When the British handed over Hong Kong to China in 1997, China promised to respect it’s independence for the next 50 years. The shorthand for that plan was “one country, two systems.” But the two systems part of the plan could effectively come to an end tomorrow. China has tried and failed in the past to exert more control over Hong Kong, but this time it seems prepared to simply bypass Hong Kong’s government entirely and pass the new law via the mainland’s one party system:
Security rules proposed by the Hong Kong government in 2003 would have empowered the authorities to close seditious newspapers and conduct searches without warrants. That proposal was abandoned after it triggered large protests.
This time, China is effectively circumventing the Hong Kong government, undercutting the relative autonomy granted to the territory. Instead, it is going through China’s rubber stamp legislature, the National People’s Congress, which holds its annual session starting Friday.
You may recall that the months of protests in Hong Kong were prompted by an attempt to introduce a new law which might have made it possible for China to extradite people to the mainland for trial. That proposal was eventually withdrawn because of the protests. This time China is simply holding the vote in a place where protests won’t matter. And China is using the authoritarian’s favorite gimmick, claiming opposition to the Chinese Communist Party in Hong Kong isn’t home-grown but based on collusion with “external forces.”