The COVID-19 pandemic continues to wreak havoc worldwide. Despite countries being under pressure economically and from the novel coronavirus, China’s National People’s Congress last month passed national security legislation for Hong Kong, a decision that has shocked the world.
Let there be no doubt: This move is the beginning of the end of China’s plans for “one country, two systems” in Hong Kong and Taiwan.
Proposed amendments to extradition laws last year ignited massive protests in Hong Kong, with millions of participants, shocking the world and making confrontation between government forces and those who opposed the change a permanent part of Hong Kong society.
This year’s legislation might breathe new life into the unrest in the territory.
Hong Kongers’ fury last year moved from the proposed extradition rules to China’s “one country, two systems” governance model.
At first glance, former Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping’s (鄧小平) promise that “horse racing and dancing would continue” seemed to guarantee Hong Kong’s freedom, but in practice, the “one country, two systems” model has removed any chance of it beating its own path.
“One country, two systems” means no universal suffrage and huge income disparity, which limit the territory’s future.
Last year, Hong Kong’s democracy camp won landslide victories in district council elections, gaining almost 90 percent of the 452 district council seats in a display by voters of their dissatisfaction with “one country, two systems” and the absence of universal suffrage, as well as their hatred of China.
All the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) had to do to relieve Hong Kongers’ thirst for democracy and remove the source of the turmoil was to provide a real possibility for political development. Unfortunately, the CCP has all along turned against the public, failed to recognize their demands and diminished their protests by calling them a plot to overturn the government in collusion with foreign forces.
The CCP passed the national security legislation to allow it to control Hong Kongers without negotiating with them. Beijing has clearly given up on the idea of a Hong Kong run by Hong Kongers, and is taking a tighter grip by pushing it toward “one country, one system.”
The protests have bolstered anti-Chinese sentiment in Taiwan. In addition to giving President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) the ammunition she needed to win re-election in January, they have also resulted in a surge in the number of people identifying as Taiwanese and reinvigorated the independence movement. The Democratic Progressive Party’s continued hold on government power is a reflection of the public’s unwillingness to accept “one country, two systems” and their preference for the “status quo.”
Beijing rushed through the national security legislation in its pursuit of stability in Hong Kong, which completely disregards the feelings of Taiwanese, who are used to democratic procedure, and value communication and interaction. It precludes any possibility that “one country, two systems” would ever be implemented here.
With the pandemic and US action against it, China faces internal and external trouble.
However, passing controversial legislation without considering public sentiment in Hong Kong will only result in an even stronger backlash.
If the authorities in Beijing do not think long and hard about the consequences of their decisions, there could be a repeat of the June 4, 1989, massacre in Hong Kong.
Hsiao Hsu-hsing is a political commentator.
Translated by Perry Svensson
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