Hong Kong will never be the same again. In the most serious blow to its democratic way of life, China imposed a national security law on the island on June 30, spreading fear and intimidation among Hong Kongers and sending shock waves to the world.
A physical symbol of the law is the newly set up security office in a hotel overlooking Victoria Park where intelligence agents from the mainland openly operate. Their target: those who commit acts of subversion, secession, terrorism and foreign collusion.
China is strangling Hong Kong and killing the “one country, two systems” principle that has guided their relationship for more than 2 decades. The wall that the rule of law has built to keep Hong Kongers safe from the tentacles of China is coming down.
A protester holds a flag that reads "Free Hong Kong - Revolution Now" as he attends along with others a pro-democracy rally at a shopping mall in Hong Kong on June 12, 2020. Photo by Dale de la Rey/AFP
What does all this mean for Taiwan which China regards as its “renegade province”? And what can pro-democracy forces around the world do?
Various powers, pro-democracy forces and liberals all over the world should heighten their vigilance on China and amplify the voices of Hong Kongers struggling to keep their autonomy. “Civil libertarians around the world must continue to put up a united stand against tyranny in order to push for a democratic rule-based order,” Pangilinan, who heads the CALD, said.
Despite China’s “reign of terror,” Emily Lau, chair of the international affairs committee of the Democratic Party in Hong Kong, urged the international community to “engage China.” The goal should be “to get China to behave according to the code of behavior of the civilized world…respect human rights, the rule of law, [and the] independence of the judiciary.”
She also called for support from friendly countries and groups to “speak for Hong Kong.” Addressing those in Hong Kong, Lau called for “huge sacrifices,” saying “we only live once, and we want to make it worth living.”
Taiwan has been strengthening its democracy against China’s digital disinformation campaigns that are meant to sow distrust in the ruling Democratic Progressive Party. Its vibrant civil society has been working with the Digital Ministry to keep transparency in government robust and safeguard cyberspace through vigorous fact-checking.
Ketty Chen, vice president of the TFD, said that their legislature passed laws to beef up the country’s national security, enabling the government to closely monitor spies for China’s Communist Party and its proxies – and penalize them more severely.
Manpreet Singh Anand, Asia-Pacific regional director of the NDI, said his organization “provides technical assistance and solidarity to those who are fighting for democracy and looking to amplify their voices to the international community.” In doing this, the NDI and its civil-society partners are helping “create a different kind of united front on the global stage to confront Beijing’s attempts to co-opt international institutions.”
Cherie Wong, executive director of Alliance Canada Hong Kong, a collective that mobilizes Canada-Hong Kong communities to take political action, challenged Western democracies: “It is time to step up…China will keep on advancing its global authoritarian agenda.” These countries, she continued, can “unite on the principles of human rights and democratic values and stand against China’s authoritarian rule.”
Specifically, Wong cited the “unique role that middle powers like Canada, Australia, New Zealand, France, Germany, the rest of the EU can take” through leadership roles. For example, Wong said, countries in the Indo-Pacific region have to invest in developing countries which want to break away from the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) control. “Democratic and western societies need to offer developing countries a way out, an alternative investment plan that does not require them to bend to the rules of an autocratic country but encourages the democratization of the country,” she explained.
You can watch the video recording of the webinar here for more takeaways. (Note: I was moderator of the forum.)
Meantime, we continue to follow the coronavirus outbreak in the region. In this interview, Hans Vriens, who runs a government affairs and political risk analysis firm focusing on Southeast Asia, talks about the political impact of the pandemic. Watch it here: