July 12, 2020
Much uncertainty prevails in Hong Kong following the passage of a sweeping new national security law on June 30. In the law’s current form, Beijing retains the right to interpret crimes of sedition, subversion, terrorism and collusion with foreign powers, while allowing mainland operatives to bypass Hong Kong authorities and trials to be held on the mainland. Further, residents are concerned that the law is a culmination of a campaign to minimize oppositional voices and undermine the popular will. Last November’s local elections saw pan-democrats take nearly 90 percent of 342 seats with 71 percent of eligible voters supporting resistance to the authorities’ increasingly heavy-handed approach. The new law will likely squeeze the opposition and their political space further, leaving the political divide unresolved. The result: Beijing is moving further away from winning “hearts and minds” to realize a “second reunification” of Hong Kong.
From Beijing’s perspective, recolonization is the reason 23 years of partial, post-handover autonomy failed to bring the Hong Kong people closer to the mainland. It views Hong Kong’s seamless connectivity with the West as a threat to China’s stability and unity and believes that the opposition camp and foreign actors have been playing a major, malevolent role in fermenting anti-China sentiments. The 2014 umbrella movement and last year’s anti-government protests sparked by a proposed extradition bill underscore the governing crisis and challenges in implementing the “one country, two systems” model. These are further exacerbated by the precipitous decline of the cabinet’s popularity. At its core, the Hong Kong problem is political (rather than an issue of economic mobility, as many have suggested) and warrants a political solution.
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