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Sabtu, 03 April 2021

China's Hong Kong crackdown was decades in the making - ABC News

After completing negotiations to hand back Hong Kong to China, British Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, recorded in her diary that she was "seriously disturbed by the Chinese insistence on recovering sovereignty over Hong Kong".

The Iron Lady has been proven right.

Today, the Chinese Communist Party has a stranglehold on Hong Kong.

Beijing's latest move to strip the number of directly elected representatives in the Hong Kong legislature is another sign that the promise of "one country, two systems" is in tatters.

Pro-democracy groups are being silenced just as protesters have been driven from the streets.

There are currently 35 directly-elected members in the 75-strong Legislative Council.

The council is being expanded to 90, but voters will get to choose only 20 representatives.

And Beijing will approve candidates for office — only those deemed "patriots".

In this same week, pro-democracy activists — including the so-called "father of democracy", 82-year-old Martin Lee — were found guilty of attending an "unauthorised" protest in 2019.

Locking up activists, crushing protest, choking opposition: this is life for the people of Hong Kong in Xi Jinping's China.

An inevitable trajectory

In truth, it was always going to be this way. In 1997, I stood in the driving rain as the British flag was lowered over the former colony and the Chinese flag raised.

Among a crowd, you look up at a stage with Chinese and British dignitaries as British soldiers lower the Union Jack.
The Union Jack is lowered at Hong Kong's 1997 handover ceremony.(

AP: Kimimasa Mayama

)

Earlier that night, I was on the border with the China mainland as hand-picked troops of the People's Liberation Army came across to avenge a history of humiliation.

The loss of the territory to Britain in the 19th-century Opium Wars was a scar on the Chinese soul.

It plunged China into a crisis that triggered the fall of the Qing Dynasty, revolution and war. Tens of millions of Chinese would be killed over the next century before Mao Zedong proclaimed the People's Republic in 1949, following the Communist Revolution.

Hong Kong forms part of what China calls the "hundred years of humiliation" — that period of domination by foreign powers.

The paradoxical mix of victimhood and resurgent pride is the iron in the blood of modern Chinese nationalism.

It underpins President Xi Jinping's "China Dream": the rejuvenation of the nation and its return to the apex of global power.

Xi has pressed fast forward on his agenda: crushing dissent, jailing rivals, targeting the Uyghur Muslim ethnic group in what has been branded internationally as a campaign of genocide.

Territory and sovereignty is critical. Xi has claimed the disputed islands of the South China Sea and put Taiwan on notice that he will use force if necessary to reunify the island with the mainland.

It was never going to last

Hong Kong's special autonomous status was never going to last.

Xi is following a template set by previous Communist Party leadership.

During talks with Britain, then Chinese Premier, Zhao Ziyang, warned Thatcher the Party would put China's sovereignty before Hong Kong's stability and prosperity.

China's leaders had always put the state first and warned against any move to democracy in Hong Kong.

In 1958, then Chinese Premier, Zhou Enlai, cautioned Britain that any move to allow Hong Kong to become self-governing would be considered "a very unfriendly act".

When China reclaimed Hong Kong in 1997, the Communist Party was still abiding by the dictum of former leader Deng Xiaoping: "hide and bide". Hide your capabilities, bide your time.

China was still building its economy, it was a period of opening up to the world. Leaders in the West typically believed that China — as it became richer — would become more free.

Anti-Beijing radicals try to push through police lines.
Protestors attempting to storm the 1997 handover of Hong Kong to Beijing. 

The hiding and biding is over

Xi Jinping no longer hides his intentions. He is more aggressive and has taken a deeper authoritarian turn.

He speaks from the pages of Mao Zedong thought: punishment and cure.

As Mao said, one must "punish the past to warn the future", and "save men by curing their ills".

Xi is punishing Hong Kong's past as a British outpost and curing the "ills" of democracy.

Psychiatrist Robert Jay Lifton, in his book "Thought Reform and the Psychology of Totalism: a Study of Brainwashing in China", quotes the Chinese Communist Party program of szu-hsiang kai-tsao — ideological moulding or thought reform.

Lifton describes it as "one of the most powerful efforts of human manipulation ever undertaken".

We see this today in Xinjiang, Tibet, and now Hong Kong, where people can be punished for their thoughts.

As much as he seeks to display strength, the crackdown in Hong Kong also reveals his fragility. Xi cannot trust his own people.

Right now though, he is all powerful and China is ascendant. His authoritarian challenge comes at a time when freedom and democracy is weaker in the West.

Martin Lee stands in a suit in front of a large group pf men holding cameras
Martin Lee, right, one of seven protestors who was convicted.(

AP: Vincent Yu

)

Father of democracy faces jail

At midnight on July 1, 1997, in Hong Kong's driving rain, history began again — it marked the return of a new ideological battle between authoritarianism and democracy.

On that night, Hong Kong's Democratic Party Chairman, Martin Lee, vowed that "the flame of democracy" would never be extinguished.

Today, Martin Lee — the father of democracy — is facing a jail term.

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2021-04-03 18:00:00Z
CAIiELbm9XhINCjuNhpIcNvt7EoqFwgEKg4IACoGCAow3vI9MPeaCDD7kIkG

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