US academic Dan Garrett was barred from entering Hong Kong on Thursday, a week after he testified at the US Congressional-Executive Commission on China (CECC) in Washington DC about the ongoing protests in the city.

Dan Garrett. Photo: CECC screenshot.

The author, photographer and political scientist said that he was denied entry ahead of the upcoming Umbrella Movement anniversary and National Day holiday for unspecified “immigration reasons.”

He told HKFP that he was visiting to work on a book project and add to several ongoing documentary projects: “It’s always been a risk. Now it’s a reality. I was planning on visiting with friends, talk to some academic colleagues, some shopping, photographing and observing key anniversaries and the changing visual culture of the city and its protest culture.”

No explanation 

Garrett said he felt the move was politically motivated, as he challenged the immigration officer during his four-hours of questioning: “When asked for examples of normal violations, he described a failure to provide proof of a return ticket, no hotel bookings, inadequate funds – all factors which I pointed out to him were not applicable in my case as I had provided evidence of each. Nevertheless, he stated that it was an internal Immigration Department decision and they didn’t have to provide a ‘reason’ or explanation.”

The officer told him there was no appeal process but he could attempt to enter the city again in the future.

Garrett is a PhD holder and author of Counter-hegemonic Resistance in China’s Hong Kong: Visualizing Protest in the City. He said on Twitter that he has been visiting, and living in, Hong Kong for two decades. As a protest photographer, he documented over 600 demonstrations with his work often appearing on HKFP.

He previously served in the US Defense Intelligence Agency, National Security Agency, and in the Air Force.

A spokesperson for the CECC said that Garrett was returned to the US on a flight: “His passport had been flagged, because he immediately attracted attention going through immigration. He was told he could come back in the future but not right now.”

When Garrett testified at the CECC hearing, alongside activists Joshua Wong and Denise Ho, he said that Beijing had limited Hong Kong’s democracy and sought to transform it into another Chinese city: “Rather than a confidence-building mechanism ensuring peaceful co‐existence, ‘One Country, Two Systems’ is now intended to advance and safeguard China’s sovereignty, security and development interests.”

”Dan Garrett’s CECC testimony in full – click to view.“

Chairmen McGovern and Rubio, distinguished members of the commission, it is an honor and a privilege to talk with you regarding the Chinese Communist Party’s erosion of “One Country, Two Systems” in Hong Kong under the pretext of national security and its nexus to the extradition bill crisis. I begin with five key observations backgrounding the current China‐Hong Kong conflict and the “One Country, Two Systems” crisis.

  • Today’s “One Country, Two Systems” is not the same as Deng Xiaoping’s notion that proffered peaceful co‐existence between the communist and Hong Kong It has been replaced by Xi Jinping’s New Era “One Country, Two Systems” model embracing political struggle, an enemy‐friend binary, and foregrounding Chinese national security as the paramount lens for governing the Special Administrative Region and implementing “One Country, Two Systems.” Rather than a confidence building mechanism ensuring peaceful co‐existence, “One Country, Two Systems” is now intended to advance and safeguard China’s sovereignty, security and development interests.1
  • This New Era “One Country, Two Systems” model is informed by Xi Jinping’s broader national security concepts such as the “Three Major Dangers”2 and “National Security with Chinese ” The former situates Communist China at imminent risk of being invaded, toppled, and separated, and its development, reform and stability sabotaged thereby leading to the derailing of China’s rise, socialist modernization, and “One Country, Two Systems.” The latter dramatically broadens the notion of national security, and radically expands the scope of Chinese authorities’ prerogatives in administering “One Country, Two Systems.”3 Consequently, it significantly erodes the Special Administrative Region’s “high degree of autonomy,” diminishes Hongkongers’ freedoms, and widens the threat to U.S. citizens and national interests in Hong Kong.
  • Under Xi Jinping’s new security paradigms and New Era “One Country, Two Systems” model, dissident Hongkongers have been systematically enemified and securitized as mortal threats to the Party‐state and banned or removed from positions of political Elections have been partially nullified, Hongkongers disenfranchised, and terrorized with real and rhetorical political violence. The promise of “Hong Kong People Ruling Hong Kong” has been effectively replaced with the tyrannical “Rule of Patriots.”4 Official declarations and Party‐state media propagating Hongkonger Enemy and Hong Kong Threat security discourses have become ubiquitous, and cultural revolution‐ like mass line and united front denunciation campaigns targeting democrats, localists and Westernized Hongkongers have swept the city repeatedly over the last seven years.5
  • Since at least 2012, Hong Kong and “One Country, Two Systems” have been perceived by Beijing as Communist China’s weakest links in its resurgent totalitarian national security For Chinese authorities, both are at the forefront of ideological confrontation with the United States and the West, a “New Cold War” in their words. By the end of 2014 and the Umbrella Movement, the struggle “to rule” Hong Kong was said to match the intensity surrounding the 1997 Handover and that China had to now “rethink” how to rule the enclave. An influential adviser to senior Chinese authorities said Hong Kong faced a society‐wide “long‐term struggle”6 to eradicate the Party‐state’s enemies in the city, a de facto cultural revolution that would involve – at a minimum – rectifying and Sinicizing the judiciary, legislature, media, secondary schools, and universities.
  • Chinese and Special Administrative Region authorities’ furtive efforts to impose communist legal, political and social norms on Hong Kong via the Extradition Law Amendment Bill (ELAB) and unprecedented licit and illicit violent suppression of protests have provoked the “most severe” crisis of “One Country, Two Systems”7 as Hongkongers fight for their endangered freedoms, identity and way of This is not an anomaly. It is the sixth Chinese governance crisis involving “One Country, Two Systems” since 2003, and the fifth since Xi took over Hong Kong affairs. Each has an underlying Chinese national security nexus seeking to broaden Beijing’s powers – its so‐called “comprehensive jurisdiction” – and rollback Hong Kong’s “high degree of autonomy,” liberal freedoms and limited democracy by forcibly transforming it into a Chinese city while maintaining a veneer of no changes.

