Before and since China passed the national-security law (NSL) for Hong Kong, many in the West have expressed concern if not outrage, accusing Beijing of taking away the Special Administrative Region’s freedom and reneging on the “one country, two systems” architecture.
The US was particularly incensed, rescinding Hong Kong’s special trade status and imposing sanctions on Chinese and Hong Kong officials suspected of being complicit in making the NSL a reality.
Western media were quick to let the world know 600,000 Hongkongers had expressed opposition to the NSL, but there was hardly a word about the more than 2.9 million and 1.7 million people who signed petitions, respectively, supporting the law and demanding that the US stop meddling in the city’s internal affairs. Those numbers suggested the majority of Hong Kong residents did not share the West’s “grave concern.”
What is more, the West showed its hypocrisy in that most if not every Western country has enacted laws to protect the security of its people. The US, in fact, has enacted more than one such law.
This raises the question: Why did the Western media and governments complain about China’s law while supporting their own? It can’t be about human rights, because it has been well documented that Hong Kong enjoys more freedom now than it did under British colonial rule.
Against this backdrop, the real reason behind the West’s “grave concern,” that of the US and UK in particular, was losing Hong Kong as a venue to intervene in China’s internal affairs. Other than Taiwan, the city was the only location left in China that allowed the West to spy on and destabilize the country. Now that it is gone, the US and UK have lost another place to destabilize China from.
After the 1989 “6/4 incident” in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square ended “pro-democracy” protests, the Chinese government required foreign non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to report their missions, sources of funds and other information to the appropriate authorities. Unsurprisingly, Western governments complained and warned the world that China was returning to “Mao-era suppression.”
Contrary to Western news reports, however, China did not become more “repressive,” and its economy recovered quickly from the Tiananmen incident to grow at more than 9% in 1991 from an average annual growth rate of around 4% in 1989 and 1990. Since then, Western-based opinion polling organizations such as the US-based Pew Poll showed that year after year, the Chinese central government has enjoyed overwhelming popular support, estimated at more than 80%.
That finding might not be surprising because the government was, in fact, been serving the people, focusing on economic growth culminated in improving people’s standard of living, lifting more than 850 million people out of poverty, and enabling millions of Chinese to travel abroad and in their own country.
Furthermore, the Chinese central government has a history of living up to its promises, following through with appropriate policies. For example, the government is pouring in resources to fulfill its promise of eradicating poverty by 2020. That program has been largely successful in that only a minute percentage of rural residents are still mired in poverty.
Therefore, there is reason to believe that the central government will honor its “one country, two systems” commitment to Hong Kong until 2047. Indeed, the Chinese government would be stupid not to do so, because hurting Hong Kong would harm China’s economic and geopolitical interests.
And as evidenced by China’s economic, military and technological achievements, its leaders are anything but stupid. One could even argue that they are more responsible to their people than their Western counterparts are to theirs.
Against this backdrop, one can reasonably assume that the West’s “grave concern” over the NSL was not about Hong Kong or its people’s loss of freedom, but the loss of Hong Kong to stage subversive acts against China.
With its close proximity to China, status quo freedom guaranteed for 50 years and the help of those Hongkongers opposing Chinese rule, the city became the ideal location from which to stick it to China. The US and UK did just that, by way of “diplomats” who included CIA and MI6 spies, NGO staff members and other non-professional diplomats. Among them was the US State Department-funded National Endowment for Democracy (NED).
According to news reports coming out of Hong Kong, the NED recruited and funded “pro-democracy activists” – members of pan-democrat political parties, leaders of the Occupy Central and Umbrella movements and others – to hold protests that in some cases turned violent.
Protesters destroyed private and public properties and even stormed the city’s legislative chambers. They attacked people who opposed their views or methods of protest. The undemocratic protests turned Hong Kong into a no man’s land: businesses in ruins, family members and friends fighting one another, and young people facing an uncertain future.
It was to restore stability that the majority of Hongkongers and businesses wanted China to impose the NSL. The law is to “criminalize secession, subversion, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces.” These provisions in effect deny foreign powers the ability to instigate and fund China’s implosion.
With the NSL, the West can no longer stifle China’s rise through Hong Kong, probably the real reason behind its “grave concern” about the law.
Ken Moak taught economic theory, public policy and globalization at university level for 33 years. He co-authored a book titled China’s Economic Rise and Its Global Impact in 2015. His second book, Developed Nations and the Economic Impact of Globalization, was published by Palgrave McMillan Springer.