On May 24, more than 10,000 people took to the streets in Hong Kong after Beijing proposed at the annual meeting of its rubber-stamp legislature a new national security law custom made for the special administrative region. This is a move at once both carefully calculated and taken in a desperate spirit reminiscent of Russian roulette.
If this law is passed, it is the end of the “one country, two systems” promised by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). Beijing will set up a national security office in Hong Kong. People can then be arbitrarily arrested and taken to the mainland to be prosecuted in a system with no rule of law; or they can be arrested and handled in Hong Kong, after the Hong Kong legal system is subverted and turned into a replica of the mainland’s. Locals suspect military police have already been sent to Hong Kong.
Beijing is taking this action after the mayhem unleashed by the pandemic, as more than 122 countries are calling for an investigation into how the CCP virus outbreak happened in China. Why take such a step in Hong Kong, knowing it will bring more international condemnation down upon the CCP?
The Party has actually weighed the political and financial risks carefully. In the end, political safety appears more urgent and critical to the party.
This September, Hong Kong will elect members to its legislature, the Legislative Council (LegCo). In the district election in November 2019, Beijing underestimated the stance of the Hong Kong people. Three hundred and eighty-eight seats went pro-democratic, while only 62 were held by pro-Beijing candidates. A similar result in the LegCo election would have a much bigger impact. The CCP cannot tolerate such a political challenge, and so it wants to take action now.
Then, there are the protests. In April 2019, the CCP introduced an extradition bill, which, like the just-proposed national security legislation, was seen by Hongkongers as a bid to take away their civil rights. The CCP was shocked by the result: persistent mass protests for half a year. At times, an estimated 2 million people were out in the streets, something that has never happened before under the CCP’s rule. The Party fears that if it can’t get Hong Kong under control, the mainland will follow Hong Kong’s example.
Finally, Beijing feels it must act because of the severe political infighting happening between factions at the top level of the Party. Hong Kong has been a base for the mainland elite for more than two decades, including the opponents of CCP leader Xi Jinping. Hong Kong serves as a key hub: assets are held there, inside information is released there, and the city provides a convenient window for getting money out of China. The CCP has always used Hong Kong to do what it wants to do but can’t do in the mainland.
To many people, Hong Kong is like what West Berlin used to be. To Xi, it could be an anti-Xi base. Beijing arrested a Hong Kong bookseller who published a book that criticized Xi and billionaire Xiao Jianghua, who managed assets for the children of top Party leaders. There are more individuals Beijing would like to arrest, and the new national security law makes such arrests easy to accomplish.
Beijing’s only window to access the international market is Hong Kong. Formerly a manufacturing center, Hong Kong has lost that business to the mainland and now only serves as a financial center.
If the CCP puts Hong Kong under “one country, one system,” the United States, the United Kingdom, and Europe will take away its free port status. The only financial window Beijing has will be closed.
For the CCP, this is suicidal. But the CCP has no good choices. Recently, its every move looks self-destructive. No wonder Hongkongers hold signs on the street reading “Heaven Is Eliminating the CCP.”
Diana Zhang, Ph.D., is a staff writer with 20 years’ experience in the study of China. Based in the United States, she uses a pen name to protect her family members in China.
Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.