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Good morning. Our colleague Vivian Wang helps you make sense of China’s crackdown on Hong Kong.
China’s crackdown on Hong Kong has occurred swiftly: A rising energy has asserted its authority over a worldwide monetary capital, by a harsh nationwide safety legislation enacted final summer season.
It’s one of many world’s most consequential tales, but one typically overshadowed by the pandemic. This morning, I’m specializing in Hong Kong, with assist from my colleague Vivian Wang, who’s based mostly there. Our trade follows.
David: Britain handed over management of Hong Kong to China nearly 25 years in the past, and there has lengthy been a pro-democracy motion there. Why did Xi Jinping and the remainder of China’s management resolve to behave now?
Vivian: The brief reply is the large antigovernment protest motion in 2019, in response to a authorities proposal that might have allowed extraditions to mainland China.
The dimensions of the protests actually shook Beijing. All of the earlier protest actions had lasted just a few months, at most. This time, there was big help, and it wasn’t dying down by itself.
Officers in Beijing additionally hated that international politicians, like these within the U.S., have been so vocal in help of the protesters. Beijing is basically nervous that Hong Kong could possibly be a base for international powers to attempt to topple the Chinese language authorities.
From Beijing’s perspective, has the crackdown labored? And has it created any issues for the central authorities?
In some ways, it has completely labored. There aren’t any extra road protests. There’s intensive self-censorship. Nearly each outstanding pro-democracy activist is in exile, in jail, awaiting trial or has disappeared from public life.
However there’s loads of simmering anger amongst Hong Kongers, even when they don’t dare specific it publicly anymore. They nonetheless store at shops and eating places they assume help the democracy motion. That’s why we see Beijing persevering with to use strain. It clearly, and I feel rightly, doesn’t assume the risk is previous.
So far as penalties, the crackdown has introduced worldwide condemnation, and the U.S. has imposed sanctions on Chinese language and Hong Kong officers. The query is how a lot China cares. In the intervening time, it appears to assume that it’s ascendant sufficient to climate this.
Is the aim to show Hong Kong into one other Chinese language metropolis — one which’s politically indistinguishable from, say, Shanghai — or does the management nonetheless need Hong Kong to be distinct?
The framework that has at all times been used to explain Hong Kong post-handover is “one nation, two programs.” Many individuals understood the “two programs” half to be twofold: Not solely was Hong Kong capitalist whereas China was socialist, however Hong Kong additionally was comparatively politically free, whereas the mainland was not.
Chinese language officers nonetheless insist that they’re dedicated to “one nation, two programs.” However their focus appears very a lot to be on holding Hong Kong as a separate, hypercapitalist system, not on holding its separate political identification. Many Hong Kongers have lengthy mentioned that they anticipated their metropolis to change into simply one other mainland metropolis finally.
I’ve a tough time seeing how this story ends with something apart from victory for China’s leaders and defeat for the pro-democracy motion. Do individuals inside the motion see any purpose for optimism?
Ever because the safety legislation was enacted, the temper inside the pro-democracy motion has been bleak. I anticipated at the least some individuals to supply fiery defiance and remind individuals that there’s nonetheless hope — if solely simply as a rallying cry, whether or not they believed it or not. However fairly persistently throughout individuals I speak to, the consensus is that there’s not a lot they will do to alter the state of affairs, at the least for now.
That’s why you see many individuals making preparations to go overseas. And never simply rich Hong Kongers with twin citizenships — individuals with no expertise exterior Hong Kong or who don’t communicate a lot English are doing so, too.
China’s leaders additionally contemplate Taiwan to be a part of their nation. However Taiwan, in contrast to Hong Kong, has an impartial authorities. How do you assume Hong Kong impacts Taiwan?
Many individuals see Beijing’s actions on Hong Kong as a harbinger of, or a laboratory for, extra aggressive actions on Taiwan. It’s all a part of an more and more assured Chinese language authorities that feels it might probably take these dangers.
On the similar time, the crackdown is probably going driving public opinion in Taiwan farther from Beijing. Up to now, Beijing has additionally proposed reunification with Taiwan below a mannequin of “one nation, two programs.” Many Taiwan residents can have a look at Hong Kong and see how that has turned out.
For extra: Edward Wong, a Occasions correspondent who spent 9 years reporting on China and has coated Hong Kong protests, recommends two episodes of “This American Life” — “Umbrellas Up” from 2019 and “Umbrellas Down” from 2020.
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