ON THE WEB, 1 July 2020
As if the Coronavirus pandemic wasn’t enough of a problem for China — as well as for the rest of the world — China has imposed an unnecessary National Security Law on Hong Kong. This law criminalises any act of secession, subversion, terrorism, or collusion with foreign forces, punishable by sentences up to life in prison, and stoking the fire further under the democracy movement in Hong Kong.
Chinese President Xi Jinping signed the security law on Tuesday, after China’s parliament voted to approve the legislation. The law was first proposed in late May during China’s annual parliamentary meeting, reigniting protests in Hong Kong.
This law heralds authoritarian rule in its zero tolerance for dissent. As such the freedom of speech and the democratic fabric of the Asian financial hub have been killed in a stroke.
With it, Hong Kong’s autonomous status under the “one-country, two-system” formula — meaning, a high degree of autonomy, except in foreign and defence affairs — which was promised to Hong Kong for 50 years after it was handed over by the United Kingdom to China on 1 July 1997, has been erased.
China has made the wrong move again, this one of catastrophic proportions. The status quo of Hong Kong before China introduces any “reform” legislation, as of the time of the handover from the United Kingdom, was not a threat or a concern for Beijing.
Imposition of the pre-screening of candidates for the Chief Executive of Hong Kong in 2014 led to protests as ten of thousands of Hong Kongers took to the streets, hugely overwhelming the police in their attempts at containing the protests.
The extradition bill introduced in June 2019 (and withdrawn in September) was again a wrong move, with an insurmountable consequence for Beijing with unabated protests demanding democracy putting Beijing in a tight spot. The bill would have allowed defendants charged with serious crimes to be sent for trial to courts in China. By this bill, the discontent and distrust of Hong Kongers burst into a year of unrelenting pro-democracy protests, and a major headache for Beijing.
It’s beyond comprehension for a normal person that when there’s no threat to Beijing, what was the need for this security law in Hong Kong. The new law, in other words, means the end of the last few remaining freedoms the Hong Kongers enjoy. There’s no way that they will take this.
Freedom and democracy have no alternatives. They are about living one’s life, and lives have been given to defend or to get them. Hong Kongers will make it about life and death, and will give up their lives and defeat this law. And this is the fear, that many lives will be lost, or tortured in Chinese prisons.
People around the world are angry with this new security law, and are standing in solidarity with the people of Hong Kong. Many governments have criticised the law. But now it is not enough just to give words. Governments must take concrete actions, and it may come to the point of giving China a bloody nose this time around.
China’s bullying has gone beyond the line. Its claims in the South China Sea have created enough adversaries — the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia. Taiwan’s well-known position is that they will join any forces that are willing to take on China. India has been incessantly harassed by China for decades. The recent border clashes that left 20 Indian solders dead has India up for joining forces that will confront China.
The US has more than enough reasons to contain China. It now feels that China could always go their way. It is time to tell them, not always, and they should be told this time. All the stakeholders, and particularly the US, must take the lead, and must demand that China withdraw this new security law with immediate effect.
There is no doubt that Hong Kongers will come out in millions to protest the new security law. There will be no way China could imprison all of them. The leaders and other prominent activists will be sentenced and imprisoned in order to threaten others. But this surely will not stop the Hong Kongers.
It will be a tough and trying time for the people of Hong Kong. The rest of the world should not remain a mere spectator. The people must rise, and the governments must take actions, even if it means giving China a bloody nose.
About the author
Lobsang Wangyal lives in McLeod Ganj, India, and edits the Tibet Sun website.
More articles by Lobsang Wangyal on Tibet Sun.