The city of Hong Kong has introduced a new hotline that allows citizens to inform on people who act against the National Security Law. According to pro-democracy activists, the move will strengthen communist-style surveillance in the city.
“No matter where you are, your private conversations, business chats, social media posts, or school lectures can be reported via this new hotline… By putting ‘eyes and ears everywhere’, the hotline can also be used for business retaliation, by encouraging citizens snitching on each other and cooking up charges against business competitors, just like what happened during China’s Cultural Revolution,” Student activist Joshua Wong said to The Guardian.
During the Cultural Revolution of the 1960s and 1970s, families, friends, and neighbors in mainland China were induced to snitch on each other. As such, the new hotline is basically the exact same regressive policy repackaged for the new era. Citizens can send tips to the hotline through pictures, audio files, or videos. The personal details of the people who inform about possible offenders will not be collected. During its first day of operation, the hotline is said to have collected over 1,000 tips.
Maya Wang, a China researcher at Human Rights Watch, pointed out that the hotline system replicates the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP’s) focus of relying on grassroots informants. James To, Democratic Party legislator, stated that the hotline will end up creating divisions within Hong Kong’s society. He believes that the hotline is completely unnecessary given that the national security unit of the police force already has “tremendous powers.”
The national security unit is tasked with collecting intelligence, investigating offenses, and carrying out operations against activities that threaten national security. It has already arrested 22 men and 6 women under the new law. Pro-China supporters are apparently enthralled by the hotline. One social media user commented that the “cockroaches” will now have nowhere to run. “Cockroach” is a term that is often used to denote pro-democracy supporters.
Recently, the U.S. placed sanctions on four Chinese officials due to their involvement in enacting Hong Kong’s National Security Law. The sanctioned individuals include the deputy commissioner of police in Hong Kong, deputy director of the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office, and two officials from the national security office in Hong Kong.
The assets of these people which fall under the jurisdiction of the United States will be frozen. Plus, they will also be blocked from traveling to the U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo pointed out that the new sanctions underscore America’s support for the autonomy of Hong Kong.
After Beijing forcefully removed four Hong Kong legislators for being threats to national security, almost all the pro-democracy lawmakers announced their resignation as a sign of protest. One opposition lawmaker also unfurled a banner saying that Chief Executive Carrie Lam was hurting Hong Kong and that “she will stink for 10,000 years.” As a result of this mass exodus, the Hong Kong legislature will now be filled with lawmakers who are mostly loyal to the CCP.
Beijing has called the mass exodus of lawmakers a challenge to the central government’s authority and blamed them for their “stubborn resistance.” It accused the lawmakers of trying to use their resignation to trigger radical opposition and invite interference from foreign powers. Despite the CCP’s consistent attempts to quell pro-democracy movements in Hong Kong, activists are still continuing to fight for it.