Hong Kong, China’s Dirty Secret
The Chinese government has for a long time had a general disliking for liberal freedoms common to the Western world. After the democracy protests that shocked the world last year, China’s interest in Hong Kong has been evident to world leaders and the public. The protests last year were sparked by protesters protesting a piece of legislation called the Hong Kong extradition bill.
What the bill meant practically was that criminals who had committed their crimes in Hong Kong could be extradited and tried in a Chinese court. The view of the protestors was that if the bill did pass and criminals were extradited, then they would be deprived the right of a fair trial in China- as a country with pages of human rights abuses, this makes for a fair assessment.
Because of the fierce backlash produced by reporting of the protests and the bill, the bill was dropped from Hong Kong’s parliament. However, the protests were not so easily forgotten.
Thousands of protestors, mostly students from the local universities, for many months, stormed the streets of Hong Kong and caused untold damage to the buildings and streets of the city-state. The police, in turn, replied with violence and one of the other results of the protests was multiple accounts and allegations of police brutality. On the 1st October 2019, an 18-year-old was shot in the chest by police trying to combat the protesters.
Eventually, the bill was dropped and the murder suspect who was the inspiration for the bill was released by the Chinese government apparently bringing an end to this chapter in Hong Kong’s history.
However, the political repercussions of the protests were made clear by a report from the Financial Times newspaper. They reported that the Chinese government had plans to remove Ms Lam, the current premier of Hong Kong, who was also loathed by protestors and seen as just another of Beijing’s puppets. Ms Lam’s office told the BBC at the time that "We do not comment on speculation." China's foreign ministry said the FT report was "a political rumour with ulterior motives".
Despite this, Ms Lam is still the current leader of Hong Kong, as of the time of publication, and she even survived an election after the protests.
Now we are experiencing chapter 2 of the Hong Kong saga in which the arch-villain China tried to impose national security laws on Hong Kong. Much like the last chapter, this was met with many thousands of protesters and on the 24th May, at least 180 people were arrested because of links to the protests. And in typical chapter one fashion, these protests were matched with levels of state violence not seen since chapter one.
According to media reports, there were two citizens who were hospitalized because they tried to object to the building of roadblocks attempted by the protestors. Once again this is very reminiscent of the protests in 2019 and even mirrors the counter-protests that occurred in the 2019 protests by those who had felt that the incident had gone too far.
However, what is different about these protests and the overall backdrop of chapter two is the coronavirus epidemic. The reasons for the arrests previously mentioned are varied is because they all share a common charge- that of breaking the social distancing rules currently imposed. It would seem that Covid-19 has provided the CCP with a valuable cover from which to arrest and limit the usual freedoms experienced by Hong Kong citizens.
Currently, chapter two is still in progress and we will await the culmination of this chapter in the weeks and months that will follow. With this in mind, we can begin to predict the kind of future the South China Sea, Taiwan and other territories China is interested in will have.
Chapter 3 - The Finale
In this little saga, we have seen the development of China’s control over the regions nearby. At present we have only seen this happen to Hong Kong, however, to assume that this will be the extent of CCP control is naive. Unlike the West, China’s attempts at achieving local and global dominance is far more discreet and the Hong Kong issue is something that the CCP would have rather have not happened.
It has drawn attention from the rest of the world and in turn, has drawn attention to more of China’s dealing in the South China Sea and the influence their Belt and Road Initiative brings. This has even changed public policy such as that of Boris Johnson and his view about the role Huawei should play in the development of 5G systems in the UK.
The finale is not yet happening, however, it can be guaranteed that there will be fireworks.