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Hong Kong has been volatile for more than a year. The top down push for assimilation exerted by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has exposed the existing fault-lines between the people of Hong Kong and the Chinese leadership. It has also exacerbated the already strong demand for greater democracy and autonomy. In addition, the economic rise and opening up of mainland China added a new challenge for Hong Kong on the economic front. With new cities like Shanghai flourishing, Hong Kong has been struggling to maintain its economic uniqueness too. Another issue that has affected the people is the increasing income inequalities and the rising cost of living. The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic coupled with the China-US trade war and tensions between Hong Kong and Beijing have further deteriorated the economic conditions on the island. For a large proportion of Hong Kong’s population, the future looks bleak.


The protests in Hong Kong are not new though. The city has been protesting against the CCP policies since the early 2000s. The push to implement Article 23 and enact the National Security Law in 2003 was met with massive protests and had to be shelved. The controversial Article 23 of the Basic Law, which is the mini constitution of Hong Kong, states that the government of Hong Kong shall be formulating and enacting laws at its own discretion which will prevent any actions that can be associated with secession, sedition, subversion or treason against the Chinese central government, or rather the government in mainland China. The policies and laws adopted by the CCP have not been welcomed by Hong Kong as it fears that the primary motive of the Party is to reduce Hong Kong’s own identity and position. The push for assimilation with the mainland further exposes the differences between mainland China and Hong Kong.


Such actions also raise questions about the future of Hong Kong after July 1, 2047. The One Country, Two Systems,’ which is the basis of Beijing’s authority over Hong Kong will stop to exist. The ‘One Country, Two Systems’ is the formula by which Beijing extends some autonomy to the colonised regions, which became a part of China. This has been done in exchange of their acceptance and recognition that there is only one China. This formula also provides for the autonomy enjoyed by Hong Kong thus far. Keeping in view the direction of CCP’s policies, it appears that the larger goal is to drain any ounce of autonomy available with Hong Kong before 2047.


The CCP has been working towards curtailing the freedom and choice of the Hong Kong people and has continued to falter on its promise of democracy and direct elections. Till date the CCP has been managing the election of the Chief Executive of the region. Beijing has always wanted a person close to it to be holding that position. The 2014 protests in Hong Kong were also a reaction to Beijing’s refusal to allow fully democratic elections. The 2019 protests were in response to the push by the CCP to implement the extradition bill. This bill would have forced Hong Kong to extradite people if Beijing demanded and claimed that they had in any way compromised China’s national security. Such a bill would have increased the interference of Beijing manifold within the domestic and social spheres of Hong Kong. However, during the recently concluded National People’s Congress (NPC) of 2020, the CCP successfully managed to implement the National Security Law, which complicates the situation further and intensifies already strengthening influence of Beijing in Hong Kong’s domestic political landscape. During the press conference after the Third Session of the Thirteenth National People’s Congress (NPC) of China in May 2020, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang while discussing the National Security Law said, “The decision adopted at the NPC Session to safeguard national security is designed for the steady implementation of ‘One Country, Two Systems’ and for Hong Kong’s long-term prosperity and stability.”


This statement argues that the primary goal of the CCP is to strengthen the existing ‘One Country, Two Systems’ formula. However, the general understanding is that this law which is “aimed at prohibiting secession, subversion of state power, terrorism activities and foreign interference,” will affect the existing balance in the relationship shared by China and Hong Kong. It will lead to complete withering of the Hong Kong autonomy and thus, Hong Kong will eventually lose its special status and become like any other Chinese province, totally under the rule of the CCP. The mask of autonomy is finally being pulled down.


This has also resulted in increasing fear among the people of Hong Kong. One of the major aspects is that the people of Hong Kong expect that this will curtail their freedom. There will be increasing surveillance and monitoring. The CCP will also be able to censor the media on the island and it will be the end of free and fair reporting. So, instead of extending a democratic environment the CCP has successfully managed to replicate the mainland and get a free hand in controlling the people. Any space for criticism and freethinking will be finished. It is no surprise that after the announcement at the NPC, there was an increase in the number of virtual private networks (VPNs) being installed in Hong Kong so as to bypass possible mainland censors and restrictions. The law basically allows the CCP to arrest any person it deems to be against its agenda under the garb of national security. It can also mean that anyone who criticises Beijing can be arrested.


Till date, the media in Hong Kong has been free and independent when compared to the mainland media. As a result of this, a number of publishing houses have continued to publish books and articles which openly criticise the CCP. In the last few years with the rise of Xi Jinping, the CCP has adopted measures to reduce this space. Since Xi became the President he has pushed the idea that the media should follow the Party and any criticism of government policies and measures is heavily penalised. With the adoption of the new law, this space will cease to exist in Hong Kong as well. The media in Hong Kong will also have to tow the CCP line of reporting; otherwise it could be penalised for being anti-state and thus affecting the national security.


The ongoing protests in Hong Kong and the continued support and commemoration of the 1989 Tiananmen protests in its territory have been a major challenge for the CCP. On the mainland, the CCP has successfully managed to curtail and monitor any mention of the Tiananmen protests. However, in Hong Kong, the people still organize rallies to mark the occasion – something which is perceived to be a challenge to the overall CCP authority. With this law, the CCP can term any protests or grouping or criticism as anti-national and liable for punishment.


The idea and need for peace and stability within the Chinese society is ever more increasing during the COVID-19 pandemic. The CCP knows that it has to appear totally in control if its needs to continue to gain the support of the people. The ongoing protests in Hong Kong have always been portrayed as anti-national and the strong approach of the CCP now will help in strengthening its image domestically. The CCP needs to show that it is in control of the domestic discourse.


Even though there has been major global reaction against China, the CCP will try and leverage this situation for its own benefit. The anti-China and anti-Chinese sentiments at the international level will be exploited by the CCP to garner increasing domestic support with the help of pumping nationalistic feelings. A number of countries have asked Beijing to reconsider this decision and the United States (US) has even threatened that it would end its special trade status given to Hong Kong. Such actions only help the CCP to project that its internal affairs are being interfered upon by countries like the US and play the victim card. With such major factors at play, the CCP will attempt to use this opportunity to further strengthen its image domestically. In the current scenario the primary source of CCP’s legitimacy comes from within, and it can undertake any possible measures to ensure that it continues to rule, and continues to appear in command.


Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article are personal.