China’s top communist, President Xi Jinping, aspires to dominate the world order — and if you want a preview, take a look at China’s assault on the rights and freedoms of Hong Kong. You don’t even need to start as far afield as Hong Kong itself. Xi’s Hong Kong flunkies, in their zeal to obliterate the territory’s democracy movement, are now targeting Hong Kong democracy advocates not only at home, but abroad, in places such as London and Washington. On Friday, according to Reuters, Chinese state television reported that “Hong Kong authorities had issued arrest warrants for six pro-democracy activists who fled the city and are suspected of violating a national security law that came into effect on June 30.”
One of the activists named in China’s broadcast is Samuel Chu, born in Hong Kong, but living in the U.S., and a naturalized American citizen for more than two decades. Chu is the managing director of a Washington-based nonprofit called the Hong Kong Democracy Council, or HKDC, which set up shop last year — during Hong Kong’s huge democracy protests — with the self-described mission of “promoting democracy and human rights in Hong Kong.”
That’s entirely in keeping with the agenda of liberty, justice and universal suffrage that China itself, under international treaty, guaranteed for Hong Kong, for at least 50 years following the 1997 British handover. That half-century grace period is not due to expire until 2047.
So, Chu has been calling for his own country, America, to seek ways to persuade China to honor its promises for Hong Kong. China’s communist rulers have now decided to treat such campaigns for decency as a threat to their “national security,” potentially punishable by up to life in prison. Under terms so broad and amorphous that the words can mean whatever China’s communist party rulers want them to mean, China with its new security law has granted to itself and its satrap administration in Hong Kong the power to criminalize any activities they regard as threatening, not only in Hong Kong, but anywhere around the globe.
Cases deemed to be in various ways serious, major, or “complex due to the involvement of a foreign country or external elements” can be handled not in Hong Kong, but in mainland China, where there is no free speech, no system of checks and balances, no judiciary independent of the CCP, and the conviction rate tends to be upward of 99%.
That’s the context in which Chu sent out a press release under HKDC auspices on Friday, saying “Today I woke up to media reports that I am a wanted fugitive. My alleged crimes? ‘Inciting secession’ and ‘colluding with foreign powers’ under Hong Kong’s National Security Law.”
Chu, went on to explain the Orwellian implications:
“Except I am an American citizen and have been for almost 25 years. If the reports are true, the Hong Kong police are issuing an arrest warrant against an American citizen for advocating and lobbying my own government.”
“Petitioning my own government is one of the most foundational and sacred constitutional rights as an American. For the Chinese and Hong Kong governments to claim jurisdiction over the exercising of my rights as an American is outrageous and outlandish. They might as well march down to Capitol Hill and arrest all of the members of Congress, White House officials, or the hundreds of Americans who have stood with Hong Kongers.”
Fortunately for Chu and for so many in America who have stood with Hong Kong, the U.S. has no extradition agreement with mainland China, and under an executive order issued on July 14 by President Trump, the U.S. is suspending its longstanding extradition agreement with Hong Kong. A number of other democracies, including Britain, Canada, Australia, Germany and New Zealand have already done so.
That provides some protection to other Hong Kong democracy activists who have left the territory and now find themselves on the wanted list, such as Ray Wong and Nathan Law, now in Britain. Nathan Law told Reuters: “That Hong Kong has no place for even such moderate views like ours underscores the absurdity of Chinese Communist rule.”
Of course, the commissars of Beijing and its non-autonomous administration in Hong Kong are well aware that democracies such as the U.S. and its cohorts in the free world are not going to respond to their arrest warrants by sending democracy activists into China’s clutches. But China’s deeper game is to try to deter people around the globe from standing up for Hong Kong’s freedoms, and to isolate Hong Kong’s people, while China attempts to engulf, demoralize and dismantle their vibrant free society.
Already, under the label of coronavirus restrictions, Hong Kong has been largely closed off to non-residents since March. Inside that cordon, hopes have been crushed that in a Sept. 6 general election Hong Kong voters might achieve a pro-democracy majority in the legislature, despite a baroque electoral system tilted heavily in favor of Beijing. Instead, and quite simply, there won’t be an election this September. On Friday, Hong Kong’s Beijing-appointed chief executive, Carrie Lam, announced that she is postponing the election for a full year (due, officially, to “the severe COVID-19 epidemic situation”).
This follows Lam’s threats that the recent primaries organized by pro-democracy figures, in which more than 600,000 Hong Kongers turned out to vote, might qualify as “subversion” under the new national security law — in the event the candidates won a majority in the general election and had the audacity to use it to block the administration’s policies. Even before Lam kicked the election down the road to late 2021, her administration had already disqualified a dozen pro-democracy candidates, including prominent young opposition leader Joshua Wong (who has already served prison time for his role in Hong Kong’s 2014 Umbrella Movement democracy protests).
One of the organizers of the pro-democracy primaries, Benny Tai (who also served prison time for his role in the 2014 protests), has been drummed out of his job at Hong Kong University.
Hong Kong’s tally of more than 9,000 people arrested in connection with democracy protests by now includes such prominent advocates of liberty and justice as newspaper publisher Jimmy Lai; former legislator and patriarch of the Hong Kong democracy movement, Martin Lee; and quite a number of brave and principled pro-democracy figures who are less famous on the world stage, but a great credit to Hong Kong. These are people who would be a tremendous asset to any nation, but Beijing treats them as reprobates, to be destroyed.
Under the new law, mainland security agents are now operating officially in the territory, protest slogans have been banned, pro-democracy books have been pulled from public shelves for “review,” schoolchildren have been forbidden to sing the anthem “Glory to Hong Kong” that protesters composed last summer and were singing everywhere in the city. Instead, Communist-China-style “patriotic education” is in the works.
Chief Executive Lam now chairs a new Committee for Safeguarding National Security, which reports directly to the central Chinese government in Beijing, and includes, for good measure, a National Security Adviser designated by Beijing. Under the new law, Hong Kong’s police force will now include a “department for safeguarding national security,” with its head appointed by the chief executive in consultation with Hong Kong’s new Beijing-run Office for Safeguarding National Security.
There’s a lot more to the new National Security Law, with its six chapters and 66 articles, but the bottom line is clear. Under Xi’s reign, the word of China’s government is worthless. In the name of “national security,” China’s communist regime approaches freedom and democracy as threats to be stamped out — and their ambitions are in no way limited to Hong Kong.
Which brings me back to Samuel Chu, an American citizen, now on the Hong Kong wanted list. In his press statement, reacting to the news that Hong Kong authorities had issued an arrest warrant for him, he closed with an urgent message — a message that anyone proud to live in freedom needs to hear not solely as a warning, but as a rallying cry:
“Let me be very clear — I might be the first non-Chinese citizen to be targeted, but I will not be the last. If I am targeted, any American or citizen of any nation who speaks out for Hong Kong can, and will be, too. We are all Hong Kongers now.”