‘Hong Kong will sit on China’s lap’: Beijing crushes city’s autonomy


Forty-seven Hong Kong democracy activists were charged last week with subversion against the Chinese state for trying to win an election. This week, the Chinese parliament made sure it would never participate in another.

The intervention by the National People’s Congress marked the second time in 10 months that Xi Jinping’s administration has imposed sweeping legislation on Hong Kong through an effectively secret process. As with a national security law last year, it will be weeks before full arrangements for a new electoral law cleared by the AFN on Thursday are fully disclosed.

Its contours, however, are clear. Xi, China’s most powerful ruler since Mao Zedong, dramatically reduced the scope of the former British colony’s autonomy, which was to be guaranteed for 50 years after his handover in 1997 under the “one country, two systems ”.

“We need to improve the [election] system to ensure that the organs of political power in Hong Kong are firmly in the hands of true patriots ”, Xia baolong, who heads the Chinese government’s Hong Kong affairs office, said before “the 47” – as they are called – were arrested en masse. Only five of them were released on bail.

The rest, including the student activist Joshua wong and academic Benny tai, will likely remain behind bars for the duration of what is likely to be a lengthy trial.

Bing Ling, a professor of Chinese law at the University of Sydney, said Beijing wants the trial to have a “chilling effect”, showing that “it is now legally perilous to engage in open political opposition to Hong Kong ”.

The electoral law will empower a pro-Beijing “electoral committee” to nominate all candidates for the territory’s legislature and to appoint directly “a relatively large part“From the room. Previously, half of the seats in the Legislative Council were chosen through open candidacies and direct elections. According to people knowledgeable about the law, only 20 to 30 percent of Hong Kong lawmakers will be directly elected in the future.

Just as the National Security Law has revealed much about the paranoid worldview of the Chinese Communist Party, which insists that “hostile foreign forces” are wreaking havoc in Hong Kong, the new law is a striking illustration. of what he considers democratic, free and fair. elections.

“The party tolerates political pluralism and the institutions of electoral democracy only to the extent that they support its hold on power,” said Jude Blanchette at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.

“As soon as Beijing considers its authority to be challenged, it will respond without any qualms. For Xi, the idea of ​​”free and fair” is totally irrelevant. What matters is stability and power.

Li Zhanshu, head of the AFN and third-highest official of the Chinese Communist Party, described the provisions of the electoral law as “combined legal punches” necessary to defeat “extremists” and alleged foreign interference in affairs. from Hong Kong.

Even Bernard Chan, the pro-establishment head of a committee that advises Carrie Lam, the executive director, told the Hong Kong public broadcaster: “It’s a shame we’ve probably gone back to where [political development was] in the first days after the transfer ”.

Xi Jinping’s administration to respond to challenges ‘without any qualms’ © Reuters

Regression, he added, was necessary “Give confidence to the central government that” one country, two systems “could continue”.

A Chinese scholar who advises the government on Hong Kong affairs and asks not to be named said, “Hong Kong used to sit on the knees of the West, transferring resources from around the world to the West. China”.

“Hong Kong has made a lot of money and benefited a lot from it,” the academic added. “But from Beijing’s perspective, the hope now is that Hong Kong will sit on China’s lap as we explore the world together.”

Beijing officials and local prosecutors, armed with the draconian provisions of the national security law, alleged that the 47 democracy activists on trial for subversion had “conspired” to win a majority in the territory’s legislature “for s ” seize power to administer Hong Kong ”in an election scheduled for last year, which was postponed.

Their goal, prosecutors added, was “to refuse regardless of budget.” . . regardless of their content or merits, ”and ultimately force Lam to resign. Under Hong Kong’s Basic Law, or mini-constitution, Lam would have to step down if the budget was rejected twice by the Legislative Council.

Lam was deeply unpopular since she tried to pass a contentious extradition bill two years ago that would have allowed Hong Kong residents to be extradited to China, start a mass protest movement. While the extradition bill was withdrawn, the AFN overturned it last year with the National Security Act.

The subversion trial highlighted how certain mainland legal practices now supersede Hong Kong standards in national security trials, such as the previous presumption of bail for most defendants. Crowded bail hearings for all 47 stretched until late at night on two consecutive days, most to no avail.

The five activists released on bail Friday must adhere to strict conditions, such as refraining from making public political statements. In the run-up to the mass arrests, Xia denounced Wong and Tai as “vile anti-Chinese elements.”

Emilia Wong, the girlfriend of defendant Ventus Lau, observed that bail conditions would make those released pending trial “mostly dead” in the public domain, and wondered why the others had. been kept in detention.

“What are the authorities afraid of?” she asked. “Can the dead still endanger national security?”

Additional reporting by Qianer Liu in Shenzhen and Xinning Liu in Beijing



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