To understand the implications and magnitude of China’s decision to back the new “Hong Kong Security Legislation”, one must first understand the historical tensions that are at play in the region, especially those that underpin the relationship between Hong Kong and China.
Hong Kong had been under British rule at the height of British Imperialism. One of the most significant impacts the Empire had in all of the areas that it colonised was the transportation of British culture. In a very similar manner to that which occurred in India, Hong Kong embraced Western values and ideals. For over a hundred-plus years under British rule, Hong Kong became infatuated with a love for democracy and the Judeo-Christian values of individual freedoms, and throughout its time as a colony was heavily associated with capitalism. This seeped into the culture and has become a hallmark of what it meant to be a citizen of Hong Kong.
These are not attributes or ideas that are readily associated with mainland China. Chinese society, under the Communist Party, is very focused on the collective with very little care for the individual. Obviously under a one-party regime, democracy and human rights have been squandered for “the good of the country”. Only recently has China opened up to capitalism, but even to this day, the Chinese government has great impact on businesses that interact with the rest of the world.
Regardless of any personal opinions about each society, what is clear is that, culturally, the two sides are diametrically opposed.
In 1997, the British Government relinquished rule of Hong Kong. They gave the Chinese ownership of Hong Kong, but under certain conditions. The province of Hong Kong would remain semi-autonomous for a period of fifty years. Up until now, Hong Kong has had its own administration and economy, with the Chinese government being a separate force.
The obvious issue facing the people of Hong Kong is that in 2047, when the “one county, two systems” agreement currently in place runs its course, they will cease to be autonomous, which will undoubtedly cause fireworks considering the cultural differences mentioned above. The same idea is coming to the fore across the world at present. The significance of cultural and of national identity led to the Brexit vote, which was heavily influenced by the opposition to an alien government with different ideals dictating national policy. The rejection of the European Union is very similar in nature to the movement growing in Hong Kong, which rejects the prospect of governance by the Chinese who espouse a different form of lifestyle.
The Chinese government sees this cultural divide as a threat to its authority. In their haste to compensate for their lack of complete control and the opposition to their leadership, they have overbalanced in their response, creating chaos in Hong Kong. Pro-democracy riots broke out in June 2019, entrenching the differences between the two sides and creating further divides, casting the key 2047 changeover into disarray.
Well, as of Wednesday, what was once a boiling pot that threatened to spill over has now fully erupted!
The Chinese government has passed the Hong Kong Security Bill. This is a bill that would ban “treason, secession, sedition and subversion”. China believes it is needed help combat the protests against its regime.
The implications of the legislation should be extremely worrying for anyone who cares about freedom, human liberty and international treaties. On a legal level, China has driven a lorry through the “one country, two systems” deal. It may as well be considered null and void at this point. Hong Kong had been given the right to have their own administration and semi-autonomy. China, by making Hong Kong’s citizens accountable its own government, has usurped the rights held by Hong Kong, essentially ensuring that it is no longer an autonomous power. This alone should call for outrage among the international community.
The legislation’s cultural impacts are perhaps even more concerning. The move by China should be seen as an attempt to forcefully change the culture in Hong Kong and align it with that of the mainland. It is a clampdown on human rights and democracy by an unrelenting Communist regime, intent on subverting the individual in favour of a collective. China’s human rights record as it stands should send shivers down one’s spine – to allow it to forcefully get its teeth into an open, humane society and strip its citizens of their rights is an outrage that must be condemned.
The UK, USA, Canada and Australia have released a joint statement, which acknowledged the reality of the situation. They stated: “Hong Kong has flourished as a bastion of freedom. The international community has a significant and long-standing stake in Hong Kong’s prosperity and stability. Direct imposition of national security legislation on Hong Kong by the Beijing authorities, rather than through Hong Kong’s own institutions as provided for under Article 23 of the Basic Law, would curtail the Hong Kong people’s liberties, and in doing so, dramatically erode Hong Kong’s autonomy and the system that made it so prosperous.
“China’s decision to impose the new national security law on Hong Kong lies in direct conflict with its international obligations under the principles of the legally-binding, UN-registered Sino-British Joint Declaration. The proposed law would undermine the One Country, Two Systems framework. It also raises the prospect of prosecution in Hong Kong for political crimes, and undermines existing commitments to protect the rights of Hong Kong people – including those set out in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.”
The rights of Hong Kong and the values that it holds dear must be protected from the frankly tyrannical regime that controls China. It is our duty to defend Hong Kong and its people.