National Security Law and end of Hong Kong as we know it

Delhi Jul 08, 2020, 12.28 PM(IST) Written By: Ishan Pandey

Hong Kong Photograph:( AFP )

Story highlights

The future of Hong Kong lies in disarray. The financial capital of the world is now fighting for its freedom against the communist regime

  • The National Security law formalizes the changes that have been taking place in Hong Kong for over the past year. Critics of the Chinese government fear that they will be prosecuted under the new draconian law. Further, Article 38 of the National Security law also applies to offences committed outside of Hong Kong by non-residents of Hong Kong and this includes foreign nationals. 
  • Opposition members and protestors are frantically deleting their posts, tweets and other digital traces online due to the fear of prosecution from the Chinese government.
  • The US House of Representatives has approved new Hong Kong related sanctions to penalize banks who do business with Chinese officials. 

End of Democracy

There is a new reality facing Hong Kong today. The Chinese Communist Party passed the controversial National Security Law amidst the darkness of midnight. 

According to the treaty between the Chinese and the British government, people of Hong Kong were set to enjoy autonomy, fundamental rights and the two-system governance until the year 2047. Critics now fear that the government will use the new law to silence dissent and prosecute any voices that criticize the Chinese government. Due to this well-founded fear various opposition leaders, members and protestors are frantically deleting their posts, tweets and other digital traces that can be later used as evidence against them in the court of law. Even foreigners can be prosecuted under this law and various foreigners are showing their fear and discontent against the new laws online. 

This sad affair for Hong Kong is a wake-up call to all the democracy-loving free nations of the world that the Chinese Communist Party is expanding its imperialistic behaviour towards its neighbours subverting international laws and treaties.

The future of Hong Kong lies in disarray. The financial capital of the world is now fighting for its freedom against the communist regime during the time the whole world is busy with its own domestic problems. Article 38 of the National Security Law also applies to offences committed outside of Hong Kong by non-residents of Hong Kong and this includes foreign nationals. 

The Draconian Law - Silencing Dissent 

The Hong Kong officials argue that the law would be beneficial for the long term stability of the government, but critics argue that the draconian law will be used to silence the voice of people with punishments as severe as life imprisonment. Carrie Lam, Hong Kong Chief Executive, said that “the purpose of this law is not only to punish but to deter people from committing serious offences such as succession, subverting the state power and terrorist activities.

The reality is that Hong Kong is legally gone, but the spirit and the strength of the people fighting for democracy remain with people still taking it to the streets to fight against the government. Boris Jonson criticized the move of the Chinese government as a “clear and serious” violation of its treaty with Britain. 

The British parliament has introduced a bespoke five-year visa plan with the option to apply for citizenship afterwards for as many as 3 million Hong Kong citizens with British national overseas status. There is still hope for young Hong Kongers who will likely take this route, but it is going to lead to a lot of brain drain and corporate organizations shifting their locations as the special status provided to Hong Kong is removed by the US administration. China has threatened the British government and said it will take countermeasures against the UK should it grant residency to Hongkongers fleeing a harsh new national security law. 

“The Chilling Effect” - Is Hong Kong Important for China in 2020? 

Hong Kong has enjoyed success as a major financial hub next to the likes of New York and London. A major trading partner of the US. International businesses and organizations trust Hong Kong’s legal system and trusting the Chinese legal system is risky due to its authoritarian legal system and strict capital controls.

In the 1990s, Hong Kong’s economy accounted for 25 per cent of China’s GDP but now Hong Kong accounts only for 2.7 per cent of China’s GDP due to the emergence of powerhouses such as Shenzhen, Shanghai, Beijing, Chongqing, Harbin and Chengdu which has pushed China’s GDP to  $14.1 trillion in 2019. Simply speaking, China does not care about Hong Kong anymore as Shenzhen, the metropolis outside Hong Kong has turned into a massive manufacturing powerhouse. The Communist party has little incentive to keep the people of Hong Kong happy and thus the Chinese government is going ahead with this calculated move. Hong Kong’s economy is stuttering, and the protests have paralyzed the economy giving rise to fear of capital flight from Hong Kong to Singapore and other safe havens in Asia. 

Hong Kong consecutively ranked as the world's freest economy for 26 years since its inception in 1995. The political turmoil in Hong Kong is engulfing its economy and is refreshing worries over capital outflows from one of the major financial hubs. Due to the approval of the National Security Bill, there is a deep economic crisis facing Hong Kong that can result in capital flight in the long term.

Hong Kong still remains crucial for China, as Chinese companies prefer Hong Kong as its destination for borrowing and raising capital. Access to the global currency market through Hong Kong has allowed China to prop-up its national currency. According to the Bank for International Settlements, 30% of the average daily turnover of Yuan came from Hong Kong and due to this Mrs Carrie Lam, has proposed a plan to transform Hong Kong into a private wealth management hub and turn it into a prominent offshore renminbi centre. The government wants to promote greater liquidity and connect Hong Kong’s financial market with the Mainland’s financial markets. 

The EU is Not Going to Help Hong Kong - It’s Strongest Ally Left

The UK government believes that the new law is a flagrant breach of the agreement between the two countries and honouring its commitment towards the people of Hong Kong, the UK government is granting citizenship to 3 million Hong Kongers through its 5-year visa plan. There has been a growing trend in Hong Kong for immigration over the past few years due to political unrest, the lending hand by the UK provides an incentive for professionals, young students, children and those seeking safer heavens to move overseas, in order to restore their way of life. Children born after 1997 without any link to their colonial past are choosing to stay and fight as they do not have dual citizenship. 

The EU meanwhile has said that it is discussing with its international partners on a response, but there is not much that we can expect. There is not a lot of pressure coming from the EU, its members have released their predicted statements that denounce the actions of China and show their serious concern regarding the situation but with no indications of sanctions or strong actions whatsoever. The EU believes that the economic cost of creating a front on Hong Kong is going to be against their interests as the EU needs to save its cash-starved businesses and organisations. The matter of foreign policy falls within the purview of each member state of the EU and thus there are various vested interests linked to China and Chinese investments; not to mention that China remains EU’s global supply chain partner. 

The strongest friend of Hong Kong, the UK is no longer part of the EU due to which the support for Hong Kong has diminished in Brussels. The EU has lost its most committed member when it comes to the faith of Hong Kong and finally, we have the coronavirus pandemic for which the EU council of ministers is prepaying a rescue fund and the last thing they want is an economic fight with China. Due to which the buck currently stops at money for the EU, even when it stands for the civil and political rights of the citizens of Hong Kong it cannot afford a cold war with China.

Hong Kongers and The Fight for Democracy 

A million people marched the streets of Hong Kong last year against the extradition law being passed by the Chinese government. Afterwards, the city descended into chaos with months of violence between the police and the protestors. The Chinese government clamped down heavily on protestors and increased its mass surveillance efforts significantly to silence dissent.

"The law is a brutal, sweeping crackdown against the people of Hong Kong, intended to destroy the freedoms they were promised," said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. 

The international community needs to wake up and take cognizance of the imperialistic intentions of the Chinese government, a nation-state that enjoys the status as a permanent member of the security council. Even though China has developed and pulled millions of people out of poverty, the ideology that fuels the government is based on the same principles of Lenin and Mao Zedong, who are responsible for killing millions of innocent people under the guise of collective farming and labour.

 (Disclaimer: The opinions expressed above are the personal views of the author and do not reflect the views of ZMCL)