Comment /

Hong Kong

On the 30th of June, Beijing forced upon the people of Hong Kong a despotic law under the guise of ensuring National Security. This law strips Hong Kong of the precious autonomy and freedoms that have stood it apart from communist China since 1949. One country, two systems no-more.

This is a decisive blow, and all-but-surely ends the hope that democracy and liberalism were in Hong Kong’s near future. To speak of independence is to break this law. To subvert the power of the Chinese Central Government is to break this law. To collude with foreign forces is to break this law. To do these things anywhere in the world is to break this law. Well, to hell with that. Hong Kong of a right ought to be a free and independent state. Sentence me to life imprisonment. Lock me up. And screw the anthem too. Hong Kong protesters hold banned Tiananmen vigil as anthem law is passed
The Guardian
4th June 2020

The imposition of this National Security Law is a flagrant breach of the Joint Declaration between China and the United Kingdom, agreed at the handover in 1997. Not that China cares – the law comes in to effect on the anniversary of the handover, a deliberate slight aimed at the UK and Hong Kong’s democrats. The old guarantees of freedom and autonomy agreed in said declaration have been discarded, declared to no-longer have any practical significance by the Chinese state’s talking heads. China says Sino-British Joint Declaration on Hong Kong no longer has meaning
30th June 2017
The few shreds of legal and political autonomy left to Hong Kong are merely there to dress the windows. This law criminalises whatever speech, protest and political activity the Chinese Central Government wishes it to, and strips Hong Kong’s judiciary of its independence. Further repression will follow shortly.

It’s hard to see what else we could have expected to happen once the prescribed fifty year transition period came to an end. In the giddy days of the late nineties, with the Berlin wall peacefully pulled down, the Soviet Union in tatters and some even being so bold as to proclaim The End of History The End of History and The Last Man
Francis Kukuyama
Published 1992
ISBN 978-0-02-910975-5
, perhaps naïveté set in and we though fifty years would be enough to see off communism in China too? Or that China in her benevolence would deign to grant Hong Kong perpetual autonomy? Certainly seems naïve in hindsight. China is a rather different beast to the Soviet Union, and learnt its lessons.

Many of the fiercest champions of Liberalism in Hong Kong have been the young. University students, even High-School students have joined and led protests and movements in defiance against China. They have fought for a vision of Hong Kong that is truly free. They have bled and died for the rights of Hong Kongers, yet many of them are too young to have been born before 1997, and thus don’t qualify for BNO status. The path to British Citizenship ought to be extended to them too.

Nathan Law 羅冠聰, Agnes Chow 周庭, Jeffrey Ngo 敖卓軒 and Joshua Wong 黃之鋒 are figureheads of Hong Kong’s struggle for democracy best known for their central roles in the Occupy movement and the Umbrella revolution of 2014. The passing of this National Security Law has compelled them to disband and resign-from the pro-democracy party Demosistō 香港眾志 fearing the group would be immediately targeted if they did not do so. Hong Kong national security law: future of city’s localist movement hangs in balance as groups disband, activists quit or flee city
South China Morning Post
30th June 2020
Under this new law, they cannot continue to operate without fear of arrest, imprisonment without trial, and the very real possibility of torture Hong Kong: Arbitrary arrests, brutal beatings and torture in police detention revealed
Amnesty International
19th September 2019

Simon Cheng: Former UK consulate worker says he was tortured in China
20th November 2019

For the Record: An Enemy of the State 紀錄:國家的敵人 (Facebook)
Simon Cheng
19th November 2019
on the mainland. Nathan Law has left Hong Kong to continue campaign for democracy and the rights of Hong Kongers from London in exile.

The olive-branch extended by the UK’s Foreign Secretary National security legislation in Hong Kong: Foreign Secretary’s statement in Parliament
Statement, Dominic Raab, Foreign Secretary
1st July 2020
giving a route to British citizenship for all Hong Kongers with British National Overseas status is just the beginning of our moral responsibility to Hong Kong. We cannot kid ourselves that this is nearly enough, nor more than a triumph in defeat, a Dunkirk moment. Hong Kong as we know it is lost if Hong Kongers’ only hope is to flee to lifeboat Britain.

Weakness from the West, the failure to meet continuous, creeping transgressions with a substantial response are signals to China that she may continue her campaign of repression without fear of reproach. We must shake our habitual underestimation of the Chinese Communist’s sense of purpose and very real intent to do as they say they will.

