For those of you who are not in Hong Kong, it’s important to realize that even many pro-Beijing business tycoons let it be known that they opposed the 2019 extradition bill because it would have shattered the protections afforded by being in Hong Kong, including those that undergird the stability of the financial and business sectors.
Now, the new national security law goes much further, obviating the need for anything like the extradition bill. Chinese security agencies and police bureaus are expected to be set up or operate in Hong Kong, to handle everything from supposed subversion and illegal democratic activities to the enforcement of patriotic education in schools.
If the extradition bill was a rifle aimed at our rights, the national security legislation is a machine gun.
Mr. Xi is no doubt taking advantage of this peculiar moment, while the free world, especially the United States, is engulfed in the coronavirus pandemic. Why let a good crisis go to waste? Virus or not, though, Hong Kong was always going to be tamed under the Chinese Communist Party. As far back as July 2003 and that earlier attempt at passing national security legislation, under Hong Kong’s own Basic Law, the Chinese Communist Party was already working at undoing the city’s unique freedoms.
And back then, like today, even as China represses Hong Kong, it tries to convince the world that it is acting legitimately and openly; it invokes process and procedures, laws and regulations. This is a charade, and it has long ago been dismissed by most Hong Kong people.
Yet the Chinese Communist Party’s propaganda machine rolls on, offering a few talking points to Beijing loyalists and a semblance of cover to compliant governments and an international business community that seem convinced, wrongly, they can keep making money in China without being sullied by its politics.
Hong Kong is not alone in being threatened by a Communist Party seeking to expand China’s presence on the world stage. Never has China been so aggressive on so many fronts: with Taiwan, in the South China Sea, at the Indian border and worldwide, through its influence networks and United Front operations. Mr. Xi’s repressive moves in Hong Kong are related to those other aggressions. And all of these are related to his need to justify to the Chinese Communist Party why he should be ruler for life.