Back in 1997, when the UK’s lease on Hong Kong expired, did it seem plausible that China would maintain a “one country, two systems” policy for fifty years? I was not yet a teenager, so I have no idea what the general thinking might have been. But for the last fifteen years or so, it’s been increasingly clear to me that China’s claims about Hong Kong’s independence were laughable. Once President Xi came to power in 2013 amid a wave of neo-Maoism, surely it was obvious that the old pragmatism was dead–and some of the old pragmatists along with it.
So I was saddened, but not at all surprised, to read that Beijing has decided to impose an anti-speech, anti-protest, anti-democracy law on the island under the guise of public safety.
After steadily eroding Hong Kong’s political freedoms, Beijing signaled that the national security law will be a new tool that allows it to directly tackle the political dissent that erupted on Hong Kong’s streets last year. The months-long and sometimes violent protests began last June and fizzled out only over public health concerns related to the coronavirus outbreak.
The new tactic marks an escalation in Beijing’s crackdown in the former British colony and the clearest indication that it views Hong Kong as a restive region to be brought to heel after last year’s protests.[…]
“The social unrest last year showed that the Hong Kong government was unable to handle passing [national security legislation] on its own,” said Ng, a Beijing loyalist who has for years pushed for a similar law. “Hong Kong’s status will be sacrificed with or without this law if society is unstable due to the protesters’ violence.”
Zhang Yesui, the spokesman for the NPC session, said in comments to Chinese media that Hong Kong is an “inseparable” part of China and that national security is the cornerstone of stability in the country.
(Editor’s note: much–most?–of the violence during last year’s protests was by the police.)
I don’t have much to add.
Afernoonish open thread!