By Claudia Mo, a member of Hong Kong’s legislative council and founding member of the Civic Party. Printed in The Guardian.
The Chinese government’s decision to bar two elected lawmakers from taking up their seats marks the beginning of the end of Hong Kong.
Samuel Johnson once said, “Patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel”. And today China has said that in Hong Kong, patriotism is so vital that it trumps freedom of speech, freedom of expression and freedom of thought, which are all now completely irrelevant.
By preventing the two pro-independence politicians from taking office, the Chinese government has opened the door to disqualify anyone from Hong Kong’s government if they are determined to not be loyal to Beijing.
This sets a very, very dangerous precedent because China has now started to form a habit of ruling Hong Kong by decree. Rule of law has become nonexistent in Hong Kong and there is no telling how that’s going to affect the confidence of foreign investors. We have to plug the dyke, but there’s nothing Hong Kong people can do and that explains all the fear, anger, resentment and frustration you now see in the city.
Of course, according to the Basic Law, Hong Kong’s mini-constitution, the power of interpretation is vested in Beijing, but that sort of power should not be used lightly. Every policeman has the power to stop you in the street and haul you off to the station if you’re acting suspiciously, but no one expects every policemen to do that lightly. Beijing is abusing its power.
Beijing loyalists in Hong Kong’s legislature will say, ‘We need to protect the integrity of the motherland, you’re not allowed to say things like ‘Hong Kong is not China.’’ They worry these sentiments will spread to places like Tibet and Xinjiang, western Chinese provinces with large populations of ethnic minorities and a history of chafing under Beijing’s yoke.
The Chinese government never promised “one country, two systems” to Tibet or Xinjiang, but that promise was made to Hong Kong. However, that and the Sino-British Joint Declaration, which sought to safeguard freedoms in the former colony, is now completely shattered and has become irrelevant. China’s mandarins now behave exactly like the Big Brother in George Orwell’s 1984. Whatever and whenever they find something politically incorrect, they will just change it and make it bend to their will.
The oath-taking saga is merely an excuse to make sure Hong Kong will be reined in. Chinese officials needed an issue and pounced at the first opportunity, because in Beijing’s eyes Hong Kong has become uncontrollable and disobedient, especially after the umbrella movement.
This is a very frightening trend that shows Beijing will interpret Hong Kong laws any time it wants. Anytime they feel parts of the Basic Law are not up to their current standards of political correctness, they will change it and tell Hong Kong courts to obey.
This move is not only a blow to our legislature, but also local courts as well. What are our judges for if Beijing steps in whenever it wants?
Today Beijing talks about anti-independence, tomorrow it talks about anti-self-determination and the day after it can talk about anti-democracy altogether.
While I have met some young people who have foreign passports who want to stay and fight for Hong Kong, they have a safety net and can leave whenever they want. I’m very worried about the young who can’t afford to leave and have no choice but to fight on against extremely difficult odds.
But we still need to fight, because if we don’t, we will definitely never get what we want.
Image credit: International Business Times