After a year of riots and anti-government protests in Hong Kong, China is clamping down. The country’s government is banning certain activities in the semi-independent territory. U.S. officials warn the new law could harm Hong Kong’s favored trade status.
Hong Kong has a complex history. China’s Qing Empire gave Hong Kong Island to Great Britain after the First Opium War in 1842. In 1898, the island was “leased” to Britain for 99 years.
As British rule wound down, people fled Hong Kong. They feared a communist takeover. When the British rule ended in 1997, China promised Hong Kong 50 years of freedoms—ones that don’t exist on the communist-ruled mainland. China allowed Hong Kong to maintain its own legal, financial, and trade systems while still belonging to China—at first.
China called this arrangement with Hong Kong the “one country, two systems” principle. The plan helped Hong Kong enjoy a better trade standing with the United States and others.
For 22 years, semi-independent Hong Kong operated mostly free from communist control. The territory became a world-class import-export hub, a booming tourist destination, and an important financial center.
Now China seems ready to break its 50-year promise. (See “Hong Kong Freedoms Fading.”)
In May, China’s parliament passed a national security law. The proposal forbids anti-government activities, foreign meddling, and terrorism. It comes after months of intense and sometimes violent pro-democracy demonstrations. (See “Hong Kong Protests.”) Most observers believe China intends to squelch such dissent with the new law. It’s the latest sign that the “one country, two systems” arrangement is in trouble.
There isn’t much the United States can do about China’s actions. However, if U.S. officials decide that China has violated its 50-year agreement, America might stop playing nice with Hong Kong. U.S. officials would treat the territory as part of China—complete with strict trade sanctions and tariffs.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo “strongly urges” China to “respect Hong Kong’s . . . autonomy, democratic institutions, and civil liberties.” He calls these points “key to preserving its special status under U.S. law.”
Hong Kong’s government insists the new law will affect only a few people. But many Hong Kongers either escaped China or have parents who escaped. Having fled communist rule, they’re clinging to liberties forbidden on the mainland.
Seventy-year-old Jerome Lau fears China will crack down on public gatherings and free speech in Hong Kong. “Until I take my last breath,” he says, “I will come out and fight for freedom.”
Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people. — Proverbs 14:34