It must be terrifying for the (semi-) free citizens of Hong Kong to watch the ChiComs slowly snag more control over the autonomous territory. Ever since British rule ended in Hong Kong in 1997, "the special administrative region" of the People's Republic of China has had to walk a special political tightrope. At any point, being a step impolitic might bring diplomatic displeasure, plenipotentiary vexation . . . and ZTZ 99 battle tanks.
Now, a new extradition bill has many people in Hong Kong worried about China's abusive justice system, too.
Hong Kong's relationship with the mainland Chinese is complicated. The British had treaties with China leasing Hong Kong (and other areas) for 99 years. In 1997, that lease ended with Britain handing back the region to Chinese control.
All those years, while the British had control of Hong Kong, the place thrived under capitalistic freedom. Its residents enjoyed more liberty and protections than Beijing ever gave its oppressed people. At least, you wouldn't be professionally disappeared, a favorite play among The Party in China.
One might assume that all those protections were yanked when the communists took control from Britain. But that answer is complicated, too. For before Britain gave its last substantial colony back to Chinese authorities, the two agreed on a "one country, two systems" principle. So now the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region belongs to China, but its communist system, and human rights abuses, aren't found there.
Instead, Hong Kong continues to maintain its capitalist system, and its citizens enjoy more freedoms than their counterparts under Beijing's control. But that also is supposed to come to an end soon. Hong Kong was given 50 years of freedom and semi-autonomy, but that goes away in 2047, assuming that Red China doesn't sack it sooner.
The younger generations in Hong Kong have grown quite protective of their democratic-ish freedoms. So imagine their furor when Hong Kong's Chief Executive Carrie Lam announced a new extradition agreement with the ChiComs.
Here's more from the BBC: "The changes will allow for extradition requests from authorities in mainland China, Taiwan and Macau for suspects accused of criminal wrongdoings, such as murder and rape. The requests will then be decided on a case-by-case basis."
Hong Kong's government argues it needs to plug loopholes in its official extradition system to extradite criminals. But citizens worry (and rightly so, given Beijing's history of abuses) that this will allow China to target political opponents and protesters for extradition and yank them into its abusive joke of a justice system where the authorities use the word disappeared as a noun.
You can ask those Muslim minorities in China about that, or you could if they weren't being put in concentration camps to renounce Allah in favor of the great and infallible Communist Party.
The Party is clearly eager to re-integrate Hong Kong and has surely marked 2047 on the communist calendar--when they can drive filthy capitalism and evil democracy out of the semi-autonomous region.
The BBC reports that hundreds of thousands of protesters took to the streets to show their displeasure with that extradition bill. We imagine that they have doubts about the ChiComs.
If you want to know what Hong Kong residents think of closer ties with Beijing, just look at migration patterns as British rule began to wind down in the 1980s and 1990s. Thousands left Hong Kong for the UK, Canada, Singapore and Australia. The cost to Hong Kong's development was significant in terms of capital and human talent.
Four in 10 Hong Kong secondary school pupils are wary of closer relations with the Middle Kingdom, according to the South China Morning Post. Clever kids. They're right to be wary. China's government offers nothing good in the way of freedoms and personal liberties.
What it does offer is re-education camps, police-state surveillance, the world's largest army, the disappeared, a president who amends his country's constitution at a whim, repression against minorities, arbitrary detention and torture, pervasive control over most of life, religious prosecution and no tolerance for dissent. Oh, yes, and The Party.
What gives hope? This:
It's going to be interesting to see how even the professional spooks in the People's Republic of China--neither the people's nor a republic nor even representing all Chinese--will clamp down on the kids in Hong Kong. Or try. Because in this new Internetted world, where the free flow of information doesn't even need a telephone line anymore, how are you going to keep them down once they've seen free WiFi? It's not that the genie's out of the bottle, it's that the bottle has been smashed.
Not that Beijing won't try. We just don't see even The Party having enough gizmos to thwart the collective will of all teens and millenials with cellphones. If the folks running the show in Beijing think they have enough energy and muscle to make Hong Kong into Tibet . . . .
We are reminded of a letter that Philip of Macedonia once sent to Sparta:
"You are advised to submit without further delay, for if I bring my army into your land, I will destroy your farms, slay your people, and raze your city."
Sparta replied: "If."
Editorial on 06/12/2019
Print Headline: Borrowed time