One year ago, millions took to the streets of Hong Kong to save the formerly autonomous city’s liberties. Today, as the Communist Congress sets into law the means to punish dissidents as the party pleases, it’s clear the fight was lost.
“It marks the end of Hong Kong that the world new before,” pro-democracy leader and Nobel Peace Prize nominee Joshua Wong reportedly said at the news of the bill’s unveiling.
The legislation has been kept secret for months and was today approved by the National People’s Congress. The body is widely recognized as a puppet of the Communist Party, and the people of Hong Kong unsurprisingly had no say in the bill. The legislation implements harsh punishments, including lifetime imprisonment, for residents who violate the party’s new rules for the city.
Included in these are a broad list of crimes that are defined to include regular protest activity. This includes “terrorism” for disrupting traffic, “subversion” for disrupting any government agents, and “secession” for groups speaking of potential independence. Any attempt for protest groups to work with the international community is now a criminal offense.
The bill entered into force midnight on Tuesday, the 23rd anniversary of the day Beijing gaining control of the once democratic city. It has now been forced into Hong Kong’s basic law, which is the autonomous territory’s closest equivalent to a constitution.
The bill has already had a catastrophic impact for the city’s numerous pro-democracy groups. Independence groups, such as the Hong Kong National Front and Hong Kong Indigenous, abandoned the country upon the bill’s passing. Demosisto, the city’s largest pro-democracy party, also announced that it will disband. While some activists flee, others, including Wong, intend to stay and take the consequences as they will.
“If my voice will not be heard soon, I hope that the international community will continue to speak up for Hong Kong and step up concrete efforts to defend our last bit of freedom.” The Nobel Peace prize nominee then proceeded to quote Psalms 23:3. “I may walk through the valley of the shadow of death, but I won’t be afraid. You are with me, and your shepherd’s rod makes me feel safe.”
Even for those who have fled, the CCP’s new rules mean it will continue to hunt them down. The bill states that its harsh sentences can be used on those outside the territory, although the government has not revealed how it will enforce this.
The CCP is known for violent retribution against groups resistant to its rule. The ongoing Uyghur genocide in China’s north began with the ethnic minority group calling for greater independence. Outside the province, more than one million party officials have been incarcerated in Chinese President Xi Jinping’s extra-judicial “campaign against corruption,” a thinly veiled crackdown against dissidents in the Party.
In response to the Communist Party’s actions, the Trump administration officially removed Hong Kong’s preferential trade status. ‘If Beijing now treats Hong Kong as “One Country, One System, then so must we,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo stated.
As of press time, there is no news yet as to what has happened to Wong and the pro-democracy leaders who chose not to flee.