This article originally appeared on VICE ASIA.
China's parliament passed a resolution to develop legislation to “safeguard national security” in Hong Kong. Beijing will entirely bypass the local legislature in Hong Kong and implant the notorious “national security law” here. The act and the law together, aim to crack down on the momentum of the democratic movement built up since June 2019.
Taking advantage of the global pandemic it created, Beijing commences a series of incurious descent on Hong Kong’s autonomy while the world’s hands are tied by the virus. In April, it attempted to institutionalize “supervisory power” of China’s Liaison Office. Now, Beijing further tightens its grip over the city by circumventing the Legislative Council of Hong Kong, inserting the national security law directly into Annex III of the Basic law, then it will be immediately effective after it is promulgated by the Hong Kong government.
Beijing, amid the virus, is desperate to have Hong Kong fully under control. As its propaganda massively backfired and Taiwan is increasingly receiving global praise, it finds itself no longer able to maintain its influence under the new cold war. Hong Kong, being its channel for foreign funds and investments, is of vital strategic importance under such dynamics. Yet, to Beijing’s dismay, Hong Kong-ers have demonstrated repeatedly their reluctance to comply with its dictatorship since the handover, especially during the movement last year.
Implementing the national security law is an act to retaliate on the movement, to dissolve its main components: street protests, local electoral institutions, and international advocacy efforts. Beijing targets protestors and electoral candidates and attempts to cut Hong Kong off from support from the international community.
All protests and other calls for democracy, regardless of its nature, in the city will be classified as attempts of subversions of China's authority: activists who have participated in advocacy for international support will be barred from elections or imprisoned; local and international non-governmental organisations will possibly subject to prosecution; criticism against China will be conceived as successive acts; dissenters and human rights defenders will possibly be arrested secretly by the new national security body in the city.
This law works towards ripping out all democratic aspirations in Hong Kong.
The price to pay
The law not only deprives Hong Kong of its last bit of autonomy and freedom, but also hinders the world. Hong Kong’s role as the international financial hub and as the safe harbour for dissidents against China, are the reason why it is so important globally. China has broken its promise of “one country, two system” and “high degree of autonomy” in the Sino-British Joint Declaration that was ratified under international law. Top-down insertion of the national security law is a blatant violation of international law and threatens the world to remain silence.
The world can no longer afford an unprincipled and failed “change for trade policy” towards China. The International community have consistently prioritized trade with China over other enlightened interests, like democracy and human rights, ignoring horrible deeds Beijing has committed systematically: incarcerating 1.5 million Uyghurs and Kazakhs in interment and labour camps, covering-up details on COVID-19, threatening Taiwan with military annexation, and suppressing Hong Kong’s democracy movement.
States should have slowly come to realise it endangers world peace, security and public health of the world – this is the high price for appeasing and being overly dependent on China. The time has come to ask if such a regime is still to be actively supported.
The world must free itself from the illusion that China would liberalize and democratize itself as a result of enterprises’ pockets filled with Chinese money through trade. China has violated the Joint Declaration, and broken international law – expecting China to abide by rules and trade fairly is overly optimistic and close to naïve.
Stand with Hong Kong
Hong Kong-ers have demonstrated incorruptible will in fighting against the authoritarian rule of Beijing. Forfeiting Hong Kong is not an option as this is the place we call home: there is no future for us if our home is compromised. The fight for democracy and human rights is one both Hong Kong-ers and the world have to win.
We call upon stakeholders from all sectors to express opposition against the new law. Given the law is highly controversial, the leaders of the free world ought to consider imposing sanctions on China and reconsider if Hong Kong’s special trade status can still be held, as once it is in effect, Hong Kong will be assimilated into another Chinese city under CCP’s authoritarian regime—without rule of law nor human rights protections.
Hong Kong will possibly lose its attractiveness towards foreign investments, hence we urge companies to voice out and oppose the passing of the law. Only by maintaining the city’s autonomy can it maintain business interest.
We ask the world, once again: Stand with Hong Kong.
Joshua Wong is the secretary general of Demosisto. Glacier Kwong is a digital rights and political activist in Hong Kong.