This section contains 11 observations regarding the extradition bill crisis and its national security nexus.

The 2019 anti‐extradition protests and earlier 2014 Umbrella Movement are defensive Hongkonger responses to Chinese and Special Administrative Region authorities’ use of extraordinary political violence, theft of elections, and subversion of “One Country, Two Systems.” At its core, the China‐Hong

Extradition Law Nexus to National Security

  • The extradition law conflict between China and Hong Kong has been described by China’s top official in the Special Administrative Region on Hong Kong affairs, Liaison Office director Wang Zhimin, as a “battle of life and death” and a “battle to defend Hong ”9 The head of State Council’s Chinese Association of Hong Kong and Macao Studies, Xu Ze, has also referred to it as “a decisive war between defending ‘one country, two systems’ or jeopardizing it.”10 According to Wang Zhimin, “The security of Hong Kong is an integral part of [Chinese] national security.”11 Moreover, as a “key member of the country’s governance system and as a special administrative region directly under the Central People’s Government,” the Special Administrative Region Government had a “vital constitutional obligation to safeguard [China’s] national security.” As on the mainland, safeguarding the communist regime’s security was a “civic duty,” it was also an “inherent requirement” for implementing “One Country, Two Systems” that extended to every resident. Hong Kong’s special status did not exempt it. Rather, “When it comes to safeguarding national security, the Special Administrative Region enjoys no special exemption. ‘One country’ and ‘two systems’ share the same obligation in safeguarding national security.” Upholding China’s national security was, in fact, a requirement for the maintenance of “One Country, Two Systems” – its bottom line – as expounded at a Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office press conference. Specifically, for Hongkongers worried about the ELAB’s erosion of “One Country, Two Systems” there were three bottom lines restricting their freedoms: “no harm to national security, no challenge to the central government’s authority or the Basic Law, and no using Hong Kong as a base to undermine China.”12
  • Affirmation of Hongkongers and others’ anxieties regarding the backdoor imposition of communist legal, political and social norms on Hong Kong via the extradition law can seemingly be found in Chinese state media description of four scenarios where Hongkongers could be extradited to 13 Explicated by an individual knowledgeable of Vice‐Premier Han Zheng’s position on the extradition law, two of the scenarios involved offenses committed by residents or by Chinese or foreign nationals in Hong Kong who had previously committed crimes against China or Chinese citizens while abroad. In this context, the ELAB can be understood as being even more dangerous for Hongkongers’ freedoms and visitors to the city than the feared Article 23 national security legislation that Special Administrative Region has yet to enact. Because national security is the sole prerogative of the Chinese authorities under “One Country, Two Systems,” any invocation of a national security card by Beijing leaves Hong Kong authorities no recourse but to comply.
  • Early in the extradition law saga, senior Chinese leaders made extraordinary endorsements of the ELAB expressing their “full support.”14 This included two Politburo Standing Committee members (Vice‐Premier Han Zheng and Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference Chairman Wang Yang), the head of the State Council’s Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office (Zhang Xiaoming), and the chief of the HKSAR Central Government Liaison Office (Wang ) There are also indications that President Xi Jinping, as a member of the Central Coordination Group for Hong Kong and Macau Affairs, weighed in. An influential united front commentator in state media has also observed that were it not for the “full support” of the central government the legislation would have been “aborted.”15 Chief Executive Carrie Lam also lamented, in a leaked speech, that since the issue had been elevated to one of national security and sovereignty it had stripped her any “solutions” or room for political maneuver.16 Another source explained that because the ELAB involved the Mainland‐Special Administrative Region relationship and implementation of the Basic Law it was a matter not entirely within the autonomy of the Special Administrative Region Government.17
  • Beijing’s imposition of communist legal, political and social national security norms on the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region constitute a violation of Article Five of the Basic Law prohibiting the introduction of the Socialist System in the Moreover, the Party’s application of its National Security with Chinese Characteristics mandates and loyalty expectations to the Special Administrative Region and its civil servants effectively dissolves any difference between the communist and Hong Kong systems thereby posing a significant threat to U.S. interests related to the protection of sensitive technologies and adherence to export controls. Revealingly, according to Basic Law experts, Chinese authorities have decided to rely more on legal tactics to broaden and strengthen Beijing’s authority in the Special Administrative Region, especially with regards to principle issues like national security or sovereignty. This would include pursuing “powers endorsed by the Basic Law but never practiced” such as mandating compliance with an official directive.18 Such a strategy would insulate the Special Administrative Region Government from judicial reviews by opposition forces because the local government’s actions would ostensibly be outside the jurisdiction of local courts. The 2016 Oath Gate decision by the National People’s Congress Standing Committee that led the partial nullification of that year’s Legislative Council election and the purging of numerous lawmakers has been cited as a real‐world example. Particularly, Hong Kong’s use of “street politics” – protests such as the 2014 Umbrella Movement or the 2019 anti‐extradition demonstrations – was also reportedly targeted to strategically use the “rule of law” to make an example of the “City of Protests” and teach defiant Hongkongers and mainland dissidents a lesson about confronting the Party‐state.19

