Hong Kong

A Huge Blow to Hongkongers' Freedoms

New legislation proposed in Beijing signals the likely end of the "one country, two systems" policy that has allowed Hong Kong to flourish.

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China's Communist Party signaled yesterday that it plans to increase Beijing's control over Hong Kong, effectively dismantling the "one country, two systems" policy that was supposed to remain in place until 2047. 

Under the auspices of national security, China's National People's Congress intends to impose a law next week that will crack down on anti-government action, including the protests that started last June and have only subsided due to the COVID-19 outbreak. After a private meeting where the new legislation was discussed, some participants said the move is retribution for the protests, which started as a reaction to a now-withdrawn extradition bill but quickly became a broader movement against mainland China's control over Hong Kong.

The law will target "secession, subversion of state power, foreign interference and terrorism," one person at the meeting—Stanley Ng, a Hong Kong deputy to the National People's Congress—told The Washington Post

The new legislation would be a major step toward dismantling the current system, under which Beijing allows Hong Kong more political autonomy and personal freedoms than the mainland endures. The premature dismissal of "one country, two systems" would be a huge turning point in Beijing–Hong Kong relations. As I wrote in the January Reason

Save for four years of occupation by Japan during World War II, Hong Kong was a British territory from 1841 to 1997. Its political culture is distinctly British, in that Hong Kong has clear due process rights, quasi-democratic representation, and a healthy respect for civil liberties. In 1997, when the U.K. gave the island back to China, it stipulated that Beijing needed to preserve Hong Kong's political culture under a "one country, two systems" model. The agreement says China must allow Hong Kong to maintain its system of semi-autonomy through 2047.

Privately operated newspapers in Hong Kong run scathing critiques of politicians without political reprisal. This does not happen in Shenzhen. While mainland China claims to have freedom of association and expression, it also has vague anti-subversion laws that let the authorities target dissidents.

If Beijing gets its way—and it almost certainly will—the semi-autonomous territory will become much more like mainland China, and far sooner than anticipated. Hong Kong dissidents will probably respond to Beijing's heavy-handed move with another round of demonstrations, but it's unclear how those protests will proceed amid the COVID-19 pandemic and social distancing rules.

After news of the legislation broke yesterday, Bloomberg reports Hongkongers rushed Apple's Hong Kong app store and started downloading virtual private networks in droves. These make a user's browsing activity private from would-be surveillants, and they can help a person access websites that are censored in certain areas—another sign that residents of Hong Kong rightly fear fast-encroaching expanded Chinese rule and won't surrender their freedoms without a fight.

For more on Hong Kong's fight for freedom, watch this:

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  1. Nothing that cannot be solved by more free trade.

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    2. And more immigration!

      As the crackdown on all of China expands in the coming years, remember that it was the globalist policies advocated by Reason that enriched Slave Emperor Xi for decades and enabled his high tech totalitarian dystopia.

    1. Exactly. The only surprise is that it didn’t happen sooner.

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    3. It was inevitable. The only question was when.

  2. Good thing that guy in the thumbnail isn’t white; otherwise he’d be accused of rendering a Nazi salute.

  3. It isn’t about the way will Hong Kong will be going forward. It’s about China’s export driven economy collapsing in the wake of COVID-19 as western economies go into recession and western consumers stop buying, and Emperor Xi looking to nip revolution in the bud by making a Tienanmen square type example of Hong Kong.

    Just before the Tienanmen Square Massacre, there was this moment when the Chinese government came in and pulled the plug on the satellite transmitter that was sending all the major news broadcasts’ signals to the rest of the world. I think it was Dan Rather, as I remember, trying to argue with the officials pulling the plug that it was a breech of international standards. Once they’re , that’s when the real breech of international standards started.

    This is like one of those moments. The questions isn’t whether “one country, two systems” will be the same going forward. The question is whether the people of mainland China will start protesting en mass after China makes an example of Hong Kong. The anniversary of the Tienanmen Square Massacre is on June 4, and now that COVID-19 is receding, I’d guess China is likely to make a massive show of force against the protesters who are sure to show up then. That’s probably why they’re doing this now.

    Watch to see what happens at the universities in Beijing in reaction. I remember when the USSR dissolved so quickly. We could hardly believe our eyes. Calling it unexpected was an understatement.

    1. P.S. Here’s Dan Rather, towards the end of this video, respectfully protesting the Chinese government pulling the plug on his ability to broadcast ahead of the massacre.

