Beijing is planning to impose new national security legislation on Hong Kong that would effectively end the autonomy of the city. The proposal has triggered a huge global outrage against the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). Chris Patten, the last British governor of Hong Kong, believes that China has betrayed the city.
Betraying Hong Kong
Patten argued that the UK government has an economic, moral, and legal duty to support the people of Hong Kong, since it is the British administration that handed over the ex-colony to China under the “one country, two systems” agreement, as decided in the 1984 Sino-British Joint Declaration. The agreement is what gives Hong Kong its freedoms and democratic system.
On the surface, the national security law seeks to ban activities related to foreign interference, secession, sedition, and terrorism, which seems like a reasonable enough justification. But in reality, these laws will simply be used by the Chinese regime to crack down on pro-democracy activists. For example, if a Hongkonger asks for stronger democratic institutions in the city and has a history linked to some pro-democracy organization in the U.S., he can be charged with associating with “foreign enemies.”
Patten points out that the national security legislation will destroy the Sino-British declaration, and is an indication of a new Chinese dictatorship. He wants the West to stop with its foolish chase after Chinese money and warned Britain to think carefully before allowing Chinese equipment maker, Huawei, to set up a 5G network in the country. “We should stop being fooled that somehow at the end of all the kowtowing there’s this great pot of gold waiting for us. It’s always been an illusion… We keep on kidding ourselves that unless we do everything that China wants we will somehow miss out on great trading opportunities. It’s drivel,” according to Reuters.
The draft of the proposed law has to be approved by China’s National People’s Congress (NPC) before getting implemented in Hong Kong. It allows the communist regime to set up agencies in Hong Kong to “safeguard national security” when required. Thousands of Hong Kong citizens recently held a massive protest against the Chinese government, clearly unhappy about the national security law. At least 180 people were arrested by the police.
The fact that people are on the streets despite the COVID-19 threat indicates that they are more worried about the danger posed by the Communist Party than the infectious virus. Many protesters waved flags and called for the independence of Hong Kong. Back in 2003, China tried to introduce national security laws into Hong Kong, a plan that was eventually shelved in the wake of mass protests. This time around, Beijing seems to be hell-bent on ensuring that these laws get passed.
Support for Hong Kong
Many countries have announced their support for Hong Kong, with politicians from 23 nations issuing a joint statement criticizing the Chinese government for trying to impose the national security law in the city. Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen has pledged support for Hongkongers and promised to provide “necessary assistance” to those who need help. She warned that the law will erode judicial independence and freedom in Hong Kong in a big way.
In the U.S., Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has delayed a report assessing whether Hong Kong is sufficiently autonomous. If the assessment turns out to be negative due to China’s push for the national security law, the U.S. administration might decide to withdraw the special economic treatment given to Hong Kong. Such a move will be catastrophic for the region’s economy.