China is not operating on a level where she much cares for multilateral political declarations of concern UN Human Rights Council 44: Cross-regional statement on Hong Kong and Xinjiang
UK Government
30th June 2020
and stuffy diplomatic denouncements of her actions – these are seen in Beijing as nothing more than limp pooh-poohs. Of course they’re always met with feigned-offence and reciprocal denunciation from the Chinese, but we would be fools to take this as evidence that we hit the mark. It comes as no surprise that the joint statement made to the UN Human Rights Council against the National Security Law and the grotesque abuse of Uyghurs in Xinjiang that was delivered by the UK’s ambassador, co-signed by twenty-four other nations was genteel instead of unequivocally damning. Sure, it’s better than nothing, but how many more times can we express our deep concern?! Only retaliation that actually hurts might cause China to change tack.

The United States are leading the imposition of economic sanctions against China. Hong Kong: US passes sanctions as nations condemn new law
2nd July 2020
Hong Kong enjoys special customs and tax treatment from many different countries – unlike the mainland, and nearby sprawling industrial cities of Shenzhen and Guangzhou. Much of these cities’ exports, and a great deal of Chinese trade passes through Hong Kong’s markets and ports on its way to the rest of the world, and these sanctions threaten to stem that flow. HSBC, Swire, and other big businesses based in Hong Kong will be hit hard by these US sanctions – despite expressing support China has HSBC’s taipan in a vice with few options but to fall in line with the security law for Hong Kong in the bank’s biggest market
South China Morning Post
4th July 2020
for the new National Security law.

The UK must now follow suit, and impose so-called Magnitsky sanctions of its own. The discomfort over Huawei’s involvement isn’t the UK’s 5G network has redoubled and the subsequent government U-turn was inevitable. Frankly it would have been some kind of sick joke to allow Huawei to saunter in and sell millions of pounds worth of equipment to the UK’s network providers now.

The Chinese regime’s drive to invest Chinese money overseas and win business for state-backed companies is a strategic move as much as it is economic. A hermit kingdom cannot threaten to impose sanctions of its own – but a global economic power can. Australia knows this too well, stuck between a hard place and the rocks they need to sell to power China and their own economy. China is Australia’s largest trading partner, sucking in vast quantities of Australia’s coal and other natural resources. This interdependence is a clear example of how the global trade and cooperation that has led to astounding growth and international peace worldwide in the latter half of the twentieth century also engenders a dependence on another for trade and commerce that dulls the edge of our diplomatic swords. Beijing’s intimidation of Australia over its independent inquiry on the origin of coronavirus and the subsequent large-scale sophisticated cyberattacks Government urged to name and shame countries launching cyber attacks
Sydney Morning Herald
21st July 2020

China’s cyber attacks against Australia should be of great concern
Canberra Times
23rd June 2020

Cyber attack in Australia: China the chief suspect behind attack
19th June 2020
executed from China are now the expected consequences of pointing a finger in China’s direction and wagging it.

We have grown accustomed to the USA being unchallenged in its ability to project power globally, but it China has every intention of developing a long reach of its own. It is China’s publicly stated policy to absorb Taiwan by 2049. Territorial aspirations towards Taiwan, the South China Sea, Kashmir and Tibet must be taken seriously. In the modern post-colonial West, the mindset of territorial expansion and duty to the motherland may seem comical, a relic of the past to be scoffed at. But to China these are very real and serious ambitions, and Beijing is a skilled player in this long game.

China has made her intentions clear – and so must we. Our ultimate goal can be no less than the destruction of the Chinese Communist Party, the end of dictatorship in China, and the advent of liberalism, freedom and democracy for the Chinese people. Nothing less is acceptable, and anything less would deny over a billion people the right to self-determination – or did we not really mean it when we added that right to the United Nations Charter? This annexation of Hong Kong, the genocide currently being pursued against millions of Uighurs, and the Tiananmen Square massacre of 1989 are among the myriad crimes that China must answer for, however long it takes.

The liberal world rightfully doesn’t want to be drawn in to a new game of global power plays, conquest and military might. The past centuries have been a painful experience of just that, and need no repeating. Yet we are already past the point of averting a new Cold War with China. We’re in it already. The question now is whether we will continue appeasement, to think mere pieces of paper can guarantee peace in our time – or if we learnt that lesson in the 1930s.

Fight, for freedom. Stand with Hong Kong.


Further Reading

Don’t Believe the China Hype
The Atlantic, 16th June 2020

The Party’s Grip – Under a new national-security law, Hong Kong is already a changed city
The Economist, 11th July 2020

China’s Hidden Camps
BBC, 24th October 2018

Stephen Daisley – The West failed to stop the Holocaust – now we’re failing the Uyghurs
The Spectator, 21st July 2020