The Chinese National Security Law (NSL) of June 2020 changed Hong Kong. Banishing dissent, imperiling the city’s autonomy as well as its democratic future. Most of all, it threatens people’s rights of expression, gradually eroding the “one-country-two-systems” rule. Panelists of the conference “Standing with Hong Kong” described the progressive repression of freedom under economical, religious, and civil perspectives. The NSL changed Hong Kong’s present and will affect its future: banishing dissent and repressing people’s freedom, the city’s international relations will be seriously affected by it. As remembered by Theresa Fallon, Director of the Centre for Russia Europe Asia Studies, Hong Kong is the symbol of a new battlefield. It is difficult to cope with the NSL. To which Covid-19 restrictions add physical impediment for people to manifest against Beijing’s imposed limitations.
The Financial Times’ Asia editor Jamil Anderlini explained that beyond being one of the most important financial centers in the world, “Hong Kong is the meeting-place of two ideologies: state-led authoritarianism and liberal democracy.” He sees the city as the frontline of a new second Cold War. “What happens in Hong Kong is significant for the entire world.” Furthermore, “it is surprising how draconian the law is,” Anderlini said. Many observers compare the once independent city to Singapore. Today, “financial institutions are moving their infrastructures out of Hong Kong.” And, at the same time, “they do not want to offend Beijing.” The NSL is crucial in pushing investors to invest in other countries. Covid-19 further complicated the political and economic situation and will add more insidious challenges and uncertainties in the region.
Former Hong Kong’s Cardinal Joseph Zen analyzed the current situation from a religious perspective. He is very concerned about the two-years-ago agreement between the Vatican and Beijing about the bishops’ nomination. The Chinese government is putting the Church under pressure. With the NSL “we are now citizens of China.” Now, “the new bishops need the blessing of Beijing.” And the Vatican seems to have surrounded to it.” Zen endorsed Hong Kong’s pro-democracy protests. “Young people are not worried about their economic future. They are scarifying their life for freedom and democracy.” The emeritus cardinal explained that values such as truth, honesty, and solidarity are more important than the present economic outputs. And it is admirable that young people put their life at risk for not being “slaves of any regime.” Zem also added that “with the NSL we have lost the freedom of speech.”
Finally, Joshua Wong, a pro-democracy activist, explained that he was particularly touched by the implementation of the law. Arrested ten times, jailed three times, and prosecuted for six charges, Wong stressed the pain Hong Kong is currently experiencing. The NSL crushes the “one-country- two-systems” rule. Today, the times Hong Kong is experiencing “remember those in Eastern Europe under Communist rule of the last century.” The activist is not positive about the future: “more crackdowns will follow.” “We do not protest because of the chance of success, but because it is the right thing to do.” Wong emphasized that he will “continue carrying resistance.” Because “standing with Hong Kong is more than a slogan.” As for the future, Wong pledges he will continue devoting himself to bring back democracy and freedom. “Supporting Hong Kong should not be a matter of left or right. It is a matter of right or wrong.”
(Published on amedeogasparini.com)