Pro-democracy activist Nathan Law, accompanied by supporters, walks out of the Final Court of Appeal after being granted bail in Hong Kong, China, October 24, 2017. (Bobby Yip/Reuters) This great, free, vibrant city was promised 50 years of autonomy. It got less than half that allotment.
Editor’s Note: Today, we publish an expanded version of a piece that appears in the current issue of National Review.
Simply put, “2047 has arrived.” These are the words of Nathan Law, a Hong Kong democracy leader, now in exile. Hong Kong was supposed to have 50 years, starting with the “handover” on July 1, 1997: 50 years of democratic life, 50 years of autonomy. The relevant slogan was “One country, two systems.” Hong Kong would be a little exception in vast, Communist-ruled China.
Cruelly, however, Hong Kong got half its allotment — not even that. Hong Kong is now a Chinese city like any other, more or less. In other words, it is unfree, and horrifying.
At the end of June, Vivian Wang and Alexandra Stevenson of the New York Times filed a dispatch from Hong Kong. The subheading of their dispatch read, “Neighbors are urged to report on one another. Children are taught to look for traitors. Officials are pressed to pledge their loyalty.” Here was one detail, among many — not the most horrifying, by a long shot, but striking all the same: “Police officers have been trained to goose-step in the Chinese military fashion, replacing decades of British-style marching.”
Question: Did they have to do it? Did the British have to hand the city over to the Chinese government, which is to say, the Chinese Communist Party? Yes, answers Nathan Law, and almost everyone else. The handover was inevitable. For one thing, the party could have sent the PLA — the People’s Liberation Army — into Hong Kong. What could Britain, and the “world,” have done then?
Remember, too, that many people, all over the world, expected China to liberalize — to become more like Hong Kong. This was not a stupid expectation, given the flow of
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