Color Revolution

  • Chinese authorities and the Party‐state’s united front apparatus’ systematic and ubiquitous designations of Hong Kong’s anti‐extradition law protests as “color revolutions” and demonstrators as “counterrevolutionaries,” ‘extremists,” “separatists,” “traitors,” and “terrorists” are not just propaganda, but are unambiguous flag posts of securitization. This situates the crisis as one to be resolved through national security, not political, Albeit the extradition law exercise was originally a loyalty and performance test for the Special Administrative Region Government and the pro‐establishment camp whom Beijing believes to be infiltrated by sixth column types sympathetic to the pro‐democracy movement, the center of gravity for de‐securitizing, de‐escalating and resolving the conflict lies in Beijing, not Hong Kong. This has major implications for anti‐extradition protests and the Liberate Hong Kong resistance, as well as for U.S. policy responses.
  • Mainland authorities’ designation of the anti‐extradition protests as an attempted color revolution is also important because of the lessons the communist regime took from the collapse of the Soviet Union, Eastern Bloc and North African 20 First, regimes that survived were those that used violence – liberally – against non‐violent movements. Second, regime survival was dependent on maintaining the unity of the pro‐establishment camp. Third, securing the support of security forces was paramount to survival even if the pro‐establishment forces fragmented. Lastly, per Xi Jinping’s Southern Tour speech, the Soviet communist party collapsed primarily because no one was willing to fight for it. We can see these lessons manifesting in the Chinese and Special Administrative Region’s unblinkered support and heroic exaltation of the Hong Kong police whatever the cost – even the possible end of “One Country, Two Systems.”

Securitization scripts

  • Chinese and Special Administrative Region authorities’ responses to the 2014 and 2019 mass movements have, thus far, followed roughly similar scripts for pacification albeit the efficacy, intensity and scale of efforts significantly That said, there are important differences between the two movements that have not be adequately discussed elsewhere but are beyond the scope of this brief discussion. With regards to similarities in security responses:
  1. First, resolute use of heavy‐handed police
  2. Second, surreptitious use of patriotic triads, hired thugs and vigilantes to attack, discredit and intimidate dissidents and journalists, and create images of chaos, illegality and
  3. Third, use of lawfare such as court injunctions and protest‐bans for selective law enforcement, political prosecutions and purposefully manifesting law and order and rule of law
  4. Fourth, actual and threatened economic
  5. Fifth, widespread mass line and united front mobilizations to attack the Party’s enemies and to marshal support for the Hong Kong police and Special Administrative Region authorities.
  6. Sixth, authoritative and quasi‐authoritative framing of the 2014 Umbrella and 2019 Anti‐ ELAB unrest and Hong Kong’s pro‐democracy movements writ large as foreign instigated and/or controlled color revolutions and separatist plots targeted at unseating the Chinese Communist Party and derailing China’s
  7. Seventh, securitization of democracy and freedom, the United States and Western media and values as “bad things” inimical to prosperity and
  8. Framing the 2014 and 2019 China‐Hong Kong conflicts as a strategic contest between the East (China) and the West (the S.). The “defeat” of the “Umbrella Revolution” in 2014 was presented by the Party‐state as a victory of the China model over the U.S./Western one.

