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Three reasons why HK security legislation needed now



Editor's note:Josef Gregory Mahoney is a professor of politics at East China Normal University. The article reflects the author's opinion, and not necessarily the views of CGTN.

Contrary to apocalyptic and emotionally exploitative rhetoric from some corners, there are compelling arguments that the new national security legislation endorsed by the National People's Congress is vital for Hong Kong and the Chinese mainland's security in both specific and general ways.

Specifically, the legislation does have rather narrow objectives that are responding to longstanding legitimate needs that have intensified in recent years. More generally, Hong Kong is part of China, and its security is guaranteed by China, and in turn it cannot be a weak-link in national security. Some are unable to accept this reality, and certainly there are many who want to drive a wedge between Hong Kong and the Chinese mainland.

Some have even wrongly imagined that Hong Kong is or ever has been an independent entity up till now, either under the British when it was ruled by an appointed royal governor or more recently, since it returned to China in 1997.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who learned from his predecessor's sacking that being diplomatic was the last thing his boss wanted from the nation's top diplomat consequently never misses a China-bashing opportunity, once again has entered the fray to claim this new legislation represents the end of Hong Kong's independence, the end of Hong Kong's autonomy, and simply, the end of Hong Kong.

Consequently, he's said that going forward U.S. foreign policy will regard Hong Kong as though it's simply part of China, and to impose on Hong Kong the same trade restrictions the Chinese mainland has faced.

Not to be upstaged, President Donald Trump joined this election year political theater soon after Pompeo, saying the U.S. will strip Hong Kong of its special status and will be like it's part of China. As negative as that may sound, it must be pleasing to Chinese ears. Who can be unhappy in China with the U.S. recognizing that Hong Kong is part of China and not exceptional too it?

In fact this development is not unexpected. It's clearly straight from the anti-China playbook that's guided the Trump administration from the start, and it was certainly anticipated already in the Chinese mainland.

Indeed, according to both contacts in Beijing and Shanghai's financial district, many were anticipating this move by the U.S. more than a year ago, regardless of what Beijing did, and indeed, Hong Kong had already been subjected directly to a lot of the negative policies.

Anti-fugitive bill protesters break into the Legislative Council building during the anniversary of Hong Kong's return to China, in Hong Kong SAR, China, July 1, 2019. /Reuters

If some Hong Kongers believe they have a friend in Washington then they should examine more carefully Trump's bullying even old and new friends alike, his tearing up climate control and arms control treaties, his brinkmanship in DPRK and Iran, his abandonment of the Kurds, and his willingness to attack anyone and everyone who doesn't buckle to American pressure.

In fact, Trump is an enemy to everything Hong Kong once held dear. He is an open enemy of globalization. In other words, can it not be said that he openly opposed most of the values and practices that made Hong Kong a global city par excellence? And the irony of scapegoating Beijing for his own behavior and punishing Hong Kong for the same can only be described as a willful desire to see Hong Kong suffer while the U.S. wallows in its own decline and dysfunction, and all the more so given America's ongoing COVID-19 cock-ups, with more than 100,000 dead and 40 million filing for unemployment.

No matter what Trump and Pompeo say, this is not the end of Hong Kong, nor are we facing the end of globalization and global trade, as The Economist recently lamented.

What are we facing?

American policies toward China have become pathologically aggressive and by some accounts, intentionally destructive. While we might not know Washington's true objectives at this point, it's reasonable to assume they are quite negative, even to the point of seeking to destroy China's economy and political system, and it's clear from comments from Trump and Pompeo that inflaming tensions with respect to Hong Kong is one tactic among many currently aimed against Beijing.

It's hard to look forward when so many are looking backward, and above all those in Washington who are replaying the Reagan-era rhetoric, who dream of a second Cold War that ends like the first, preserving America as the sole superpower. But a new world order is fast emerging despite Washington's resistance, and Hong Kong tragically is on the front line of this transition. With this in mind, there are three reasons why this law needed to be implemented now.

Why was this law necessary?

First, the differences between Hong Kong and the Chinese mainland have become smaller in fact, especially comparing Hong Kong to cities like Shanghai and Shenzhen, among others, and whether these are positive or negative developments, the fact that Hong Kong and the Chinese mainland are becoming more alike is deeply unnerving to some.

Second, Hong Kong SAR is within China, and security is mutual. To undermine one or the other at this point undermines both. Security is essential to legitimate rights, for both residents and businesses. Those who are holding out hope that delaying or undermining Beijing will forestall further integration have not only grossly misread the real politics of the situation, above all increasingly they risk destroying what they aim to save.

Third, there are specific concerns that this legislation addresses that clarify rights and protections that stalled locally and therefore must be addressed nationally. Indeed, if you look at the history of legal developments of and resistance to Article 23 of the Basic Law, which addresses national security but has always been put off because of local sensitivities, then it is easy to see that this neglect has happened in tandem with increasing foreign interventions in Hong Kong SAR politics, as well as the embodiment of the same in some local Hong Kongers who reject Chinese sovereignty for whatever reason.

Consequently, you can see the security situation in Hong Kong has been declining in ways that have deeply wounded the city politically, socially, and economically. If this persists then Hong Kong SAR is likely to suffer an even greater decline. This hurts everyone in Hong Kong SAR, and by extension, this also hurts China as a whole.

Some businesses may have enjoyed the gray areas and uncertainties, and some might not like the new legislation, but in fact, legitimate businesses generally prefer clarity to time as a means for risk assessment and capital investment. Despite Washington's aims, businesses are more likely to find security and stability from Beijing, and Hong Kong should too.


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