Extradition pretense wearing thin

Beijing is getting openly involved in what is supposed to be a local government initiative to establish a formal system for extraditing fugitives from Hong Kong to the Mainland.

Up in the nation’s capital, the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office is giving CCP-loyalist Ronny Tong his talking points on the subject, and back here the Liaison Office hosts locally based Foreign Ministry officials, PLA political commissars and Mainland business leaders for a pep-talk. (One line is that Hongkongers ‘misunderstand’ the Mainland legal system – speaking of which…)

Beijing officials are also pressuring the Hong Kong business community to support the measure. And there are signs that the government might just ram the bill through the legislative process.

This is clearly not about a murder in Taiwan (perhaps realizing how lame that argument is, officials are now claiming the existing arrangement was ‘rushed’). It is about extending Mainland-style rule by abduction/fear onto this side of the border – so Hong Kong ceases to be a haven from China’s legal system. This would represent the most overt step in dismantling ‘One Country Two Systems’ as a form of insulation between Hong Kong and the CCP’s party-state. It could well be that the Legislative Council’s remaining ability to act as a check on the executive branch will fall by the wayside too.

A Foreign Policy commentator sees this as the (for-real-this-time/at-least-partial) end of Hong Kong. Another warns that, as Hong Kong’s autonomy fades, the West could end the city’s separate status in international commercial and other affairs (summary here).

As several observers point out, Beijing would probably not be too upset by this last eventuality. It would compel the city to speed up integration with the Mainland, and it would ease CCP paranoia about the ex-colony’s subversive Trojan-horse threat. So long as China’s elites could continue to launder money through a separate and open financial system, it would be fine – they’re not interested in all that World City stuff. For some perspective, the (alleged) background of how China’s leadership went back on the US trade deal suggests that Beijing cannot let go of a longstanding isolationist mindset.

As all this possibly unfolds, Taiwan could usefully grow out of its own parochial little ways.

How quickly things change – assuming that’s what’s happening.

I declare the weekend open with an unrelated and bizarre thought: young people today, mollycoddled with the safety features of modern kitchen technology, have the strangest ideas about exactly how Sylvia Plath died when she put her head in an oven…

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