International

China’s New Security Law Falls In Line With The Communist Party’s Thinking Under Xi Jinping

Hong Kong, like Taiwan, remains China’s achilles heel and China is determined to suppress all voices of dissent. Article 23 is the latest addition to the already harsh security measurers operating in Hong Kong

AP
Hong Kong activists and supporters in Taiwan hold a protest against Hong Kong's new national security law  Photo: AP
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China’s latest action on Hong Kong is no surprise, ever since the 2019 protests, President Xi Jinping’s government has steadily eroded the freedom promised to the people under one nation two system agreement signed before the British handed over the territory to China in 1997.

The China-British Joint Declaration of 1984 signed when reformist leader Deng Xiaoping was in power, had promised to uphold Hong Kong’s democratic system for fifty years, till 2049, giving time to Hong Kong’s residents, long used to democracy, to adjust to the Communist system. Under the agreement the "capitalist system and way of life" together with a "high degree of autonomy" were to be honoured. Deng had developed the concept of one country two systems, in the 1980s after he opened up the country to the capitalist economy and assured the Chinese that "to get rich is glorious" and with this catchy slogan Deng spurred the country into conspicuous consumption and the rich lifestyle. China under Deng wanted to open up to the world and sent out reassuring signals to Hong Kong, Taiwan and Macau that their way of life will not be disturbed.

But it did not take long for China to break its commitment to Hong Kong. Xi Jinping is very different from Deng and much more powerful. He has concentrated power on himself and is very much in the mould of the older Communist leaders. And Hong Kong found out soon enough.

A bill was introduced in the Hong Kong Legislative Council in 2019 to permit authorities to extradite individuals for trial to mainland China. Residents realising the significance and danger of such a move, citizens organised protests against the bill. These continued from March 2019 to November 2020. Though the protests were largely peaceful, on July 1 things got out of hand. A number of protesters broke windows of the Legislative Council and rushed inside shouting slogans against the bill. Many were arrested and given prison sentences. The bill was withdrawn.

But it was only a matter of time before a National Security Law was introduced in 2020 that gave sweeping new powers to the authorities to silence Hong Kong’s citizens. It fundamentally changed the lives of people of the city long-used to a democracy where peaceful protests were built into the system. Speaking out against the authorities is no longer permissible and one could be charged with treason and imprisonment for decades.

Now over and above this an additional Security law, called Article 23, has been evoked to further muffle any wisp of criticism in Hong Kong. Ahead of the 2021 elections Hong Kong’s Basic Law was changed by the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress to allow only "patriots" to stand for elections. So the Legislative Council is now packed with pro- Beijing lawmakers. So it is no surprise that lawmakers overwhelmingly supported the additional tough measurers brought in by Article 23. China has been steadily stripping Hong Kong citizens of their fundamental rights long enjoyed by the people of the city state that was once under Britain.

While a crackdown of any kind of dissent is now common in China, Hong Kong is particularly sensitive because of its democratic past. Today when China-US relations have deteriorated to a new low, there is suspicion in Beijing that the West could use the opportunity to fuel further unrest in Hong Kong.

After the break-up of the Soviet Union in 1991, the US is alleged to have organised protest movements in countries that were once a part of the former Soviet Union. Disputed elections in post-Soviet Ukraine, Belarus, Georgia and Kyrgyzstan led to major protests. While Moscow tried to back pro-Russian candidates to keep its former client states in its sphere of influence, the US used all its power to back candidates that were pro-West and committed to liberal democracy. China is determined to make sure that Hong Kong remains firmly under its iron grip and regards any criticism by residents as treason. The latest move falls into a familiar pattern.

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