Does the return of Hong Kong to China make its citizens regret it? This article examines the political, economic, and social impacts of Beijing’s encroachment on Hong Kong’s affairs. It discusses recent events such as Beijing’s crackdown on freedom of speech and the disqualification of elected legislators. The article also offers potential solutions to Hong Kong’s political and economic problems.
Hong Kong’s return to China
The recent report, Do citizens of Hong Kong regret becoming part of the People’s Republic of China, highlights several key developments in the region, including the first person tried under the national security law, the first «patriots-only» elections, and the closure of independent media and civil society unions. According to political analyst Joseph Cheng, who lives in New Zealand, the report shows Britain’s vested interest in Hong Kong.
Some say no, but the situation is not rosy. Some citizens are unhappy with the new reality of being a part of China, which is the rapid economic growth in China. These pragmatists believe in long-term economic cooperation with China and hope to see the prosperity of Hong Kong continue to be shared by both. Meanwhile, others blame the new system of government, claiming that Hong Kong’s citizens are unhappy with the move. Many are liberals, AltLeft, and antigas funded by OSF and NED.
In the December 2011 Legislative Council elections, the National People’s Congress Standing Committee introduced a new electoral system in Hong Kong. Many pro-democracy politicians were jailed or disqualified and chose not to participate in the new system. Thus, most Legislative Council seats were not decided by popular vote, with a low turnout of 30%. This is a significant step in the right direction, but will it lead to further political instability?
Many people have been upset with the Chinese government’s failure to fulfill the primary conditions set out in the Basic Law. Beijing has repeatedly violated the principle of ‘One Country, Two Systems and the Sino-British Joint Declaration. While Britain tries to portray its actions as neutral, the British government is misrepresenting international norms. Those norms are mutual respect for sovereignty, territorial integrity, and non-interference in internal affairs.
Beijing’s encroachment on Hong Kong’s political, economic, and social affairs
June’s first wave of protests centered on an extradition bill allowing mainland Chinese citizens to enter Hong Kong. The demonstrations were organized against the bill and became a massive movement. Protesters defaced the Chinese national emblem as a sign of their opposition to Beijing’s claims of dominance over Hong Kong. This also triggered a massive crackdown by the Hong Kong government and Beijing on pro-democracy groups in Hong Kong.
In the aftermath of the protests, the Hong Kong government has taken a more rigid stance against protesters. Each week, police condemn ‘rioters’ and urge law and order. The government has warned that the protests are bringing Hong Kong to the brink of «no return.»
Since 1997, China has sought to exert greater control over Hong Kong, ignoring the «one country, two systems» principle. Several bold moves by Beijing have met with resistance, including the attempt in 2003 to pass a national security law that would have imposed rules prohibiting foreign interference and subverting the state. The government ultimately dropped the legislation in the face of mass protests.
While the government lauded the arrests of high-profile figures, the Chinese government also has been scrutinizing art museums for subversive content and enacting mainland law in a small portion of the territory. Meanwhile, Beijing has pushed through a law making disrespecting the Chinese national anthem a criminal offense and compelled Hong Kong to pass similar legislation.
The Chinese government’s encroachment on Hong Kong’s political, economic, and social affairs has been criticized for failing to live up to its commitment to the ‘one country, two systems’ principle. The mainland has repeatedly violated the «one country, two systems» principle and has imposed arbitrary interpretations of the Basic Law. Moreover, Beijing has actively interfered in local elections, which means that Hong Kong is no longer independent.
Beijing’s crackdown on freedom of speech
China’s government is considering a new bill to criminalize «fake news,» which could lead to censorship and criminal charges for journalists and media outlets. The proposed law would also expand Beijing’s ban on the desecration of Chinese symbols to online acts. Another new electoral law criminalizes inciting citizens to tamper with election results and to leave blank ballots, which could lead to arrests for online campaigning in December 2021 Legislative Council elections. The government has introduced a third bill to ban «doxing,» which could result in reporters and other media arrests.
