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‘Kill Me or Free Me’

The Signal
“People start censoring themselves. That’s even more insidious. They know they’re going to get in trouble—that they’re being watched.”
One Country, One System
Has China finally crushed freedom in Hong Kong? Minxin Pei on censorship, indoctrination, and the weaknesses of totalitarianism.
Apple Daily, Hong Kong’s last pro-democracy newspaper, shut down last week, after the Chinese government imprisoned its founder, arrested five executives, and seized its financial assets. June 30 marks one year since Beijing imposed a National Security Law on Hong Kong; authorities have used the law to charge Apple Daily’s leaders, as well as many pro-democracy activists rounded up since the law took effect. Nearly a dozen activists were sentenced to prison in late May for massive demonstrations in 2019 against Beijing’s increasingly harsh rule over the former British colony. As China continues to stifle dissent and extend its control, has Beijing now fully assimilated Hong Kong?
To Minxin Pei, a professor of government at Claremont McKenna College and the author of three books on Chinese politics, Hong Kong is now just another Chinese city. China had promised a principle of One Country, Two Systems for its rule over Hong Kong, but the National Security Law ended that façade. The crackdown, Pei says, is the conclusion of the increasingly hardline approach taken by Beijing since 2014, when President Xi Jinping took office and Hong Kong protesters demanded greater freedom as part of the pro-democracy Umbrella Movement. But, Pei warns, Xi’s tactics and concentration of power might set the regime up for crisis later, after he leaves office.
Michael Bluhm: The closure of Apple Daily looks like more evidence of China clamping down on Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement. What’s going on?
Minxin Pei: What’s going on is both tragic and very disturbing. The Chinese government is implementing its plan to fully absorb Hong Kong. It is now imposing all the restrictions associated with the National Security Law.
Aside from the closure of Apple Daily, we’ve had prosecutions of activists under that law, and we’re going to see additional steps taken to fully assert control over the city. That will include changing how the city’s officials are selected, how elections are run. The Chinese government has already changed the rules of elections in Hong Kong.
We should see even more strict control imposed on the city’s media, even internet control reminiscent of the kind China has behind its Great Firewall. We should also see propaganda campaigns to brainwash the people in Hong Kong.
Hong Kong is being turned into just another Chinese city.
More from Minxin Pei at The Signal:
The National Security Law marked the death of One Country, Two Systems, but there were a series of events that led up to the enactment of the law. The crisis that initiated the process was in 2014—the Umbrella Movement, when tens of thousands of Hong Kong youth, mainly students, protested peacefully.”
People [now] will not say things, they will not publish anything. With the closure of Apple, you don’t have any press outlets in Hong Kong that will carry anything remotely critical of the Chinese government.”
We’re going to see an imposition of the rule of fear on a city of 7 million people. Most of them are refugees from China, or offspring of refugees from China. It’s a true human tragedy. The parents and grandparents of people in Hong Kong escaped the Communist Party’s tyranny on the mainland, and they have to live under the shadow of that kind of tyranny again.”
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