China as master, Hong Kong as slave.
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Endangered Liberties in Hong Kong
You don’t have to be a human rights activist to deplore Hong Kong’s current drive to enact insidious security legislation that threatens its people’s freedoms. Hong Kong’s conservative business community is alarmed by the effort, too, seeing a threat to the territory’s status as a financial center. Beijing’s Communist leaders should recognize how damaging this is to their interests as well and signal a willingness to modify or set aside the proposed legislation.
Until now China’s five-year-old rule of the “special administrative region” has gone more smoothly than skeptics expected at the time of the British handover in 1997. For the most part, Beijing’s regime has grudgingly respected the “one country, two systems” concept underlying the territory’s Basic Law and the agreement struck with Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher of Britain in 1984, under which Beijing agreed to respect Hong Kong’s freedoms for a half-century. By and large, Hong Kong has been allowed to remain a freewheeling bastion of capitalism. Its residents have gone about their business, causing Beijing little grief or embarrassment.
The proposed measure would sharply curtail Hong Kong’s freedoms by giving the government a pretext to crack down on political activities, dissent and the distribution of information it finds unacceptable.
Freedom of speech could be threatened by a law that would ban “seditious” publications and make it a crime to endanger the “stability” of Hong Kong or China. Provisions to criminalize vaguely defined “state secrets” and “unauthorized” news would muzzle a free press and undermine the territory’s ability to survive as a vibrant financial center that thrives on a free flow of information. The proposals would ban political organizations deemed by Beijing a threat to national security.
Although the government claims it is responsive to public concerns, it is planning to refer the legislation in short order to the Legislative Council, a docile pro-Beijing body, under a set of fast-track procedural rules. China stands to lose much if it proceeds with this misguided plan. The decline of Hong Kong as one of the world’s premier financial centers would be detrimental to the mainland’s economy, and the violation of Hong Kong’s autonomy would devalue Beijing’s credibility in seeking a peaceful reconciliation with Taiwan.
New York Times, December 27, 2002