Beijing Tightens Its Grip on Hong Kong

A rough week for the city. Gerry Shih at the Washington Post:

The constitutional crisis engulfing Hong Kong expanded dramatically on Tuesday as the Chinese government voiced its support for the seizure of more than a dozen pro-democracy activists and asserted Beijing’s “rights and responsibilities to maintain the constitutional order” in the city.

With the statements, the Chinese government explicitly doubled down on its position that Beijing has the power to intervene politically in Hong Kong. The move threw further doubt over the credibility of the Hong Kong mini-constitution [the Basic Law] that ostensibly guaranteed the city a high degree of autonomy from Chinese meddling until 2047 […].

What this “Chinese meddling” looks like:

Long-standing questions about the efficacy of the [constitution’s] autonomy provision, known as Article 22 of the Basic Law, were sharpened last week after Beijing’s liaison office said Friday it was not bound by the noninterference law and was legally permitted as a supervisory body to voice its criticism of legislative affairs in Hong Kong […].

A day later, on Saturday, Hong Kong authorities arrested some of the city’s most strident anti-China voices in a coordinated and unprecedented operation, taking in figures such as the former legislators Martin Lee and Albert Ho and media tycoon Jimmy Lai on grounds of leading protests last year that did not receive police authorization but dominated world headlines.1

Makes sense to do this while the world is focused on the coronavirus. Dirty, effective, and very on-brand.2

  1. Minor quibble: these voices are far from the “most strident.” To quote Justin Tse: ”Um, these are the moderates.”↩︎

  2. See also: ”Under Cover of Coronavirus, Hong Kong Cracks Down on Protest Movement” (New York Times), and ”Explainer: Beijing’s 5-Day Crackdown on Hong Kong’s Opposition During COVID-19” (Hong Kong Free Press).↩︎

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