Don’t Panic!

Trying to think of historical parallels for dictatorships crushing developed free societies. The qualifiers mean the fall of Cuba or South Vietnam to Communists don’t come close. Czechoslovakia in the late 1940s? Though it was in ruins.

Here’s an interesting comparison: Taiwan in the 1950s, after the Kuomintang Mainlanders took over the former Japanese colony. (The article is from 2018 when Beijing’s creeping ‘comprehensive jurisdiction’ was starting to replace Deng’s non-mixing of well and river waters.)

To take your mind off such things, smarmy Chinese officials and local Hong Kong weasel-puppets rush to say ‘don’t panic!’. Beijing’s direct imposition of national security laws is aimed at only a few people, will end Hong Kong’s problems and reduce the risk of terrorism and improve the investment environment. So stop demonizing! After all, every country has to protect its security and sovereignty.  

It’s almost as if they are shocked at the negative reaction.

Their defensiveness won’t reassure skeptics. Hong Kong already has laws to punish terrorist acts and other forms of violence. Even without national security legislation, it has an outdated colonial Public Order Ordinance and even creakier common-law riot and incitement charges. It uses ‘lawfare’ against political opponents – like public-health regulations to ban protests, and even inane Trade Descriptions offenses to trap activists. Indeed, Beijing already has the ability to force companies like Cathay Pacific to fire staff for their opinions. No new or extra laws seem necessary. What are the ‘loopholes’ that need to be plugged?

Until Beijing can convince us otherwise, we must assume that the intention is to criminalize acts that are currently legal (because harmless to society), or to justify other curbs on citizens’ freedoms. In short, to silence dissent – to control, to Mainlandize.

The Bar Association notes that sidelining local political and legislative structures is unconstitutional. Except according to Leninist logic it can’t be. So this whole exercise formalizes direct rule by Beijing.

The CCP obviously intends to take greater control of courts. As Reuters says, the NPC motion…

…states that Hong Kong’s “judicial organs” along with its government and legislature “must effectively prevent, stop and punish acts endangering national security”.

Danny Gittings points out that even if the courts don’t fall into line, Beijing can issue an ‘interpretation’ simply declaring the new law to be in line with the Basic Law (thus not subject to the latter’s free speech and other protections).

Perhaps a likelier possibility is a Beijing-obedient parallel national-security court system, with only dependable loyalist judges. Either way, Mainland security agencies will operate overtly here. George Magnus expects:

They will be diligent in trying to suppress dissent, curtail freedom of expression and assembly, and introduce arbitrary detention and other forms of repression. 

Perhaps this parallel jurisdiction will have its own prosecutions agency and prisons, too. They will presumably need a lot more cells. To quote Prof Ma Ngok: “Usually the penalty will be much heavier when it is national security.”

One of the main targets for national security laws, as Tofu-for-Brains and others ceaselessly remind us, is Evil Foreign Forces conspiring with radicals in plots to overthrow the CCP. In practice, as Antony Dapiran points out, this could endanger foreign media organizations and reporters, foreign NGOs, academics and ‘any foreign business or individual whose home country has a turbulent or strained relationship with China’. It will also of course (and primarily) ensnare locals who have dealings with such evil foreigners.

If Mainland use of national security laws is any guide, anyone – local or foreign – can ‘subvert the state’ simply by openly disagreeing with it, or helping or talking to someone who does. Just the threat of being accused of such vague, catch-all offenses intimidates every individual, group or business.

Among other delights, there is Mainland-style tech, telecoms and surveillance regimes to look forward to – Internet censorship, bans on VPNs, and the ‘dystopian’ facial-recognition social-credit scores and so on. And propaganda in and out of schools. And loyalty tests for the public sector. And who knows what else.

But it will only affect a small number of extreme radicals.

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17 Responses to Don’t Panic!

  1. Joe Blow says:

    Why doesn’t Bloody Carrie gives us a few examples of those ‘extreme radicals’ so that we have a benchmark?

