Hong Kong’s reputation as an international business city may be finished. The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is fixing to impose a sweeping national security law that bypasses Hong Kong’s own legislative process. The law would erode the city’s high degree of autonomy guaranteed under the “one country, two systems” formula.
The law would ban secession, foreign interference, terrorism and all seditious activities aimed at toppling the central government. Additionally, it is designed to “prevent, stop and punish” activities that endanger China’s national security. It also reveals plans to establish new national security agencies for the first time in Hong Kong. In sum, Hong Kong loses the rule of law and it is replaced by the rule by law with the courts, police, and prosecutors controlled by the CCP.
The smart money knew this legislation was coming. To deal with last year’s protests in Hong Kong, President Xi Jinping, the most authoritarian Chinese leader since Mao Zedong, has to show he is boss by reasserting dominance over a piece of Chinese territory.
The CCP doesn’t play softball. While the international community is facing down the Covid-19 pandemic, dealing with its economic fallout, litigating the past, and reminiscing about the future, they made their move with all the finesse of German brown shirts in the 1930s. The CCP gives less than a tinker’s damn what other countries think.
This is the latest in a series of aggressive foreign policy moves by the CCP since the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic, including upping its presence in contested areas of the South China Sea. The CCP is intent on China becoming the regional hegemon in Asia, just as United States has been in the Western Hemisphere since the late 19th century.
The CCP is going to do what it wants in Hong Kong without fear of the consequences. Quite apart from reigniting the pro-democracy movement, they know full well that no one in the international community is going to war over Hong Kong. Political figures around the world have decried the new national security law for Hong Kong. They argue that the new law is a “flagrant breach” of the Sino-British Joint Declaration that returned Hong Kong to China in 1997 with the understanding that Hong Kong residents would enjoy basic freedoms until 2047.
Under the agreement, Hong Kong was to be governed under the “one country, two systems” principle which was meant to guarantee a high degree of autonomy for Hong Kong for 50 years. But the international community will not stand up to China or boycott Chinese goods. With the exception of the United States, the reaction will continue to be all rhetoric and no action. It is wishful thinking to expect St. George to come to the rescue and slay the dragon in the guise of the CCP.
Legislation has been introduced in the United States Senate that would sanction CCP officials enforcing the national security laws in Hong Kong. It would also penalize banks that do business with any entity enforcing the law. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has threatened to revoke certain economic and trade privileges Hong Kong enjoys with the United States that do not extend to China as a whole. Such an action might result in the city losing its status as a major hub for global finance.
For the other Asian countries, this move is the canary in the coal mine. They will have to fall in line and recognize China as the dominant power in the region while the rest of the international community is kept off balance as to their next move. For certain, Taiwan is in the CCP’s line of sight.
The passage of the National Security Law will be a game changer. With the passage of this law, Hong Kong will become just another Chinese city. Undercutting Hong Kong’s political autonomy and civil liberties will undermine the city’s attractiveness as an international business and economic center.