With the arrest over the weekend of fifteen democrats on trumped-up charges, and the Liaison Office’s declaration that it is not bound by Article 22, we can set aside the happy illusion that the Chinese Government has the slightest intention of honouring the promise it made in the Joint Declaration and which it executed in the Basic Law. Hong Kong, as a pocket of pluralism and rule of law in China, is over. Hong Kong will become just another city in China. The question was always when, not if. With these arrests, the Liaison Office provided an emphatic answer: it is now.
In the short term, Hong Kong faces a second successive summer of discontent and violence. I don’t mean vandalism; I mean bullets. There will be no restraint. Martin Lee “feel[s] proud to walk the road of democracy with these outstanding youths in Hong Kong,” but that road will be awash with their blood.
There are two possible outcomes. The first, and by far the most probable, is that the CCP will triumph. The Western corporations that prop up the regime will make some token bleats and return to Business As Usual. The Western governments that are their front men will make outraged public grumbles, but, like Clinton after Tiananmen, will come up with some rationalisation of their inaction. And Hong Kong will become like any other city in China: liveable, pleasant and dull. Liveable, pleasant and dull, that is, to the compliant; anything but to those who dissent.
The second possible outcome is that the world wakes up to the evil that is the regime in China. Instead of turning one blind eye to the disappearances, arbitrary arrests and rule of whim, while turning the other avaricious eye to China’s supposed huge market, Western corporations will pull out. They will run down their vast capital investments and build their gizmos and gadgets elsewhere; they will wake up to the reality that China’s market is protected and that, while their intellectual property is welcome, their profits are not.
This will not of itself lead to a collapse of China’s economy – like any other large economy, China’s has become predominantly domestic. But it will lead to a hole in the map of the world. China and its vassal states will become one block – liveable, pleasant and dull – while the rest of the world will become another – liveable, not always as pleasant, but exciting. I know which one I’d choose and which one I would fight for.
The gloves are off. Hong Kong’s own “government” is irrelevant; the Chinese Communist Party has declared war on Hong Kong. It may not be a war that Hong Kong can win, but the battle will be joined.