By: Dr. Yang Jianli
The world is possibly witnessing another Tiananmen Square movement as China moves to stamp out complete freedom in Hong Kong and seize control. Recently, China convicted three young Hong Kong democracy activists for organizing and taking part in an authorized gathering near the police headquarters during the 2019 pro-democracy protest and have now been given jail sentences for the same.
Hong Kong has been locked in the shadow of violent protest for more than a year now. First, the introduction of the extradition bill that triggered mass protest resulting in huge social and political crisis in decades. Although the bill was later withdrawn, China has been facing unprecedented challenges demanding full democracy. More recently, China’s introduction of National Security Law over Hong Kong which involves harsh punishment for acts of subversion, secession and collusion with any foreign forces, thus completely cracking down on Hong Kong’s autonomy.
The introduction of the draconian law practically dilutes the ‘one country two systems’ model following Hong Kong’s handover to China in 1997, which granted certain freedom for the territory including freedom of speech and assembly, an independent judiciary and democratic rights which mainland China does not enjoy. The blatant violation of such ‘joint declaration’ has not only breached international law but also mocked China’s willingness to re-orient the global order.
Hong Kong has long cherished its independent judiciary but ever since the law foisted onto Hong Kong, this legislation has granted China extensive power to crack down on a variety of political crimes which are unfavorable to China and help setup wider security apparatus in the territory, tightly constraining the civil liberties and severely crippling the country‘s autonomy.
China is becoming increasingly heated to establish its presence and enforce the new law in Hong Kong as it fears that if such a vibrant example of political freedom is exposed to its 1.4 billion citizens and that there exists an alternative to China’s bolstering authoritarian regime its citizens live under, especially when it’s a part of their own state, Xi Jinping’s ambition to realize ‘great rejuvenation’ will hold no waters.
Under the rubberstamping of stringent new security law imposed in Hong Kong, protests are illegal and if conducted will be characterized as terrorism, any criticism of the Chinese government and abusing the Chinese flag will be regarded as a criminal act. Moreover, mild criticisms of Xi will be categorized as sedition and punishable with long jail terms.
In addition, repressing Hong Kong’s freedom of speech and association which are of a possible threat of spreading in mainland China. Thus, crushing democratic freedom in Hong Kong is the only way that China sees to realize its greater and greedy ambition of absorbing Hong Kong.
However, China will definitely fail in its long-term strategy to bring Hong Kong into China’s way of life as it continues to opt to impose fear. Winning the hearts and minds of Hong Kong citizens will have long been gone in vain.
Owing to the fact that China under Xi Jinping uses repressive policies at home, has tough control over its society, media, internet, etc, this law is definitely destined to bring harsh legal practices to Hong Kong which are common in mainland China, be subject to danger of harsh unaccountable practices. Moreover, with this new extensive control, China could track people online, investigate Hong Kong internet platforms, grip electronic records which are sensitive to people. Under such extreme circumstances, where a country‘s autonomy is put at stake, stability is unlikely to return in the short-term. The banner of China’s ‘peaceful rise’ will definitely prove to be a mirage.
As actions speak louder than words, China must fully realize that Hong Kong, being the hub of foreign direct investment and its dependence on Hong Kong for trade and business is extremely vast, its malicious actions will definitely shatter the growth of the Chinese economy.
China must understand that the more it attempts to crack down on Hong Kong, the more it will crystallize and solidify the resistance.
The international community must resolutely build a strong alliance against China’s Communist party’s increasing aggression so that the democratic values of a country are not harmed and thus, establish a peaceful global community.