By seeking to impose security legislation on Hong Kong, China wants to tighten its grip on this semi-autonomous territory while testing the West’s reactionary capabilities.
It is a small territory of 1,106 m² at the gates of China, which the Chinese dragon would like to develop. Hong Kong’s “autonomous special region” is once again at the center of international gaming. On May 22, the Chinese Central Government presented a highly controversial text aimed at banning “treason, isolation, sedition and subversion” on the peninsula and provoking a revival of protest movements in Hong Kong, despite the Covid19 pandemic.
The bill will be reviewed on Thursday, May 28, and Beijing has called for it to be implemented “without delay”. Many Hong Kongers see it as the most serious violation of the “one country, two systems” principle, which is supposed to guarantee them until 2047 freedoms unknown in the rest of China. Concerns are shared by some Western capitals, but the latter struggle to organize a response.
A law that Beijing has wanted to see was adopted for a long time
For Beijing, this law is a direct response to the massive and often violent demonstrations that have marked 2019 in Hong Kong. Demonstrations that the central government considers manipulations piloted from abroad to destabilize China.
China is not in its first attempt to expand its powers over Hong Kong. In 2003, she tried to adopt a similar law at the local legislative council (nicknamed Legco) before having to back before a demonstration wave. But this new approach, with a bill submitted to the Central Parliament in Beijing, caught everyone by surprise.
“It was a shock. It comes directly from Beijing. A bill in the National People’s Congress is almost a direct directive from the Communist Party. It is a direct violation of the Sino-British Joint Declaration, Hong Kong’s Basic Law and this is a bypass of Legco “This is what scares Hong Kong activists,” explains Dorian Malovic, head of the La Croix Asia service, and author of several books, including “Hong Kong: A Chinese Destiny” Interviewed by France 24. “This is a huge violation of Hong Kong’s semi-autonomy and a death sentence for freedoms. “
The time China has chosen is far from a coincidence: “They are launching this project while the rest of the world is struggling with the corona virus and are not interested in the situation in Hong Kong. Beijing sends a signal: ‘We do not care about other countries’ opinion.” China knows it is strong enough to do what it wants with Hong Kong, “said China’s specialist.
Aware of the efforts, pro-democracy activists have broken the social distance rules that apply in these pandemic times to show their displeasure in the streets in recent days.
Inadequate response from the UK
According to the joint Sino-British Declaration of 19 December 1984, the United Kingdom undertook to surrender its entire colony to China in 1997. In return, the People’s Republic undertook to maintain the economic and legislative systems and Hong Kong’s lifestyle for fifty years. For Hong Kongers, the future Chinese law is a direct violation of this statement: “If there is a point that many Hong Kongers are angry with, it is that the British government must more firmly oppose the way China violates the terms of the joint statement, “Hong Kong Legislative Councilor Claudia Mo told the BBC over the weekend.
His point of view is shared by Chris Patten, the last British governor of Hong Kong, from 1992 to the surrender in 1997: “The people of Hong Kong have been betrayed by China,” said Chris Patten, quoted by the newspaper. Times. Britain, he added, had a “moral, economic and legal obligation[de défendre Hong Kong]”.
Chris Patten, followed by 230 parliamentarians and decision-makers from 25 countries, including the former prime minister, signed an open letter condemning “this one-sided introduction of national security legislation by Beijing to Hong Kong”. He also calls on governments to “unite to say that this illegal violation of the Sino-British Joint Declaration cannot be tolerated.
“Better than nothing”
“It’s better than nothing but it seems a bit desperate. Chris Patten did his best to get a more democratic system possible before 1997, but he failed,” says Dorian Malovic.
In a joint statement, foreign ministers in Britain, Canada and Australia said security legislation “without direct participation” by the people or institutions of the former British colony would “clearly undermine the principle of a country two system” which guarantees Hong Kong a high degree of independence ” . They recall that the Joint Declaration “legally binding, signed by China and the United Kingdom” provides that “rights and freedoms, including peoples, press, assembly, associations and others are guaranteed by Hong Kong law.” which could be taken in the event of a violation.