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Af14Ksv79uk

      The CCP decided to go with perestroika sans glasnost, but the pressure for glasnost never really goes away. The can just gets kicked down the road again and again and again and again . . .

    2. If they even know that it’s happened. The government suppresses stuff like that so no one ever realizes others are also unhappy. I’ve been seeing some stuff that makes me think the FBI’s doing it to a certain extent in the US as well. Fun little side note, my roommate in college was chinese american. His dad was planning to go to the Tienanmen Square protests, but was held up finishing homework, and missed the massacre.

      1. One of my lab-mates in grad school was an MD from China. She kept faxing news of what was happening to her friends and family around China, since they could not find out from local sources. Many of her friends were academics who were involved in the protests.

        At the time I reassured her that the government couldn’t win this way….. because as long as people like her existed to bear witness and spread the news, the people would know.

        Boy, was I wrong! I thought you couldn’t keep a billion people down. Turns you, you can.

        Her plan was always to get her PhD in the US and then return home to her husband in China and resume her practice and research. Instead, she had to remain in the US to avoid getting disappeared. The head of our lab had to take her under his wing and sponsor her for visas and a green card so she could stay. I think he personally fronted about $8 grand… not chump change at the time. I don’t know if her husband was ever able to join her – we fell out of touch a couple of years later.

        Still, the US won that round. She’s a great person and a brilliant doctor. So keeping her was definitely to the good.

        1. she had to remain in the US to avoid getting disappeared. The head of our lab had to take her under his wing and sponsor her for visas and a green card so she could stay. I think he personally fronted about $8 grand…

          You write it like it was the runner-up prize instead of the greatest gift she and her offspring would ever receive.

    3. Communism is never about the economy. It is about violence, poverty and starvation. Those are the keys to subjugation of the masses. Communists know exactly how to have a thriving economy but that is not what they want.

  4. “” The question is whether the people of mainland China will start protesting en mass after China makes an example of Hong Kong.””

    I’m not so sure people of mainland China will do so just because Hong Kong is going to be required to follow the same rules they are. I would not be surprised if many on the mainland supported it.

    1. When’s the last time there was a wave of layoffs, foreclosures, and bank failures in China? They haven’t had a recession since before they joined the WTO in 2001, but that’s where they’re headed now. They refused to report a projection for GDP in Q3 today. It’s the first time they haven’t given guidance for quarterly GDP growth in 30 years–because they know it’s bad and going to get worse.

      When we have massive layoffs, a wave of bank failures, and a wave of foreclosures in the U.S., we have populist movements like the Ross Perot Reform party and the Tea Party in the U.S. pop up. Without any kind of democratic structure in China, it isn’t possible for them to let that steam off. They can’t even complain out loud or read about it on the internet.

      Meanwhile, if unemployment goes up to 10% in mainland China because of the world recession, that’s 150 million people with a ton of anger at losing their jobs, their homes, etc. in China And I think that’s why Emperor Xi is basically going after Hong Kong right now–to make an example out of them for all the would-be protesters in mainland China.

      If he thought leaving it alone would make it all go away, Emperor would do that instead. He sees doing nothing as the risky play.
      Authoritarian dictatorships are right to worry about what their people would say and do if they could.

      Like I said, watch the universities first. If we start seeing sympathetic protests in Mainland China in support of the victims of some upcoming atrocity in Hong Kong, that’ll be the sign that things are getting out of control. And as China slips into its first recession, I think things getting out of control is more likely now than ever.

      1. I don’t know, Ken. It seemed to me that most mainland Chinese believed the CCP propagands during the first round of protests.

        1. ^this. Most of them think that it’s just “ruffians” rioting, or the evil Westerners spreading dissent.

        2. It isn’t about blaming the democracy activists in Hong Kong. It’s about what 150+ million newly unemployed people do when they hear about the defiance.

          Again, I think Emperor Xi is doing this to show those unemployed workers to be what happens when they resist or protest.

          These scenarios have played out over and over again throughout history, and they often have the same kinds of results. Whether it’s King George deciding to make an example of Boston to scare the other colonies, only to have them become revolutionaries where they weren’t before, or whether it’s Qaddafi deciding to make an example of Benghazi so the rest of the country won’t rebel–only to draw them into the rebellion against him . . .

          Repression breeds revolt going back to Roman times, especially when there are a lot of unemployed around. Recessions in Europe and the U.S. means far less consumption of manufactured goods from China. Emperor Xi better hope his people are more afraid than they are angry when the country starts drowning in pink slips.

