Hong Kong’s Slide Into Darkness

Hong Kong’s democracy disappears as Beijing tightens the screws on the city
December 19, 2021 Updated: December 27, 2021

Commentary

Hong Kong tastes the bitter fruit of China’s “whole-process people’s democracy.” The transition of Hong Kong’s democracy into a Chinese-run nightmare is painful to watch.

The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) is in the midst of being completely absorbed into communist China’s political system—despite the promises made by Beijing in 1997 that the city would be allowed to maintain its political autonomy “for 50 years” under a “one country, two systems” framework.

Throughout the 1990s to the present, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has been redefining the meaning of that framework in order to implement “lawful” communist political and social controls over Hong Kong. The framework concepts were captured in the Basic Law, which was approved by China’s rubber-stamp legislature, the National People’s Congress (NPC), in 1990, to include guarantees of a “high degree of autonomy” for “Hong Kong people administering Hong Kong.”

All those high-minded promises made by Beijing were tossed in the trash in the summer of 2020, when the CCP bypassed Hong Kong’s own legislative process to implement new draconian national security legislation.

In retrospect, the Basic Law was part of the CCP’s long-term plan to exert complete political control over the HKSAR, as it included an article requiring the passage of the national security legislation applicable to Hong Kong.

From Article 23 of the 1990 Basic Law: “[HKSAR] shall enact laws on its own to prohibit any act of treason, secession, sedition, subversion against the Central People’s Government … and to prohibit political organizations or bodies of the Region from establishing ties with foreign political organizations or bodies.”

The highlighted words are eerily similar to a summary of the main provisions in the new national security law that was passed by the NPC last June: “The law, passed in China’s Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress (NPCSC), includes 66 articles and covers four areas of criminal activity: secession, subversion, terrorism, and collusion with foreign or external forces. Those convicted of such crimes face maximum sentences of life imprisonment.”

In effect, the 1990 Basic Law laid the foundation for passage of the key provisions of the national security law in 2020—those dealing with the ability to coerce and control Hong Kong citizens and political activities based on CCP-defined prohibitions. It was imposed by the NPCSC without input from the residents of HKSAR or their locally elected representatives. As further evidence of the farce, the NPC voted 2,878-to-1 to produce the new law. The law was always in the cards because it was a major objective in Beijing’s long-term plans to intimidate and control anyone deemed to be a threat to the CCP’s interests.

The national security law has given HKSAR police sweeping new powers, including the ability to conduct warrant-free raids.

Here is a chronology of some of the shocking actions that have been taken under the law over the past 16 months:

jimmy lai
Hong Kong pro-democracy media tycoon Jimmy Lai is led into a police van as he heads to court to be charged under the Beijing-imposed national security law on Dec. 12, 2020. (Peter Parks/AFP via Getty Images)

As indicated by the final point, the legal threat to Hong Kong citizens posed by the national security law also was a key backdrop for the “patriots”–only election on Dec. 19, the first to be held there since the law was implemented last year. The election shaped up to be the typical rubber-stamped CCP-run farce that is no different from any held in the people’s congresses of townships, towns, districts, and counties in communist China, as the only candidates on the election slates are CCP-approved.

The pro-democracy proponents of Hong Kong’s Legislative Council are getting a firsthand experience of what “whole-process people’s democracy” really means—which doesn’t square with the platitudes of Chinese leader Xi Jinping, as previously reported.

The stakes were high for the communists in the election, as a low turnout would torpedo the CCP’s propaganda campaign leading up to the election, claiming that Hongkongers have “great confidence in candidate’s abilities,” as bleated out by state-run media China Daily on Dec. 18. China Daily also announced that 10,000 Hong Kong police would be deployed to polling places to “maintain order.”

Quoting the Hong Kong Public Opinion Research Institute, The Wall Street Journal opined that election turnout could be as low as 30 percent. And that prediction proved prescient, as Reuters reported that turnout was a record low of 30.2 percent. Apparently, Hongkongers aren’t enamored with the CCP’s “whole-process people’s democracy.” The election, in any event, is the culmination of the CCP’s grand plan to exert full political control over Hong Kong.

Other enclaves of overseas Chinese are in the sights of the CCP, too, once Hong Kong has been subdued. What’s frightening is that the national security law allows Beijing to pursue anyone deemed subversive, including overseas Chinese and even foreigners.

According to The Dallas Morning News: “The law includes provisions criminalizing ‘offences’ committed not only in Hong Kong, but by anyone, anywhere around the globe. According to a December report submitted to Congress by the U.S.–China Economic and Security Review Commission, ‘Left unchecked, the law could grant the Chinese government broad power to censor global discourse.’”

Conclusion

The absorption of Hong Kong into Beijing’s political empire is now in its final stages, following the Dec. 19 rubber-stamp election of a CCP-approved slate of candidates. The record low voter turnout puts the lie to the CCP’s “whole-process people’s democracy.”

The lessons learned during the implementation of the national security law in Hong Kong will almost certainly be applied to Taiwan if Taipei ever capitulates to Beijing’s threats and intimidation. Is Hong Kong’s present experience with “whole-process people’s democracy” a portent of Taiwan’s future?

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.

Stu Cvrk
Stu Cvrk retired as a captain after serving 30 years in the U.S. Navy in a variety of active and reserve capacities, with considerable operational experience in the Middle East and the Western Pacific. Through education and experience as an oceanographer and systems analyst, Cvrk is a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, where he received a classical liberal education that serves as the key foundation for his political commentary.