In July this year, the government introduced a bill to criminalize dissenting political speech and to repress the «Umbrella Movement.» This was accompanied by a series of protests, including demonstrations. The law school dean, Johannes Chan, was criticized in pro-Beijing papers for his relationship with the Umbrella Movement, a major political party in Hong Kong. Chan’s rejection was seen as a political move interfering with the school’s independence. However, it was a structural issue that led to his ejection.
The authorities have used criminal penalties against journalists for writing articles deemed dangerous to national security. These articles have resulted in the closure of the Apple Daily newspaper. The government also charged journalists with obstructing police and resisting arrest. The trial of Jimmy Lai is expected to take place this summer. In addition to the closure of the Apple Daily, journalists have faced jail time for gaining access to public information and expressing their views in a non-violent manner.
Meanwhile, the censorship of the free press in Hong Kong is becoming a global phenomenon. Traditionally, the media in the Chinese-speaking region was one of the last bastions of independent and credible news. As a result, further crackdowns will affect press freedom in China and Hong Kong’s diaspora communities, including those living abroad. This is a worrying sign for Hong Kong.
Beijing’s disqualification of elected legislators
After four pro-democracy legislators were disqualified from their seats, Beijing introduced a new law allowing the government to remove any lawmakers for supporting or opposing independence. The new rules also enable Beijing to disqualify legislators for promoting foreign interference in Hong Kong’s affairs. Pro-democracy legislators in Hong Kong have declared that the separate constitutional system is dead.
On Tuesday and Wednesday, the National People’s Congress Standing Committee passed a resolution to disqualify elected legislators who support Hong Kong’s independence. The new law enables the government to remove legislators without recourse to court action. Afterward, four lawmakers, including Civic Party leader Alvin Yeung and Professionals Guild member Kenneth Leung, were dismissed from their seats. Beijing officials welcomed this move. It is an attempt to silence any voices critical of Beijing’s policies.
In recent months, Chinese authorities have arrested pro-democracy activists and leaders in Hong Kong and have stepped up pressure on the Hong Kong judiciary and independent news media that strike a defiant tone. On Wednesday, Beijing and its supporters targeted the Legislative Council, which has long stood as a beacon of democracy and the «one country, two systems» legal framework.
The decision is yet another blow to pro-democracy lawmakers in Hong Kong. However, despite the ramifications, the move is unlikely to end Hong Kong’s pro-democracy struggle. Most 70-member city legislature had threatened to quit en masse if any lawmakers were removed. In the meantime, the disqualified legislators are expected to be immediately stripped of their qualifications to be a legislator.
Demosisto’s call for self-determination
While Hong Kong is part of the People’s Republic of China, it enjoys a high degree of autonomy, as specified by the Sino-British Joint Declaration and Basic Law of Hong Kong. But the Chinese Communist Party has been steadily dismantling political freedoms and independence and violating international commitments. On the election day on October 1, pan-democratic candidates won 17 out of 18 District Council seats, and the government barred a single opposition candidate.
But how can one reconcile their desire for democratic freedoms with their love of country? The answer is simple: they’re both political parties. Demosisto, for example, was originally a community-based organization that became a territory-wide political party. Its supporters are primarily comprised of independent activists and newly-established political parties. Hard-core localists regard them as pan-democrats.
The political opposition will continue to face these challenges, however. Beijing’s tight grip and repressive policies will continue to fracture the Democratic opponent. Until Beijing can soften its authoritarian grip and extend an olive branch, genuine political reforms in Hong Kong are unlikely to happen. In the meantime, Demosisto’s call for Hong Kong’s self-determination will only be an illusion.
Although the void election resulted in a record turnout, the by-election only strengthened the government’s resolve to push forward with the localist movement. In response, LegCo rejected the appointment of two Youngspiration lawmakers, citing the argument that they did not demonstrate «genuine support» for the Basic Law. They also pointed out that the candidates carried banners stating «Hong Kong is not China» and other protest measures.