          1. what 150+ million newly unemployed people do

            10 -20% of them will be employed as poll-watchers and community activists directing the anger of their friends and neighbors at an appropriate target. Same as the D’s do here.

      2. There will be no (public) atrocities during the switch over. Any identified resistance has already been located and liquidated while the rest of the world has been worrying about this bug. Or was it a coincidence that the HK protest news petered out two months ago?

        The protest leaders are atoning for their sins a piece at a time

        Ken’s right though: the CCP is going to need a big distraction if they really are going to hit a 10% contraction economically. I think it’ll be the Philippines before anywhere else though. HK’s already been swallowed. The fight’s over.

        1. The people aren’t going to rise up to overthrow the CCP.
          China has almost 0 history of revolt against domestic rule, and that history spans almost 2,000 years

        2. “There will be no (public) atrocities during the switch over.”

          Maybe think of it this way . . .

          If Emperor Xi thinks there were any mistakes made regarding the Tienanmen Square Massacre, it’s probably that they didn’t perpetrate the massacre sooner.

          He has already tolerated Hong Kong’s democracy activists for months. Now that there are almost sure to be hundreds of millions of newly unemployed Chinese workers, why shouldn’t he go all Tienanmen sooner rather than later?

          1. Ken, we’re in agreement. The protest leaders are already dead. Except for a few loyal opposition members, who magically aren’t going to have much overt beef with the new boss.

            It will be hard to maintain positive world opinion if they go and publicly massacre in an undeniable fashion, another 10,000 of their best and brightest. So they won’t do it that way.

            On the flip side, if the Chinese do go full-mailed-fist on Hong Kong, be very afraid, because they won’t be doing that if they perceive they can maintain a handle domestically by any lesser repression. And if their perceived grip is that tenuous, the next step for them is picking a fight with someone and going on a war footing.

            1. When the Japanese initiated war with the United States, they really though they could win.

              That isn’t like what’s going through Emperor Xi’s mind right now. I suspect he’s thinking, “I don’t know if I’m going to win this, but I know I’ll lose if I do nothing”.

              1. Well, not exactly, but they did a great job of isolating from the Emperor or Tojo’s ruling council, the guys who saw what was likely to happen. There was Yamamoto’s famous statement to the effect of, ‘I can run wild for about six months, and then we’re in trouble.’

                Less well known was a group of, I want to say IJN field-grade staff officers, whose job it was to wargame what the Americans would likely do, based on projections of American industrial capabilities. They ended up predicting the end of the war, fairly close to when Downfall and Coronet would have ended up happening. The Japanese senior leaders read their report, stamped in most secret, and stuck it in the warehouse next to the Ark of the Covenant. The officers were dispersed throughout the Navy, and told to keep their mouths shut.

                If Xi’s really that afraid, and I keep beating this drum here, but still, his best move is likely to remove Trump some way, some how. I doubt Pence beats Biden, and even if he does, no way does Pence have Trump’s ability to mold public opinion. Especially against China. Lots of people would love business as usual. Further, if both Trump and Pence were to be removed, we now have President Pelosi until the election.

                Desperate stuff, but I think you’re telling me that Xi is a desperate man. Has to be a higher chance of success than the PLAN vs the USN, Japanese SDF, and Taiwan’s armed forces.

            2. picking a fight with someone and going on a war footing.

              VietNam.

              1. They could. Logistics, being overland, would be infinitely easier for them than the seaborne stuff they’d have to do for the Philippines or Taiwan.

                The Vietnamese have zero love for the Chinese, and would likely fight hard, if not terribly effectively. It would be bloody, messy, and likely not solved very quickly. It would also be a warning to other SE Asian countries that there could be dire consequences to setting themselves up to take away some of China’s manufacturing business.

  5. A Communist dictatorship lied?
    Say it ain’t so!
    This has never ever happened before.
    This will only turn out well if the CCP appropriates all of Apple.

  6. This is really sad on two levels.

    First that it’s just yet another boot stomping on a human face example.
    Second is that for all the talk of enabling alternatives to simply submitting (eg bitcoin), none of those alternatives are worth a shit when it really matters and those who are most into those alternatives also don’t give a shit that the alternatives aren’t worth a shit.

  7. One country, two systems was doomed from the start, the only question was ever when they were going to march in with the jack boots.

    Once Thatcher collected her 30 pieces of silver, the only hope Hong Kong had was that the ChiCom government would fall. It hasn’t yet, so they’re screwed.

