It’s a strange kind of democracy that sees umbrellas as disruptive. It is a peculiar form of popular government that beats and imprisons hundreds of people without trial. It is also strange in this democratic nirvana that journalists are prosecuted for defying the authorities – and “unpatriotic” people like you are punished for reading what you write.
These are just a few aspects of the Beijing-style “democracy” that unpopularly elected Chinese President Xi Jinping celebrated when he traveled to Hong Kong last week to celebrate the 25th anniversary of Britain’s handover. Xi said his version of democracy is thriving. Hong Kong’s task now was to support the “Great Renaissance of the Chinese Nation”, not to stir up trouble.
“After so much turmoil, people have learned a painful lesson that Hong Kong cannot be disorganized, nor can it be,” Xi said, referring to the pent-up pro-democracy movement. “Hong Kong is in a new phase from chaos to stability, from stability to prosperity.” Does anything believe his words? This was his first trip outside the mainland since the epidemic began. He really should come out more. It is either very misleading or very deceptive.
He denied voting and voting from the island administration run by Communist Party officials from Hong Kong are voting with their feet. More than 120,000 people, both local and expatriate, left the country in 2020-2021 after the strict national security law was imposed. Many, especially young ones, came to Great Britain. A survey last year found that 40% of arrivals are planning to leave or could do so.
Indeed, the high level of prosperity that Xi aims for was a prominent feature of Hong Kong before China’s crackdown – and now it is under threat as international investors grow wary. Hong Kong’s global human rights ranking has declined along with financial markets and growth. In short, Xi turns economic success into failure.
A similar development can be seen in political life and in civil society. No society will truly prosper if people are deprived of basic liberties and forced to conform to Orwell. And future generations of children, whose textbooks have been influenced by Hong Kong’s colonial history, will hear no mention of the Tiananmen Square massacre. They are blindly feeding the official lie that “external forces” have led the pro-democracy protests.
Signature revision and systematic suppression of Xi myopia poses enormous problems for the future. But for now, Britain and the West face an obvious problem: How to deal with this increasingly aggressive Chinese regime?
Strong condemnation of Xi’s handling of Hong Kong last week came from Boris Johnson, the Biden government, Australia and others. Chris Patten, Britain’s last governor, complained that the Chinese had “disastrously and comprehensively breached” their legal obligation to ensure a way of life in Hong Kong prior to 1997.
But while this is true, Che’s new imperial parade was a final humiliation for the old empire, and it seemed little to any Johnson. Twitter is proud And Liz Truss breathed in what Britain and its allies could do about it. Will they impose penalties? Starting another trade war? Return the gunboats? NATO made some threatening sounds last week. but not. You know this won’t work.
Amid all the anger, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has opted for calm. She added that the West must defend the rules-based global order that threatens China. But expanding military alliances in an already polarized world was not the way to go. “We must use diplomacy at every opportunity until it proves futile.”
In other words, keep talking – and trust that China’s strange notion of democracy will change over time.
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