By US Rep. Ted Yoho
It is no secret that China has been strong-arming Hong Kong, forcing its residents to flee oppression. The national security law punishes crimes of secession, subversion, terrorism, and collusion with foreign forces with up to life in prison.
Without consultation from Hong Kong, trampling on its sovereignty, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) under President Xi Jinping’s leadership, unilaterally approved the law in June. This is a clear violation of Beijing’s promise of “One Country, Two Systems” under which the British relinquished Hong Kong. The Sino-British Joint Declaration to maintain Hong Kong’s autonomy was intended to last until 2047.
In 1997, the British government and the CCP came to a handover agreement under which the CCP agreed to govern Hong Kong under the principle of “One Country, Two Systems,” where Hong Kong would enjoy a high degree of autonomy for the next 50 years. The national security law is one more clear indication of Beijing changing its mind on the agreement it promised to honour.
The vagueness of this law not only allows Beijing to exert more power over Hong Kong, but also provides the CCP with authority to bring vague charges and only serves to instill fear in Hong Kong citizens. Some people have already been arrested.
Recently, 12 young activists, terrified about the implications of the new law, fled the city by speedboat only to be apprehended by Chinese authorities. They have been detained in mainland China for over a month with no access to legal representation. Their case confirms the worst fears of Hongkongers. No one in Hong Kong, or the rest of the world, should face life in prison for going to the street to exercise their free speech and speak truth to power in criticising their government.
Enforcement of these new security laws is handled by the Chinese National Security Bureau. The bureau maintains a reputation for torture, handpicks judges loyal to Beijing and is operating in the city for the first time.
For the people of Hong Kong, who have experienced freedom and democracy, having a system of oppression thrust upon them is not an option. It is clear, based on its actions in redrawing its relationship with Hong Kong, that the Xi regime never had any intention to uphold its promise to preserve Hong Kong’s autonomy and political freedoms until 2047.
Fearing for their lives, the people of Hong Kong have no choice but flee their homes. To accommodate the scramble, Australia, the United Kingdom, Vietnam, the Philippines, Singapore, Taiwan, and the US have all proposed measures to help those individuals looking to resettle. Taiwan opened an office to help Hongkongers the day the national security law came into force. Countries such as the US and the UK have enacted measures to make the pathway to citizenship less strenuous. All these steps are the right thing to do.
The destruction of “One Country, Two Systems” and the death of an autonomous Hong Kong is a matter that should concern everyone. This national security law is the final straw and the US must stand firm with the international community against the CCP.
Following Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s statement that the US no longer recognizes Hong Kong as autonomous from China, the resulting backlash from Beijing only proves the CCP’s intention of using Hong Kong as a puppet to assert its bullying agenda. It is clear the CCP is rapidly moving to realise its territorial ambitions without regard for international condemnation or backlash.
The terms under which Great Britain handed over Hong Kong were clear. Beijing has violated this agreement and must be held accountable to its word. The CCP must change course to avoid irreparable damage to the increased destabilization of the region and to the international community, specifically with the US-China relationship. The international community must unite against the CCP in order to counter the bullying tactics and threats the CCP has launched against those who would support Hong Kong.
The Hong Kong we see today is unrecognisable from before, with “One Country, Two Systems” forcibly molded into “One Country, One System.” We need to reject the recent actions by the CCP and impose consequences on Beijing for its actions towards Hong Kong.
The truth is, President Xi and the CCP cannot survive with people who have tasted liberty, free thought and self-determination. The US must continue to stand with the people of Hong Kong and work with our allies to put pressure on Beijing to honor its past agreements. The time is now to work together in pushing back against Beijing’s underhanded tactics and protecting the people of Hong Kong.
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