Hundreds of thousands of Hong Kongers have joined a series of protests against proposed amendments to the territory’s Fugitive Offenders Ordinance, which would enable Hong Kong to extradite people to China.
China was abducting Hong Kong residents and foreign nationals from various places long before the extradition bill was proposed.
In 2015, Causeway Bay Books manager Lam Wing-kei (林榮基) disappeared. Bookshop shareholder and Swedish citizen Gui Minhai (桂民海) disappeared in Thailand and another shareholder, British national Paul Lee (李波), disappeared in Hong Kong. They all wound up incarcerated in China.
In 2017, Taiwanese human rights advocate Lee Ming-che (李明哲) was arrested after crossing the border from Macau to Zhuhai in Guangdong Province.
Also in 2017, Chinese capitalist Xiao Jianhua (肖建華), who has Canadian citizenship and Hong Kong residency, was taken to China from the Hong Kong Four Seasons Hotel.
In 2002, Chinese democracy movement pioneer and US green card holder Wang Bingzhang (王炳章) was abducted in Vietnam and taken to China.
As Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs Chrystia Freeland has said, China’s arbitrary detentions of foreign nationals on the pretext that they have broken its national security laws, while actually using them as hostages, has become a problem that every country must face.
Beijing has been reaching into Hong Kong and taking away its judicial independence, personal freedoms and freedom of expression. If this compels foreign investors and transnational financial institutions to pull out of Hong Kong, its status as a trade and financial hub would be lost forever.
Hong Kongers have taken to the streets because they see the extradition bill crisis as their last chance to avoid this fate.
In China’s eyes, Hong Kong has been supplanted by Shanghai, overtaken by Shenzhen and submerged by the Greater Bay Area, turning it into a mere locality.
China and the US are locked in a conflict between democracy and human rights on one side and totalitarian dictatorship on the other. Hong Kong’s extradition bill is just a way of legalizing Chinese abductions.
Beijing is emulating the long-arm jurisdiction of Western nations by seizing people and holding them hostage, while the US threatens to retaliate with a draft Hong Kong human rights and democracy bill, which would amend the terms of the 1992 US-Hong Kong Policy Act.
It remains to be seen whether this will hit China where it hurts.
China’s dictatorship is deeply rooted in its traditional culture. The despotic regime has existed since the Zhou Dynasty, while the Confucian hierarchical relations between ruler and officials, father and son, and so on, form a top-down concept of the state with strictly controlled relations of rank and class.
This system respects absolute dominance, with no concept of human rights, freedom or democracy.
If China were still weak and isolationist, this would not threaten the rest of the world. However, US policies since the 1970s have enabled China to grow into an expansionist and domineering troublemaker.
Taiwanese might laugh at Kaohsiung Mayor Han Kuo-yu’s (韓國瑜) slogan of “being mindful of the mainland, developing a global perspective and conquering the universe,” but if the US and other Western democracies fail to recognize the dark side of Chinese culture and take precautions, China’s rise could be a disaster for humankind.
Lau Yi-te is chairman of the Taiwan Solidarity Union.
Translated by Julian Clegg
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