For experts in the region, this press release shows the impotence of the former British colonial power to support the pro-democracy movement:
“The UK has done very little to support Hong Kong,” notes the La Croix reporter. “The UK is currently in a downturn due to Brexit. In London, it is estimated that Chinese investment, agreements with the US, but not Europe in particular are expected. And Hong Kong residents are aware of this cowardice and have no illusions.”
Since the Joint Declaration in 1984, the United Kingdom has never been able to strengthen democratic freedoms for Hong Kong because of its need to maintain diplomatic and economic ties with the undeniable Chinese power.
“In the Hong Kong case, there was such a power imbalance between China and the UK that we were forced to take what we could. For me, ‘one is better than two you will have,'” explains Percy Cradock, former UK chief negotiator and former ambassador to China.
The entry into the American dance
In the absence of British leadership on the issue, it is up to the United States to defend Hong Kong. Donald Trump said Tuesday, May 26, that he was “dissatisfied” with Beijing’s intentions. According to him, it is “difficult to imagine how Hong Kong can remain a financial capital if China takes control”.
When asked later about the possibility of sanctions against Chinese officials – as US MPs demanded – Donald Trump assured him that he was preparing “something right now” and that he would announce in the end -May.
Approximately 85,000 US citizens lived in Hong Kong 2018, according to figures from the Department of Foreign Affairs, and more than 1,300 US companies work there, including almost all the major financial corporations, as well as many legal and accounting departments.
In November 2019, the United States adopted the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act. With this law, the US Department of State can assess whether Hong Kong retains a sufficient degree of autonomy to justify a particular commercial status, in the context of a trade war with China.
“It would be a blow to Hong Kong if the United States would consider Hong Kong a Chinese city and raise tariffs. But it is a double-edged sword because US companies also make billions in Hong Kong,” Dorian Malovic said.
China sees Hong Kong as an internal problem
For his part, Pekinse is firmly on the subject. Chinese diplomacy spokesman Zhao Lijian called on Washington on Monday (May 24) to return a decision that “interferes in China’s affairs and damages its interests”. Beijing says it is ready to “take all necessary steps to defend the rights and interests of Chinese companies.”
During the campaign and during his presidency, Donald Trump used the Chinese issue to mobilize his electorate. A strategy that Beijing adapts to, but which Hong Kong can pay for, like Dorian Malovic.
“You have the two greatest powers in the world, with two different ideologies, but act the same way. Trump uses the Chinese enemy to stir up patriotic and nationalist sentiment and Beijing does the same thing. It’s so childish. It would be funny to ask it wasn’t that dangerous, ”says Dorian Malovic.
Summer is getting hot
Beijing’s intransigence also contributes to radicalizing the Hong Kong democratic camp, a spiral that serves China’s interests, which refuses to reach the pacifists, while propaganda insists that “terrorists” infiltrate the demonstrations. At the same time, Hong Kong’s calendar for the coming summer is filled with symbolic dates, such as the birthday of Tiananmen Square on June 4 and the anniversary of the surrender on 1your July, who will not fail to get his share of events. Add to that, local legislative elections in September and the US campaign that should speed up: the cocktail is explosive.
The Covid-19 crisis has placed China even more in the spotlight. Critics of his “worm diplomacy”, his lack of transparency in dealing with the pandemic and his attempts to circumvent international organizations have made headlines. The Hong Kong crisis adds a new area of concern to Western democracies.
The price of inaction, warns journalist Dorian Malovic, will be historic. “If nothing is done against China, the takeover of Hong Kong will mark a turning point in contemporary history, like the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. That would put a stent on the fact that China can now do what it wants.”
Adapted from English by Romain Houeix. Find the original article here.