  2. Chinese Netizen says:

    The Mormons must be shitting in their special underwear right about now. They’re about as popular on the mainland as Uighur Muslims except WORSE because they’re ‘Murikan by nature!

  3. Mark Bradley says:

    But don’t Mormons have a church in Shanghai?

  4. Reactor #4 says:

    Those belonging to HK’s chicken-licken class are advised read Ronnie Tong’s article in today’s SCMP (link below). In my view, it is a suitably measured appraisal of what the law-change will really mean and the attendant issues. His presentation should assuage many of their worries.

  5. Mary Melville says:

    Among other delights, there is Mainland-style tech, telecoms and surveillance regimes to look forward to …….. already under way if the very tall metal poles being installed in front of TST police station, and no doubt other locations, are anything to go by.

  6. Penny says:

    “Why doesn’t Bloody Carrie gives us a few examples of those ‘extreme radicals’ so that we have a benchmark?”
    Because she wants to keep it vague and so deter all radicals and even non-radicals. In fact anyone who expresses views unacceptable to her CCP overlords.

  7. Revolution says:

    @ Joe Blow – the government will not give examples. It never does in these situations: see their refusal to elaborate on circumstances in which the National Anthem law might be breached.

    What is really being criminalised by this law is “Anything the CCP doesn’t like”. Giving any examples of what is criminal and what is not criminal risks fettering their ability to deal with their enemies later. Like on the Mainland, everything will be legal until it isn’t.

  8. Cassowary says:

    A relative of mine who lives abroad asked “They’ll leave you alone as long as you don’t get involved in politics, right?”

    Oh you poor sweet summer child. That’s not how any of this works.

  9. Hong Kong Hibernian says:

    Don’t forget that most perfidious of human behaviours: betrayal.

    Innocent individuals who occupy coveted positions within the staff room are now, even more than ever, fair game for the informant.

  10. A Ocean Park resident says:

    Another possibility is that the new law will be designed to include the powers previously contained in the failed Extradition Bill. Although the bill was withdrawn, Beijing does not want to admit defeat, and is still keen on extraditing those not loyal to the Emperor to the Mainland. With the Mainland security agencies operating here, they can do whatever they want openly with those fugitives hiding in the Four Seasons.

  11. donkeynuts says:

    If you were reading the Wall Street Journal a few weeks ago and came across the gem that stated that US companies were no longer allwoed to use servers or internet connections in Hong Kong, then you would have had an ah-ha moment that the die had already been cast.

    My take on this is that the US already knew at that point that Beijing was pushing for this and would succeed, therefore creating a gambit for Trump. He should, and has to, back Taiwan, because if he doesn’t Beijing will quickly move to take it. There must have been some diplomatic rear sniffing that led to this line in the sand, with Hong Kong going to China and Taiwan staying safe, for now.

    I predict good things for Taiwan. They will thrive, they will expand. They will become a manufacturing hub twice the size of what they already are in software and intelligent design. China’s going to lose.

  12. Eight-year-olds, Dude. says:

    Trust the angry geography teacher that is reactor #4 to be so out of the loop that he recommends an article by a pedophile being blackmailed by the Communists as a shining example of a “measured appraisal” of reality.

    We’ll have to invent a whole new word or phrase for his brand of stupid. None of the existing ones quite cuts it.

  13. Onecistern says:

    China’s idea of national security laws is akin to a protection racket. The CCP smashes Hong Kong’s windows and then demands payment from the hapless Hongkongers to ensure no future breakage thus benefiting from a situation of their own making.

  14. asiaseen says:

    @ Reactor 4
    You mean Turncoat Tong, cousin to the Vicar of Bray?

  15. Donny Almond says:

    Ronny Tong’s nickname in Chinese is ‘brother 11’.

  16. Dansonofdirm says:

    Ah yes, free societies such as *checks notes* military coup governed Cuba.

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