Opinion | Hong Kong was not supposed to look like this


Pro-democracy protesters are arrested by police during a clash at a demonstration in October 2019 in Hong Kong. (Anthony Kwan/Getty Images)
Pro-democracy protesters are arrested by police during a clash at a demonstration in October 2019 in Hong Kong. (Anthony Kwan/Getty Images)
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Hong Kong was not supposed to look like this, 25 years after the end of British colonial rule and midway through China’s promised 50 years of autonomy and personal freedoms.

There are now more than 1,000 political prisoners languishing in Hong Kong’s jails, among them activists, students, journalists and lawyers. Dozens have been jailed for a year or longer without bail in the legal limbo of “pretrial detention.” Some 47 opposition politicians face possible life in prison because they participated in a primary election, considered subversive in the new Hong Kong.

Civil society has been decimated, with more than 50 activist groups shuttered by the government or pressured to close. Campus student unions have been dissolved. The giant Confederation of Trade Unions, with at least 70 affiliate unions, disbanded in October. One of the largest affiliates, the 100,000-member Professional Teachers Union, closed down after being branded a “malignant tumor” in China’s state-run media. Popular media outlets have been shut or voluntarily closed, their online archives scrubbed clean.

International groups have not been spared. Organizations advocating for democracy, such as the National Endowment for Democracy, have been accused of fomenting unrest. Human rights groups Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have shuttered their local offices.

Statues commemorating the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre have been removed. Books deemed too politically sensitive have been pulled from shelves in public libraries and bookstores. High school textbooks are being rewritten to emphasize protecting China’s national security and insist that Hong Kong was not actually a British colony. Hong Kong police officers have been taught to goose-step mainland-style during drills and parades, and children must participate in mandatory morning rituals raising the Chinese flag.

Now, career police officer John Lee Ka-chiudubbed Iron Man in the local media for his supposed toughness — has been appointed Hong Kong’s next chief executive. The United States has imposed sanctions on Lee “for being involved in coercing, arresting, detaining, or imprisoning individuals under the authority of the National Security Law.”

In 1997, many people here assumed that after 25 years, mainland China would look more like Hong Kong — more liberal and far less anchored by archaic-sounding Communist Party ideology. As China grew richer and more globally connected, the thinking went, so too would the country become more democratic and open to the world.

What happened instead has been the opposite. In 2022, Hong Kong looks more like China — repressive, intolerant of dissent, suspicious of foreigners and bent on indoctrinating the entire population with an enforced loyalty to the Chinese Communist Party and its whitewashed view of history.

Local officials now claim to see ubiquitous “foreign forces” seeking to overthrow the…



Read More: Opinion | Hong Kong was not supposed to look like this

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