A symbol of the Chinese model of interacting with the world during Deng Xiaoping’s command of the mainland dictatorship, Hong Kong has become a glittering billboard of zero tolerance and self-confidence for the Communist Party, which is celebrating its 100th anniversary this Thursday. years (1), under Xi Jinping.
Jimmy, a young 24-year-old architect, knows this well. By the way, his name is not Jimmy, but that’s how he prefers to be called in a conversation through Signal, a messaging app sold as one of the most secure in surveillance and surveillance. fever among his peers.
Two years ago, while still in college, he was arrested in street acts that defied Beijing and crippled the former British colony for more than six months. “I’m not against China, I consider myself Chinese. But they tore up everything that made Hong Kong special,” he said.
After four days in prison he was released, but a few months later he was sentenced to one year in prison. The sentence was commuted because he was young and had no known political activity, but Jimmy believes he has lost his freedom.
During this protest trip, which began against a law facilitating the extradition of prisoners to the mainland and ended with a US-backed geopolitical struggle for democracy, thousands of people experienced the same comes out.
This is the case of activists interviewed by Folha in November 2019, when the report visited the upheavals underway. Without exception, everyone is in prison. The most famous of these is Joshua Wong, who could be jailed for up to eight years for numerous participation in unauthorized protests.
Xi’s zero tolerance was forged during the 2019 crackdown, but it took shape with the enactment of the Hong Kong National Security Act, in the midst of the 2020 pandemic. The text buried what Jimmy considered. as “special” in the former British colony.
This was the “one country, two systems” arrangement devised by Deng when the chief agreed to return the territory to the British in 1984.
For 50 years from 1997, Hong Kong would continue with its unregulated capitalism and its unprecedented freedoms on the mainland: free press, autonomous judiciary and legislature, executive almost that.
It was a time when China opened up to the world under Deng’s leadership, without exposing itself too much, hiding its growth. Hong Kong was a symbolic offering of this provision.
Years have passed and Xi, with power crystallized as the head of the world’s second-largest economy, has been a game-changer – and Hong Kong has become his showpiece. There is the fiercest crackdown on Muslims in Xinjiang, labeled genocide by the US government and the subject of a fierce narrative dispute, but what makes Hong Kong unique is its interaction with the outside world. .
Although there are hundreds of American and European companies in the territory, few Westerners have heard of Urumqi, the capital of China’s northwestern province. In 2014, two years after Xi came to power, the government issued a directive that went unnoticed at the time: Hong Kong and non-rebellious Macao should be integrated into political rules in the rest of the country.
It was a year of protests, as parts of downtown were taken over by the Occupy Hong Kong movement. Jimmy was a teenager and was overjoyed. “It seemed that the resistance would last forever, that the Communist Party would not win,” he said.
Clearly, the Chinese Communist Party had already won when London surrendered the colony it had occupied for 156 years. But the legend had the proverbial Chinese patience to expand its control. There were new rounds of protests until the upheaval of 2019.
In the name of economic stability, after a 1.2% drop in GDP in the year of the crisis, Beijing enforced the national security law, which summed up all the nightmares of pro-democracy activists: basically, any form of opposition to the communist command is acceptable heavy prison sentences.
Throughout 2020, under the guise of fighting the coronavirus, the repression has intensified. Local elections were postponed, the opposition caucus in the Legislative Council resigned when it found that dissent had begun to be formally prosecuted, and the election law vetoed candidates not aligned with Beijing.
China has set up its political police in the territory, which previously lacked forces directly controlled by Beijing, in a hotel in posh Causeway Bay. Now he will build a headquarters in Nababesca for the agency and celebrated the establishment of a hotline to report violations of the security law, which since November has received 100,000 calls. “We no longer know if the neighbors are trustworthy,” explains Maria, a Western journalist who also asks not to reveal her real name.
In principle, big business applauded the move: Hong Kong’s virtual blockade in 2019 was bad for business. It is also important to note the support of the inhabitants for the system: the pro-Beijing parties, even defeated in the local elections that year, had obtained 40% of the vote.
Xi was seen as a protector of the financial sector, which in the world ignores humanitarian or ideological issues, but other areas of activity have started to leave the city. About 50,000 people left Hong Kong in 2020. Few of a population of 7.5 million, but significant because it would include executives and employees in the high-tech, luxury and service sectors. The general feeling is that the city is becoming indistinguishable from other Chinese metropolises.
The impact of the renewed assertion of Chinese communism on the territory is still uncertain, but the message is clear to the world. In 2019, the United States supported pro-democracy movements through sanctions against the Honduran authorities.
As Joe Biden continued the Cold War 2.0 vibe of his predecessor Donald Trump, Hong Kong is unlikely to miss the center of the struggle, which involves other US allies.
Australia is, for example, the preferred destination for the 470 activists who sought asylum in other countries after June 30 of last year, when the law came into force. At least 110 opposition members have been arrested, according to the South China Morning Post, and 64 are already facing prosecution under the new rules.
Jimmy still frequents underground stores in Kowloon, on the mainland of Hong Kong, where he lives. There he buys T-shirts and stickers with anti-Beijing slogans, but he doesn’t know when he can use them. “It’s very dangerous, not even the Apple Daily got away, let alone a person,” he said.
He was referring to the popular opposition daily, which closed its doors last week after undergoing police intervention in the name of the new law. Executives of the publication were arrested and a senior columnist who was sailing Sunday (27) to London was arrested at the airport.
Among the activists, a few managed to flee, perhaps 20, most to the UK. A small group faced 600 miles of illegal boat to Taiwan, but the local government sent them to the United States after the welcome was made public.
Target of Beijing, which considers it a rebellious province, the island does not seem to want to aggravate the bad relations with the mainland. And that’s because Taipei is virtually independent.
After the Covid-19 storm completed its damage and caused Honconian GDP to fall 6.1% in 2020, the first quarter of the year saw more robust growth, at 7.9% on an annualized basis.
The numbers could reinforce the pairing of economic growth and supercharged repression, the century-old version of the Chinese Communist Party’s calling card.