As we all know by now, the extreme makeover of Hong Kong superimposed by Beijing has almost reached completion: whether it be in the education, social, political, economic, or electoral process, just to name a few.
Over the past two years, the complete clampdown on Hong Kong has been more than surreal. Beijing has given up any pretense of honoring the Joint Declaration that was signed in 1984 between China and the UK. One Beijing spokesperson even called what was supposed to be an iron-clad agreement merely a “historical document,” and blatantly told the world that no one should meddle in Hong Kong’s affairs.
Two years have gone by since the social movement of 2019, and Hongkongers have now genuinely experienced mainland China’s style of tyranny under the National Security Law (NSL). As a political weapon, it has now been widely used as an excuse to suppress people living in this once-famed international city. The NSL has also turned Hong Kong into a city of fear. Of course, the culprit is not the NSL itself, which is just a convenient tool masterminded by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) to perform the brutal and barbaric transformation of our city.
As a finance person, I’m most concerned about the loss of our independent judiciary. Hongkongers and expatriates living in Hong Kong are getting more and more worried about their safety, especially when our city has now been almost 100 percent transformed into a police state.
Beijing tightened Hong Kong’s freedoms at supersonic speed, and the whole process has been extremely ruthless, resulting in many people losing hope. In the past, I always told people how lucky I was to be born in Hong Kong. I had ridden on the city’s economic success and freedoms. I wouldn’t say that so quickly now.
Many people know about the immigration ordinance amendment in Hong Kong, which came into effect on Aug. 1 and allows immigration officers to bar people from entering or leaving Hong Kong. The ordinance has resulted in more plainclothes police being stationed inside the Hong Kong international terminal. Plainclothes NSL police may just come up to question you if you look suspicious. If you’re dressed in black and look athletic while entering Hong Kong, you might be in for trouble, because you resemble how protestors dressed during the 2019 mass protests. You could be questioned by NSL police about the purpose of your visit to Hong Kong, where you have traveled over the past few months, and so on. This is all done before an airline passenger even reaches the immigration counter. And these “plainclothes officials” most likely won’t show any identification to the passenger, which was never standard protocol in Hong Kong before the CCP’s NSL.
Looking forward, Beijing now wields total control over the entire electoral process of Hong Kong, be it district or legislative council elections or be it in the inner circle of the Election Committee, which now has 1,500 members, who will cast their votes for the next chief executive of the HK Special Administration Region.
All candidates will have to prove to Beijing that they’re genuinely “patriotic,” and the so-called patriots will be vetted by the NSL police. And for those who still want to run for office in Hong Kong, participation in an annual June 4 Tiananmen vigil or one of the peaceful protests against the Extradition Bill in 2019 could disqualify them. The NSL police could drill deeper into any candidate’s darkest secrets.
But with an electoral system that’s totally unfair, why would anyone with a sound mind bother to run for election?
I’m most concerned about the detainment of a broad spectrum of Hongkongers who are alleged to be breaking the infamous NSL. It’s almost a general understanding now that if someone allegedly violates the NSL, the authorities can just lock him up indefinitely before any trial takes place. The fate of Hongkongers who fight for democracy and freedoms for this city is not too different from the dire consequence faced by dissidents in the mainland now. There could be a few Liu Xiaobos in the making in Hong Kong—the first Nobel Prize winner to receive the award while a dissident in China. Honestly, the only “crime” of Jimmy Lai, a media tycoon; Benny Tai, a law professor; or Joshua Wong, a dynamic young activist, was to bring hope to the city. It’s troubling to see that Hongkongers, moving forward, are likely to have to deal with such baseless charges as “conspiracy to collude with foreign forces,” or “inciting subversion of state power.”
The whole world should now also be alarmed by the proposal of some Beijing loyalists to take away the self-regulatory rights of the Hong Kong Bar Association. Some Beijing loyalists with a legal background have accused the HKBA of being “political,” and if one day Beijing takes away the self-regulatory rights of the legal profession, whether they be barristers or solicitors, almost all sectors of Hong Kong society will be coerced into pleasing Beijing, and be at her mercy.
Is there any prospect of change for the better in Hong Kong? Not really. In fact, anything can happen in Hong Kong now. More baseless arrests will be performed, so help us God, before more is destroyed.
Edward Chin runs an investment company. Chin was formerly country head of a UK publicly listed hedge fund, the largest of its kind measured by asset under management. Outside the hedge funds space, Chin is the convenor of 2047 Hong Kong Monitor and a senior adviser of Reporters Without Borders (RSF, HK & Macau). Chin studied speech communication at the University of Minnesota and received his MBA from the University of Toronto.
Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.