National People’s Congress announcement of tightening the national security law noose on HK smacks of frustration within ranks of the ruling Communist party at the managing the Covid fallout and the expectation management of Chinese people.
The announcement of the measure at annual NPC meeting is doubly symbolic that party has put its reputation at stake. This is more so when party mandarins has assessed Xi as having foundered on twin priorities of HK and Taiwan with earlier Hong Kong protests having injected much needed energy in Taiwanese DPP leader Tsai Ing Wen’a faltering campaign leading eventually to her victory against mainland favored KMT candidate. Not to forget that Xi had feted KMT leader Lien Chan in 2015 literally as a Head of State during his visit to Mainland and Xian. Today Taiwan has come out of the pandemic strengthened and its international position bolstered by its phenomenal success in fighting the virus.
Notably, Xi’s predecessor Hu Jintao is credited with a rather successful cross-strait management of affairs for over a decade with KMT’s Ma Yingjeou as President of Taiwan. With highhanded managing of ethnic Uighur’s in Muslim Xinjiang, combined with Taiwan and now Hong Kong leaves much to be desired so far as Xi’s performance as Party chief is concerned, especially when Tibet, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Xinjiang affairs are listed as CCP’s core Priorities.
Question arises whether with having anointed himself as party leader for life, Xi has pulled the peak ahead in time having gone over and beyond it. The move comes in the backdrop of months of anti-government protests last year and as protests were planning to be relaunched in the post-Covid period. Beijing claimed the law was necessary to boost its national security in the city, and blamed “foreign forces” for promoting separatism and violence in Hong Kong.
China stares at an economic collapse in wake of Covid of an economy already bruised with Trump’s trade war. Therefore, the move in Hong Kong reflect Xi and Party’s nervousness is managing economic fallouts of Covid and trade war. Current Hong Kong move appears geared more towards domestic audience rather than global for a change.
It remains to be seen if it intensifies rift within party rank and file, especially with sixth generation leadership ruing the fact of being denied a chance at Party Leadership with Xi’s constitutional reform paving way for leadership for life.
If push comes to shove does it portend sharpening of factional divides with CCP ranks to the gain of Premier Li Keqiang and moderate faction with good understanding of affairs of state and economy.
What will rattle Xi further is a rare joint statement released by the Governments of the United States of America, Australia, Canada, and the United Kingdom on Thursday. “Hong Kong has flourished as a bastion of freedom. The international community has a significant and long-standing stake in Hong Kong’s prosperity and stability. Direct imposition of national security legislation on Hong Kong by the Beijing authorities, rather than through Hong Kong’s own institutions as provided for under Article 23 of the Basic Law, would curtail the Hong Kong people’s liberties, and in doing so, dramatically erode Hong Kong’s autonomy and the system that made it so prosperous,” the Joint Statement claimed.
China’s decision to impose a new national security law on Hong Kong lies in direct conflict with its international obligations under the principles of the legally-binding, UN-registered Sino-British Joint Declaration. The proposed law would undermine the One Country, Two Systems framework. It also raises the prospect of prosecution in Hong Kong for political crimes, and undermines existing commitments to protect the rights of Hong Kong people – including those set out in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, according to the statement.
“The world’s focus on a global pandemic requires enhanced trust in governments and international cooperation. Beijing’s unprecedented move risks having the opposite effect. As Hong Kong’s stability and prosperity are jeopardized by the new imposition, we call on the Government of China to work with the Hong Kong SAR Government and the people of Hong Kong to find a mutually acceptable accommodation that will honor China’s international obligations under the UN-filed Sino-British Joint Declaration,” the four countries noted.