    1. Not letting HK’ers emigrate to the UK was a particularly bitter twisting of the knife.

      You can rely on the British to, in the end, pick the shittiest, most shameless way of running from the problem. Galtieri’s bad luck that Thatcher still had her carrier, and was facing an election in about 12 months. Had he waited, he could’ve had the Falklands without firing a shot.

    2. The “return of Hong Kong” to China was a shameful act on the part of the UK. It was presented as being about national and cultural unification, but it condemned the people of HK to life under an oppressive dictatorship. The least that the UK could have done was found a way to make it easy for Hong Kongers to emigrate.

      One nation two systems was always going to end, I’m amazed that it took this long.

      1. Actually, it was presented as a 99 year lease expiring.

        1. From for British consumption, perhaps, but for the rest of the world, the PR was about ending colonialism.

        2. A lease from a government that no longer existed, post Sun Yat-Sen. The Communist takeover made it even more attenuated. And the lease was only for the New Territories, not Hong Kong Island, which was ceded to the Brits in perpetuity.

          Britain just didn’t feel like being in the colonies game anymore. Which is fine, but damnit, let the people who flourished under your freedom, return to Britain. They don’t seem to have any trouble taking in all of the Pakistanis and Indians on the planet; why give the finger to the Hong Kong residents?

          Just shameful. And typical.

        3. For Kowloon, bur not for Victoria Island. As usual, the UK went for appeasement.

      2. The “return of Hong Kong” to China…

        You can’t be given liberty. You have to take it. And then you have to hold it.

  8. Is this allowed under the deal the UK and China struck concerning the handover? If not, the UK should bring a case against China at the International Court of Justice.

    1. Yeah? How many divisions does the court have?

    2. Xi Jinping: Margaret Thatcher? Aww no! Oh, herro. great to see you again, Marge.

      Margaret Thatcher: Mr. Xi, you were supposed to guarantee the independence of Hong Kong until 2047. Now you’re gunning down citizens in the streets.

      Xi: Marge, Marge, Marge, we’ve been through this a dozen times! This is an internal affair. All the rights and freedoms of PRC citizens are guaranteed.

      Thatcher: Then why don’t you honor the agreement you signed in 1997?

      Xi: Marge you’re breakin’ my barrs here, Marge, you’re breakin’ my barrs!

      Thatcher: I’m sorry, but the UK must be firm with you! Honor the Sino-British Joint Declaration, or else!

      Xi: Or erse, what?

      Thatcher: Or else we will be very, very angry with you, and we will write you a letter telling you how angry we are.

      1. Well played.
        And I would not be at all surprised to learn that Xi has a personal shark tank

        1. Is the cat hairless, or white and fluffy?

    3. China’s already on the record as saying, and I’m paraphrasing here, “fuck off, they’re ours now, so we get to do what we like and there’s no reason to stick to the agreement.” They said something to that affect back when the protests first started and the US protested China’s actions

      1. Nevertheless, most countries do want a reputation of living up to their agreements, because if you have a reputation of not doing so, it makes it harder to get other countries to enter new agreements with you. And a finding by a neutral third party that China has not done so would carry more weight than a “finding” by a clearly interested party like the U.S. (China was presumably concerned enough with the agreement not to crack down hard on the protests while they were ongoing.)

        1. Communist China doesn’t care if other countries want to enter agreements.
          Communist China only cares if corporations from other countries want to come in and kow-tow to get access to “the market”. As long as that happens, and those corporations allow theft and spying, t’s all good for the Communist Chinese.

        2. “Nevertheless, most countries do want a reputation of living up to their agreements,”

          While other countries just care if you’re afraid of them, or willing to be bought.

        3. Everyone knew the agreement was a face-saving move for the world and that China would inevitably show what a fraud it was.

  9. All censorship enslaves.

    Knowledge is power and fascists must deny it to others.

    1. Hence the USA social media corporation actions on ‘validation’.

  10. The success of the Chinese Communist Party is really quite depressing to witness. Democracy and liberty have been in worldwide retreat since those heady days of the fall of the Soviet Union. The West is divided and weak as we wage civil wars between supporters of the welfare state and supporters of liberty. We’re all going to lose.

  11. those poor bastards. I’d be willing to trade Hong Kong for San Fran anytime.

  12. We cannot control the actions of the CCP, but we can control the US response to their actions.

    Is this really our fight? No
    Do we have a treaty with HK? No
    What then, should we do? That is the real question.

    The CCP is a menace to the entire world. We have just seen a lovely demonstration of this in 2020. It should not be a surprise, given the long history of lying, theft, deceit and treachery of the Red Chinese.

