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Good morning. Our colleague Vivian Wang helps you make sense of China’s crackdown on Hong Kong.
asserted its authority over a global financial capital, through a harsh national security law enacted last summer.
It’s one of the world’s most consequential stories, yet one often overshadowed by the pandemic. This morning, I’m focusing on Hong Kong, with help from my colleague Vivian Wang, who’s based there. Our exchange follows.
David: Britain handed over control of Hong Kong to China almost 25 years ago, and there has long been a pro-democracy movement there. Why did Xi Jinping and the rest of China’s leadership decide to act now?
Vivian: The short answer is the enormous antigovernment protest movement in 2019, in response to a government proposal that would have allowed extraditions to mainland China.
previous protest movements had lasted a few months, at most. This time, there was huge support, and it wasn’t dying down on its own.
Officials in Beijing also hated that foreign politicians, like those in the U.S., were so vocal in support of the protesters. Beijing is really worried that Hong Kong could be a base for foreign powers to try to topple the Chinese government.
From Beijing’s perspective, has the crackdown worked? And has it created any problems for the central government?
In many ways, it has absolutely worked. There are no more street protests. There’s extensive self-censorship. Virtually every prominent pro-democracy activist is in exile, in jail, awaiting trial or has disappeared from public life.
But there’s a lot of simmering anger among Hong Kongers, even if they don’t dare express it publicly anymore. They still shop at stores and restaurants they think support the democracy movement. That’s why we see Beijing continuing to apply pressure. It clearly, and I think rightly, doesn’t think the threat is past.