As the pandemic reclaims attention around the world, Beijing has pushed forward on plans to absorb Hong Kong into China, removing what little independence they have left from the mainland.
Since 1997 – when Hong Kong officially reverted to Chinese sovereignty, ending 156 years of British rule – Hong Kong has enjoyed a high degree of autonomy.
This applied to everything except matters of foreign relations and defense, due to an agreement signed that ensured the social and economic systems, as well as the lifestyle in Hong Kong, would remain unchanged for 50 years after 1997.
China’s latest move, a proposal to impose a highly contentious national security law in Hong Kong, is unprecedented and represents the biggest move so far towards curbing the democracy movement there and the freedoms they enjoy in the semi-autonomous territory.
The law would substantially broaden China’s power over Hong Kong and targets secession, sedition, terrorism, and foreign interference.
The legislation marks the beginning of the end for the city’s freedoms, and if passed will doubtless lead to an erosion of free speech, the right to protest, civil liberties, political freedom, and the small amount of independence that Hong Kong still enjoys.
“This is the end of Hong Kong. This is the end of one country, two systems. Make no mistake about it,” pro-democracy lawmaker Dennis Kwok told TIME.
Tanya Chan another pro-democracy lawmaker echoed this statement saying: “Today I think is the saddest day in Hong Kong history,” she said at a press conference. “It confirms one country, one system.”
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo also reported to Congress that Hong Kong is no longer autonomous from China, stating that “No reasonable person can assert today that Hong Kong maintains a high degree of autonomy from China, given facts on the ground.”
Unfortunately, there has been little to no action taken by countries around the world, including the United States. Although countries like the U.S. and Britain have strongly condemned the national security law and China’s attempts to undermine Hong Kong’s independence, little has been done beyond that.
Britain has announced that they would be willing to allow more than 2.8 million people from Hong Kong to live and work in the U.K. if China implements the national security law on the former British colony, and the U.S. has stated that they are open to the idea as well. Discussion has also picked up in the United States over implementing sanctions on China, but beyond that, Hong Kong has largely been left to fend for themselves.
More action is needed by countries around the world, particularly by world superpowers like the United States, Britain, Germany, and others, to ensure that the independence, freedom, and democracy in Hong Kong is upheld.
Hong Kong has long been a beacon of freedom, fighting against Beijing’s brutal communist regime, and protests in 2019, in which nearly 2 million people showed up to protest a bill which would have allowed extradition from Hong Kong to mainland China, were an inspirational event that galvanized people around the world to continue fighting for freedom and democracy.
It is far past time for our government and governments around the world to stop turning a blind eye, and instead, take a firm stand against a regime that has shown itself an enemy of democracy and a threat to freedom everywhere.
The U.S. can no longer make idle threats against China and instead must take concrete action to defend a nation that remains a beacon of free speech in Asia and around the world.
The flame of freedom that continues to flicker in Hong Kong must never be extinguished, and the regime that seeks to destroy it must be defeated.