When Britain handed Hong Kong over to China in 1997, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) promised that it would honor the “one country, two systems” rule under which Hong Kong would be able to preserve its way of life. Fast forward two decades and China seems to be in no mood to honor the agreement. All actions indicate that the CCP wants to turn Hong Kong into a regular Chinese city, devoid of its uniqueness and free spirit.
Creeping CCP rule in Hong Kong
In terms of the CCP’s treatment of Hong Kong, 2018 was an important year. The Chinese regime was more active than ever in exerting its influence and shutting down opposing voices. Frighteningly, authorities in Hong Kong seemed to easily comply with the CCP’s requests, indicating that the city’s freedoms are being encroached upon and quickly being replaced by the communist standard.
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For the first time since 1997, Hong Kong rejected a fugitive surrender request from the U.S. because of Beijing’s pressure. In addition, an American navy ship was denied a routine port call in Hong Kong for the first time in about two years. The city is also being pressured to pass a bill that will make “disrespecting” the Chinese national anthem a criminal offense.
And with Chinese President Xi Jinping being declared president for life, there are rumors that he wants to bring Hong Kong and regions like Taiwan under one single Chinese rule so as to become the first person who “unified China” despite the “evil Western schemes.” As such, many are worried that freedoms in Hong Kong will slowly erode further in the future.
“China’s encroachment on the territory’s political system, rule of law, and freedom of expression is moving Hong Kong closer to becoming more like any other Chinese city rather than a special administrative region with a ‘high degree of autonomy.’ Moreover, Beijing is degrading the territory’s democratic institutions of free speech and rule of law that make it a valuable partner for the United States and an important international financial hub,” according to a report by the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission.
Applying mainland laws
This year, Beijing initiated a terminal rail project that will force mainland Chinese law on a small territory in Hong Kong. This is seen as a “test move” by the CCP in its bigger plan of completely bringing Hong Kong under Chinese law.
If the plan comes to fruition, Hong Kong’s existing human rights laws will be blatantly discarded since the territory will practice Chinese law. People who voice pro-democratic opinions and human rights activists in the territory can be arrested for “creating a disturbance.” The plan basically undermines Hong Kong’s individuality and dashes the “one country, two systems” promise into pieces.
“This new arrangement, which will facilitate arbitrary detention and unjust prosecutions for exercise of fundamental rights in Hong Kong — alongside these other encroachments — should be seen as a concerted threat to rule of law and basic rights by Beijing. They may not seem as dramatic as tanks rolling across the border, but the effect is likely going to be the same,” according to Human Rights Watch.
In March, Benny Tai Yiu-ting, a professor at Hong Kong University, said that Hong Kong must consider independence or join with a confederation of Chinese states in case China ends up democratic in the future. The CCP and its supporters in Hong Kong went on to tarnish the reputation of the professor, alluding to him as a “traitor.” Human rights activists saw the pressure campaign waged against Professor Benny as another example of dark times in Hong Kong.