During the course of the American colonies’ struggle to free themselves from the British Empire, there were those who advocated war and those who championed peace.
In March 1775, politician Patrick Henry delivered a speech at the Second Virginia Convention that would go on to become a celebrated piece of oratory in the English language. Speaking above taunts and jeers, Henry said: “Gentlemen may cry, Peace, Peace — but there is no peace. The war is actually begun.”
Henry’s words could equally well be applied to describe the situation between China and Taiwan today.
Beijing last week sent out two signals that it considers itself already at war with Taiwan.
The first signal was sent during Chinese Premier Li Ke- qiang’s (李克強) report at the opening of this year’s National People’s Congress (NPC) on May 22. In a marked departure from past practice, Li omitted the word “peaceful” from the stock line about promoting the “unification” of China and Taiwan.
The second signal came on May 31, when the NPC bypassed the Hong Kong Legislative Council and imposed national security legislation on the territory.
The legislation provides for the establishment of a national security office in the territory, and mandates that the Hong Kong government introduce national security education in schools and submit regular progress reports to Beijing. It imposes a Hong Kong version of Taiwan’s Martial Law era Taiwan Garrison Command above the Hong Kong government.
The legislation shares many similarities with Taiwan’s Martial Law era Criminal Code and the Punishment of Rebellion Act (懲治叛亂條例), as it requires the Hong Kong administration to implement measures to prevent and punish “separatism, sedition, terrorist activity and interference in Hong Kong affairs by foreign or external forces.”
The legislation requires all Hong Kongers to be brainwashed with Chinese Communist Party political, military and citizenship education, which teaches that everyone is subordinate to “the party.” It will control movement, change ways of thinking and crush the human spirit.
Once implemented, Hong Kong’s cherished freedoms of speech and assembly would quickly become a distant memory as the “Pearl of the Orient” is turned into a coastal version of the Xinjiang police state.
This obscurantist Cultural Revolution-style project is expected to be implemented in August. Although the measures are specific to Hong Kong, Beijing is sending a clear message to the world: Its authority can never be questioned; nothing can obstruct the unification of “Greater China.”
Hong Kong’s administrative autonomy is protected by an agreement enshrined in international law, but no price is too high for the party — even if the territory is stripped of its preferential trade status and Beijing faces international sanctions.
Beijing has made a unilateral move against Hong Kong. Now, the world is waiting to see how Washington reacts. To win the confidence of concerned people around the world, the US must take action that is commensurate with Beijing’s brazen enslavement of the people of Hong Kong.
China used the NPC last month to convey an unmistakable message: We are at war. Once Beijing has subdued Hong Kong, it will undoubtedly turn its attention to solving the “Taiwan problem” — but are Taiwanese cognizant of the heightened threat from China and mentally prepared for the fight?
In the same way that we dispatched COVID-19, we must deal with this new danger by taking the initiative, moving early and guarding against complacency. We must be unflinching about the dangerous path China is on. Once it is finished with Hong Kong, it will train its guns on Taiwan.
Lai Jwei-chin is a writer.
Translated by Edward Jones
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