The phrase “50 years no change” became a buzzword around 1997. When Hong Kong was returned to China on July 1 of that year, the Chinese government avowed that “the previous capitalist system and way of life shall remain unchanged for 50 years.”
In other words, it promised not to interfere with Hong Kong’s internal affairs until 2047. The subject was widely talked about among citizens at the time, and the phrase was ostensibly even used in marriage proposals, whereby men professed that their feelings would not change for 50 years.
Twenty-three years later, China is breaking that promise. In a session that began on May 22, the National People’s Congress (NPC, China’s national legislature) paved the way to impose a National Security Law on Hong Kong that would put limits on the basic human rights of Hong Kong citizens. (RELATED ARTICLE: EDITORIAL | At G7 Forum, Abe Should Raise China’s Hong Kong Suppression Law As Top Priority)
The Xi Jinping administration has paid no heed to the vehement protests that understandably arose among Hong Kong citizens, or the criticisms that poured in from the international community. Instead, it pushed ahead deliberations on the law that could take effect as early as mid-June.
Is Hong Kong China’s Coronavirus Hostage?
Yet, breaking its promise so overtly will only hurt China’s national image. From here on, China will have a hard time getting other countries to trust anything it says in diplomatic negotiations.
The motivation behind the Xi administration’s move is also perplexing. Why try to push this law through now, when the anti-government demonstrations that were so intense last summer have passed their peak?
A human rights lawyer in Beijing analyzed it this way: “There is a rising trend among countries around the world, including the United States, to demand reparations from China over the novel coronavirus issue. By raising the Hong Kong problem, China is trying to divert the focus.”
Many U.S. and European companies have strongholds in Hong Kong, which is counted among the three major financial centers in the world, alongside New York and London. If Hong Kong comes under the full administration of the Chinese government, freedom will be lost, with considerable impact on economic activities. Inevitably, these countries will suffer major damages. “China could be trying to stall activity on coronavirus reparations by holding Hong Kong hostage,” the lawyer continued.
The Next Xinjiang
Once enacted, police from China’s security agency would be stationed in Hong Kong with the authority to keep order. A university student from Hong Kong living in Taiwan raised the fear, “Hong Kong will be the next Xinjiang.”
In July 2009, Uyghurs incited riots in the Urumqi, in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, protesting the imposition of rule by people of Han Chinese ethnicity. After the riots were suppressed, any Uyghur having shown even a slight disapproval of communist rule was arrested in far-reaching purges. Family and friends were confined in “education camps,” where they underwent brainwashing for long periods of time. Detainees reportedly exceeded one million at the high point of these incarcerations.
Participants in the 2019 anti-China demonstrations included both those called “fighters” or protesters who were prepared to take radical action, and those in the “peaceful, rational, and non-violent” group. If the National Security Law is enacted, many of the “fighter” members who have been arrested will face heavy sentences, according to mainland Chinese laws. Even the “peaceful, rational, and non-violent” protesters could be put into Chinese “education camps.”
It goes without saying that Japanese companies in Hong Kong will suffer major damages should Hong Kong end up like Xinjiang.
The United States, United Kingdom, and Taiwan have voiced support for Hong Kong and issued declarations criticizing China’s methods. The Abe administration must keep step with the international community and take action to curb China’s rampage.
(Click here for access to this report in Japanese.)
Author: Akio Yaita, Taipei Bureau Chief