pleading for me.
I don’t know you but I am still thankful for everything you have done for me.
Thank you all.
This year is the third year since I got my lawyer’s license.
Like what Nezha said, three years is very short, but I had a lot of fun.
One has to shoulder one’s own life.
I am Qiushi.
Thank you everyone.
Additional videos by Chen can be viewed via CDT Chinese and on Twitter.