Opinion By: Political Expert Dr Ian Cook
Perhaps the Chinese leaders are following the basic rule of politics: that governments should never waste a crisis. People are usually panicking, which means they’ll accept, even support, government controls that they wouldn’t normally accept. They’re also distracted by dealing with the crisis in their daily lives.
It works at a national level. It works at an international level. But the Chinese leaders probably know that a lot of people are still in shutdown and are likely to watch the news for something to do.
They don’t care. They’re going to ignore criticism and ‘ask’ the Hong Kong Legislative Council(LegCo) to introduces laws to ban ‘secession,’‘foreign interference,’‘terrorism’ and ‘seditious activities’intended to topple the Chinese government. Those words are in inverted commas because they’ll be defined by the Chinese security agents that the laws will allow to operate in Hong Kong.
Pro-democracy demonstrators have kept up a near constant campaign to protect the (western)democratic rights they gained when Hong Kong was a British colony.
Chinese leaders have had enough of them. They were angry when protesters stopped the LegCo from introducing a law to allow the Chinese government to extradite Hong Kongers suspected of committing crimes in China.
Continued protests by Hong Kongers, who know that the Chinese government will not give up on its efforts to take their (western) democratic rights from them, has just made them a force that Chinese leaders have to negate.
The bans that the Chinese leaders are asking the LegCo to introduce include one on‘external interference.’
This is an interesting feature of the law for which the Chinese are ‘asking.’ But only because the external interference that will be banned will have to come from private citizens or organizations not connected with foreign governments.
Hong Kongers have been waiting for real support from a major foreign power for many years and have been consistently disappointed.
The Chinese government has intimidated every other country to the point that few are willing to do anything more than offer controlled outrage and express sympathy for the Hong Kong people. Some won’t even do that.
British, Australian and Canadian foreign ministers issued a joint “statement of alarm” about the proposed law and spokespeople for the European Union have called for the “need to preserve the city’s high degree of autonomy.” Beijing is quaking in its boots…
They know it’s all talk. The question is whether any foreign government will do anything to save democracy in Hong Kong. The last governor of the former British colony,Chris Patten, has called on the British to live up to a moral, economic and legal duty to stand up for Hong Kongers.
They won’t. The cost of acting meaningfully against the Chinese government is too high for any foreign government to accept.
Donald Trump is the only person who might have an interest in promoting conflict with China over Hong Kong. He intensified his criticisms of the Chinese governmentduring the coronoavirus pandemic. It plays well to his base.
Scott Morrison has followed suit in leading the push for an inquiry into the source of the coronavirus.Morrison is likely to back off when it comes to Hong Kong. He’s already antagonised the Chinese government by leading the push for a coronavirus inquiry (even in the Europeans substituted their proposal for Australia’s).
Only a desperate Donald Trump, who is heading for a loss in the presidential election in November, has an interest in saving democracy in Hong Kong. The preservation of democracy in Hong Kong may well depend on whether Trump willingness to reject the recommendations of his economic advisers who will tell him not to save democracy in Hong Kong in an attempt to hold onto the Presidency.