Sunday, January 17

Beijing’s repressive spiral in Hong Kong | Opinion


Dozens of democracy activists have been arrested in Hong Kong under the new national security law.
Dozens of democracy activists have been arrested in Hong Kong under the new national security law.ANTHONY WALLACE / AFP

Hong Kong has just suffered the effects of one more turn of the screw in the anti-democratic coup launched by the authoritarian regime in Beijing last June, when the Xi Jinping government hijacked the autonomous territory’s legislative powers to enact a security law that it limited political freedoms and placed the citizens of the former British colony under its police control. More than fifty deputies who recently resigned in protest, district councilors, activists and opposition lawyers have been arrested and their offices and homes registered in an operation that has not even distinguished among those who exercised moderate criticism of the regime of Beijing and those who directly advocate full sovereignty of the territory.

The imputation that weighs on the detainees is the organization of a primary election aimed at unifying the entire opposition in a single electoral list for elections initially scheduled for September, but later postponed with the excuse of the pandemic. The objective pursued, according to a spokesman for the puppet government installed by Beijing, was nothing less than to obtain a parliamentary majority to paralyze the approval of the budgets and force the chief executive, Carrie Lam, to resign and then bring down the government. The police operation is the largest action to date covered by this new security law, which has already led to the prosecution or exile of several opposition leaders and the harassment of the media.

Xi Jinping has known how to take advantage of the global disorder caused by the pandemic and the tense transition in the United States to gain full control of the territory – which enjoyed a high degree of freedom and self-government – and thus unilaterally advance in 27 years the full return of sovereignty provided for in the 1984 agreements between London and Beijing for a transitional period beginning in 1997 and ending in 2047, under the principle of one country, two systems. The European Union, which has just signed a trade agreement with Beijing, must take good note of how its Asian partner spends them in its authoritarian gradualism. In view of the strength of the Asian giant, it is difficult to think that external pressures can achieve substantial changes in its internal action on human rights. This does not mean that you have to give up vigorously reporting your violation; but above all it means that liberal democracies must aspire to maintain a high degree of cohesion in the face of the rise of this authoritarian giant. Trump’s departure from the stage and his erratic excesses offers an opportunity for the EU and the US to realign their strategy against Beijing, also narrowing ranks with other relevant partners such as Japan.

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