People’s Liberation Army/People’s Armed Police

  • Because months of regime recourse to mass arrests and escalating police violence have been unsuccessful in quelling the extradition law protests, more severe responses have been floated by the Chinese Yet, at this point, threats of Chinese military interventions over the anti‐ extradition protests appear primarily intended to deter Hongkongers (and the international community from articulating support for the protests.) Nevertheless, they are also representative of Xi Jinping’s New Era “One Country, Two Systems” model that has immeasurably broaden its “defense” prerogatives under the Basic Law to resolutely tackle nonviolent regime change threats, i.e. color revolutions. This has occurred by substituting the conceptual content of “defense” in the HKSAR Basic Law with “national security with Chinese characteristics” which includes much more than simply defending against foreign military forces. One indicator of this is that since 2014 the People’s Liberation Army Hong Kong Garrison has assumed a more visible combat and political warfare posture in the Special Administrative Region to counter purported threats of color revolutions and Hong Kong independence. For example, it has made strategic forays to publicly comment on 2014’s Umbrella Movement, the 2016 Mong Kok Incident/Riot, and the 2019 extradition law protests where it claimed it stood ready to safeguard China’s sovereignty, security and development interests and Hong Kong’s prosperity and stability. Behind the scenes, the People’s Liberation Army has been even more active in attempting to shape China’s security discourses regarding the threat from Hong Kong and “One Country, Two Systems.”21
  • Notably, Chinese and Special Administrative Region authorities are preemptively attempting to legitimate and normalize the use of People’s Liberation Army Hong Kong Garrison, the People’s Armed Police, or a declaration of emergency by the local or central authorities to quell the anti‐ extradition These maneuvers are intended to degrade or evade real and reputational damage to the “One Country, Two Systems” policy, maintain confidence among foreign investors, and to minimize possible sanctions such as those envisioned under the existing Hong Kong Policy Act or proposed Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act. At the same time, a debate – and maybe an internal struggle – over whether to use any of these extraordinary security measures seems to be taking place. Though Chinese authorities have reportedly studied and strategize how to mitigate a range of consequences arising from deploying the military or armed police, it is unlikely they have thoroughly anticipated or theorized the complexity of the operational and political realities of such a military or police action under the quotidian realities of “One Country, Two Systems.” In the interim, halfway measures may be deployed by the Special Administrative Region government such as operationally enforcing de facto martial law zones without formal or public declaration of emergency powers or a state of emergency.

Hong Kong Police aka the Special Administrative Region People’s Armed Police

  • The Hong Kong Police Force have been militarized and nationalized by the Chinese Communist Party, effectively becoming it’s “little gun” in the Special Administrative Region. Since the beginning of 2019, mainland police have been tasked by President Xi with “preventing and countering ‘color revolutions.’”22 China’s Public Security Minister subsequently ordered police to “firmly fight to protect China’s political security,” defend its national security, and the leadership of the Chinese Communist 23 Earlier, Hong Kong police had received similar national security tasking from Vice‐Premier Han Zheng who, in August 2018, charged them to “firmly and effectively” safeguard China’s national security and rule of law by accurately and comprehensively implementing “One Country, Two Systems.”24 According to a vice‐chairman of the State Council’s Chinese Association of Hong Kong and Macau Studies, the Hong Kong police were now “on the forefront when it comes to curbing Hong Kong independence” which meant their duty was “not just to maintain public order, but to defend national security ” Chief Executive Carrie Lam, in a leaked speech, iterated the police were the only solution they possessed to manage the crisis – a crisis which was likely to last a long time.25 For all intents and purposes, the Hong Kong police have become the Special Administrative Region People’s Armed Police. To many in Hong Kong, the police are perceived as having captured the local government given their carte blanche and impunity of action in brutally suppressing Anti‐ELAB demonstrations and seeming collusion with organized criminal elements, thugs and patriotic vigilantes attacking protesters and Hong Kong’s now iconic and ubiquitous Lennon Walls.

