05/29/2020, 10.20
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Hong Kong is being suffocated to choke reforms in China

by Bernardo Cervellera

The green light for the national security law, has saddened a large part of the Territory's population while the social networks on the mainland celebrate. The "war" between China and the USA, regardless of the rights of the local population. The law will stifle the catalytic function of Hong Kong towards China. Dreams of political and social reforms stopped by Xi Jinping. Doubts about the "China model": is freedom of trade possible without civil liberties?

Rome (AsiaNews) - The national security law for Hong Kong, approved yesterday at the National People's Congress in Beijing, is already generating very different effects.

In Hong Kong, where for years there has been a struggle to remove it, and until the end there has been fear of its dictatorial imposition, people have been invaded by sadness. A Democratic parliamentarian said that from now on in Hong Kong "there will be no air", given that China is trying to "suffocate" the freedom of the local population.

Instead, in Beijing and other parts of China, people celebrate. Above all on social media there is an air of victory for the submission of those young people who for almost a year, in the name of democracy ("a value that is not at all Chinese"), have disturbed public order with their vandalism and "terrorism".

In the official version, in Hong Kong there are not peaceful demonstrations of millions of people who demand answers from the government. Just yesterday state media referred to those few dozen radical demonstrators who throw stones, Molotov cocktails, unhinge doors and signs as those very "terrorists" whom the new law will silence.

The enthusiasm expressed by the Chinese of the continent mirrors that shown during the handover days, in 1997, when the return of Hong Kong to the motherland was celebrated. Then the reason was clear: finally, the shame of the unequal Treaties, which China had been forced to sign under the pressure of the western gunboats, was cleansed. But this time the law is primarily against the population of Hong Kong itself, other Chinese people who have had the fate of living in a liberal society.

Indeed no: the other pillar of information on Hong Kong is that all the demonstrations, even those with two million people, are organized by the "black hand" of the United States. And therefore the law that blocks the freedoms of the people of Hong Kong is seen as a victory over the American "western power", China’s enemy. With super-nationalistic emphasis, a few hours after voting for the law, the magazine of the "People's Daily", the "Global Times", said: "No matter how hard the US tries to pressure China by playing the Hong Kong card, Washington would be too naive to think that it can deter the decisive collective will of the Chinese government and people to safeguard the country’s sovereignty."

And in an editorial yesterday morning, the same newspaper listed all of Beijing's military power (intercontinental missiles, nuclear bomb, artificial satellites, ...) as a proud challenge to the other superpower.

There is a problem: that neither the nationalist enthusiasm nor the accusation against "foreign powers" justifies the Hong Kong issue, which is a problem that should involve the population of the territory first and foremost.

Already the British have never listened - or listened very little - to their wishes. Now Beijing is in the wake of that colonial power, is weaving and unweaving the social fabric of Hong Kong as it likes. Of course, from the economic point of view we can list the help of Great Britain, the help of the West, the help of China, but the life of Hong Kong is the result of the diligence, inventiveness, tenacity, imagination of the people of Hong Kong. And not listening to it risks not only mortifying its creativity, but murdering it.

And in fact, the other problem that now arises is this: under the full domination of Beijing, crossed by spies, controlled by the army and police, will Hong Kong be able to survive and remain fruitful from an economic point of view?

Although not with the same vitality as the past, Hong Kong still remains a point of reference for finance and trade with China. At least 60% of foreign investment in the continent passes through the territory with special administration. What if Hong Kong becomes like any popular Chinese city? Judging from the speech that Premier Li Keqiang made yesterday announcing the new law, it would seem that he too is worried about this. And in fact he continued to underline that with the new law nothing changes for business, but rather there will be "stability and prosperity" as never before; that "the high degree of autonomy" will be maintained and that the "one country, two systems" principle is still valid.

Can there be economic freedom without civil liberties? Many, looking at China say yes: the "Chinese model", with social control and centralized economy, has produced the current wealth of China. But it is also true that in Chinese society there is a push for that (little) economic freedom to be equally matched by space for civil liberties. The demands for Party reforms and political reforms in society are multiplying, although Xi Jinping has done everything to stifle them. And perhaps this is why he is willing to "sacrifice" Hong Kong: so that its freedom to breath does not encourage civil society on the mainland.

The point is that in the world there are many countries and global economic powers that are faced with the crisis of liberalist capitalism, resulting in their yearning towards an authoritarian model similar to China to save their power and business. Yet in doing so they simply postpone the crucial question until tomorrow: is economic freedom possible without civil liberties? Without dignity for man and family? Without freedom to create, to speak, to invent and even to pray? We believe it is not.

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