China’s communist government has brought an end to the siege of Hong Kong, or at least a beginning of an end. Their secret police seized a 33-story hotel to establish a new headquarters in the city of nearly 7.5 million people who have lived most of their lives in a human rights-supporting, Western-style democratic system.
No longer, however, as China’s new national security law for Hong Kong subjugates the city’s residents to the same speech restrictions as mainland China. It also applies to citizens of Hong Kong regardless of their location, which legal experts warn could expose them to Chinese prosecution if the country they are in has an extradition treaty with Hong Kong. This could affect pro-democracy movements around the world.
This is all in direct violation of the 1984 Sino-British Joint Declaration, the document guiding the transition of Hong Kong back to Chinese rule after more than 150 years of British rule. Among other things, this agreement guaranteed:
“The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region will enjoy a high degree of autonomy, except in foreign and defence affairs…”
“The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region will be vested with executive, legislative and independent judicial power, including that of final adjudication. The laws currently in force in Hong Kong will remain basically unchanged.”
“The current social and economic systems in Hong Kong will remain unchanged, and so will the life-style. Rights and freedoms, including those of the person, of speech, of the press, of assembly, of association … will be ensured by law in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region.”
“The maintenance of public order in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region will be the responsibility of the Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region.”
The agreement also sought to guarantee that these and other policies of China regarding Hong Kong would “remain unchanged for 50 years.”
But is anybody really surprised that the Communist dictators running China reneged on their word less than half-way through the term of the agreement?
Even as the U.K. and Australia extend citizenship and visa offers while suspending extradition treaties, it (hopefully) cannot be said that Western leaders were exactly surprised by China’s actions as of late.
In agreeing to a clause specifying a timeline for which the Chinese government would not violate Hong Kongers’ rights, the British acknowledged that the revival of human rights abuses upon Hong Kong was only a matter of time. Besides, neither those in the West, nor Hong Kong citizens, would – quite correctly – not be any happier if China had waited the full 50 years to crack down on free speech and other rights in Hong Kong.
The collectivist mindset governing authoritarian China does not allow for the dissent and free thought expressed by leaders of the recent Hong Kong protests. To the Chinese government, Hong Kong and its demonstrators are little more than a cancer on the body politic of China as a whole.
Historically in the West, the individual or the family is the grouping which informs the formation of governmental structures and policies. This is not so in totalitarian states. As Frank S. Meyer put it, “Communism and Nazism… have founded themselves upon the opposite axiom, that individual men are secondary to society.”
Hong Kong was less of a threat to the established order of contemporary Chinese society when it was still a British overseas possession. Once it fell under Beijing’s jurisdiction, the challenge to Communism was not one of a foreign entity, but from a group of individuals within China who did not accept the right of Xi Jinping and the rest of the Chinese Communist Party officials to dictate how the life of the average man was to be lived. Hong Kongers were no longer foreigners, they were now a part of Chinese society, a part infecting Chinese society with notions of freedom and democracy.
As Meyer continued in his book “In Defense of Freedom”:
“By the nature of the case, if society is an organism, the men who make it up can be no more than cells in the body of society; and society, not they, becomes the criterion by which moral and political matters are judged. It is in society, not in the individuals who make it up, that right inheres; and whatever ‘rights’ individual men may be allowed are pseudorights, granted and revocable by society. The moral claims of the person are in effect reduced to nothingness.”
Hong Kong’s citizenry is a freedom-loving cancer to China’s authoritarian system, and Dr. Xi is determined to cure it at any cost.
For the good of society.
Flickr-Studio Incendo, CC BY 2.0
Anders Koskinen is an Editorial Associate at Intellectual Takeout. He earned his BA from the University of Minnesota in December 2016 where he graduated with a double major in Journalism and Political Science.