United Front

  • Chinese authorities have dedicated significant academic, legal, political, propaganda, and united front resources to systematically manipulate and recast the Deng Xiaoping‐era content and understandings of the Hong Kong SAR Basic Law and the “One Country, Two Systems” framework to accommodate Xi Jinping’s totalitarian national security mandates, logics and The Chinese Association of Hong Kong and Macau Studies – a shadowy, political warfare‐like think tank connected to the State Council’s Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office – is one of these new subversive vehicles.26 Concomitantly, a network of Party‐state constitutional and Basic law “experts” and “scholars,” some attached to the National People’s Congress Stand Committee’s HKSAR Basic Law Committee, have similarly contributed significantly to the erosion of “One Country, Two Systems” policy, mobilized political violence, and informed the central authorities understandings of the “actual situation” in the Region. All these united front actors are key players in the erosion of Hong Kong’s freedoms and democracy and enablers of state tyranny.

Policy recommendations

In formulating a strategy to cease and reverse the Chinese Communist Party’s erosion of Hongkongers’ promised democracy and freedoms under “One Country, Two Systems,” Congress should consider the following:

  • Congress and the Executive Branch should prioritize resolute, preemptive and holistic responses to China’s ongoing erosion of Hongkongers’ democracy and freedoms under “One Country, Two Systems” as the hardline Xiwinger regime respects only stern action, not Proposed policy responses should not start at the bottom of an escalatory ladder but rather move directly to strong policy actions.
  • Congress and the Executive Branch should strongly warn Chinese authorities that use of the People’s Armed Police or People’s Liberation Army to quell the anti‐extradition protests would
    unequivocally result in an immediate, unsuspendable 90‐day (or longer) suspension of the Special Administrative Region’s special customs status and commensurate closures of the Hong Kong Economic and Trade Offices (HKETO) offices in the United It should also make clear that discovery of such deployments after the fact will also result in similar and wider punitive actions to disabuse it of the notion it can post facto normalize aggression. Because China’s gray war on Hong Kong will likely continue to rely on non‐state violent entrepreneurs such as triads, hired thugs, and patriotic vigilantes to achieve state ends in the Special Administrative Region and abroad, new policy tools to punish illicit Chinese aggression against Hongkongers (and others) need to be conceptualized and deployed.
  • Recognizing that Hong Kong’s fight for its liberal freedoms and democracy is also the Free World’s fight, Congress should fund and promote the development of Hong Kong and “One Country, Two Systems” studies to better understand and respond to Chinese Communist Party efforts to: 1) defect from its promises to Hongkongers and the international community; 2) use its Hong Kong‐based united front apparatus for licit and illicit ends such as ideological confrontation/competition, influence operations, and the state capture of the United Nations, foreign governments or international institutions; and, 3) its “weaponization” of Hong Kong’s special status under “One Country, Two Systems” to advance and safeguard Chinese sovereignty, security and development interests that threaten U.S. interests and the international liberal
  • Congress should pass a resolution – and encourage other nations to do the same – that unequivocally declares that implementation of “One Country, Two Systems” in Hong Kong is not the exclusive domain or the sovereign internal affairs of Communist China (until 2047) as the territory was part of the Free World and was only handed over by the United Kingdom with the understanding that the communist system would not be introduced for fifty‐years. This residue international responsibility constitutes a positive right to assist and protect the population of Hong Kong from the egregious erosion of Hongkongers’ freedoms, identity and way of life as promised under the popularly understood conceptualization of “One Country, Two Systems” in place at the time of the signing of the Sino‐UK Joint Declaration, the 1990 promulgation of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Basic Law, and the 1997 handover of the territory to Communist

In response, an Immigration spokesperson told HKFP: “[T]he ImmD will, having regard to the circumstances pertaining to each individual case, decide whether the entry will be allowed or refused in accordance with the laws of Hong Kong and prevailing immigration policies.”

The incident comes amid ongoing protests sparked by a bill that would have enabled extraditions to China. The demonstrations have, since June, evolved into sometimes violent displays of dissent over Beijing’s encroachment, democracy and alleged police brutality.

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Tom Grundy

Tom is the editor-in-chief and founder of Hong Kong Free Press. He has a BA in Communications and New Media from Leeds University and an MA in Journalism from the University of Hong Kong. He has contributed to the BBC, Euronews, Al-Jazeera and others.