    China built a Great Wall to keep the foreign devils out. Channeling my inner George Kennan, perhaps our response should be to build a Great Wall around China proper and isolate them. We do have the means to effectively strangle their economy, and therefore CCP’s hold on power. We must do this in earnest now. We can call it “Containment Plus”. It worked before.

    And arm Taiwan to the teeth, and encourage their independence. Why? the CCP must feel tangible pain for their actions. Nothing hurts a totalitarian more than losing what they believe is theirs. Make the cost of taking Taiwan so painful that the attempt to do so may cause a revolution on the mainland.

    If we do not aggressively address Red China now while we can, we will be unable to do so later. Then what?

    1. “It worked before.”

      Yep, sure did. Kept Japan at home very well; right up until they attacked the whole world to get what was being kept from them.
      So go ahead and isolate the Communist Chinese.
      Just don’t cut the defense budget.

      1. I had the USSR in mind = containment

        The military budget can use some…massaging. I want way fewer people and way more lethal technology.

    2. The CCP is a menace to the entire world.

      Why is that? The reason China is not really that much different in size than it was 2000 years ago (compared to say Russia or the US) is because East Asian culture is collectivist to its bones which means that ‘China’ is always little more than whatever the dominant ethnicity (currently Han) can impose on the other ethnicities. The more it might try to expand its control to a ‘new’ ethnicity, the more it would lose control over the existing ones.

      The reason the CCP still exists is not because Marxism is uniquely explanatory for China but because the CCP has done an effective job linking itself as the modernized successor to Confucian ideals and Sun Yat Sen’s ideals. That has no appeal outside China. And China has little history of any sustained aggressive expansion beyond itself once it proves to be more bother than its worth.

      Even the current attempts to buy influence in Africa/S America are entirely – 100% – fueled by the US’ dependence on debt-financing for our own govt and our desire to maintain global dominance as the reserve currency issuer. They buy our debt – their central bank leverages that debt (like every private entity in the financial sector worldwide) as the reserve base for their currency creation – which can then be used to fund either internal or external growth depending on how much is needed to maintain the dollar peg.

      1. Finally a reasonable response in Reason.

    3. If Trump really wanted to rattle people’s perceptions of him, send as many requisitioned ships as the US can charter to Hong Kong, with the promise of green cards for every HK resident who wants to become an American. Pick one of out gazillion Pacific island holdings to serve as a new Ellis Island, and bring in everyone who’s healthy, wants to learn English, and become good little Rotarians.

      Mariel Boatlift part 2, only we do the choosing of gets a ride.

      1. the promise of green cards for every HK resident who wants to become an American…

        They would probably prefer some other more economically free locale like Switzerland.

        1. I’m sure they would. The Swiss wouldn’t take them. Nor could they likely get there. Conversely, it would be easy to have them board a few thousand cargo ships, cruise ships, and the odd LHD, that otherwise are sitting idle in vast anchorages. And it would be a gigantic loss of face for China, which is appealing now all by itself.

          The U.S., OTOH, might take them. It would be less of a culture shock for both parties than the ~1 million (more?) Vietnamese boat people ended up being.

          It would never happen, but fun to dream about.

    4. “If we do not aggressively address Red China now while we can…”

      This is probably the high water mark for China for decades to come.

      They’re net importers of food and energy, their economy is highly dependent on imports and exports, they have an ocean of bad loans, they don’t have the naval power to protect their shipping, and the world is likely to default on their debt obligations to China in the name of Virus Reparations.

  13. “I am altering the deal. Pray I don’t alter it any further.”
    D. Vader

    1. That one worked out well in the end.

  14. Unfortunately China has let the world in the know very clearly in the last 2 days what their intentions with Hong Kong are. China promised that the Special Administrative Region of Hong Kong would be allowed certain freedoms for 50 years (until 2047). In 1997 I remember many Hong Kong citizens left; many went to the U.S. and Canada and the ones I met said they did not trust Mainland China.
    https://worldabcnews.com/hong-kong-protests-police-fight-protestors-as-china-warns-it-will-not-tolerate-dissent-world-news/

    1. “China is asshoe”

  15. We need to wait until this law is finalized, but it seems to simply outlaw foreign interference in promoting secession. People can still demonstrate under the law. The Hong Kong demonstrations were a CIA operation, promoted through the Neo con National Endowment for Democracy ( NED). The demonstrators destroyed property, terrorized residents, and assaulted some. The set at least one man on fire.
    Why is it the business of the US what happens in China? We have our own issues with freedom here.

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