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.
The scale of the protests really shook Beijing. All the 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.
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.
Do people within the movement see any reason for optimism?
Ever since the security law was enacted, the mood within the pro-democracy movement has been bleak. I expected at least some people to offer fiery defiance and remind people that there is still hope — if only just as a rallying cry, whether they believed it or not. But pretty consistently across people I talk to, the consensus is that there’s not much they can do to change the situation, at least for now.
That’s it for this briefing. As of Tuesday, this newsletter will have a new look. We hope you enjoy it. See you next time.
— Whet and Amelia
Carole Landry helped write this briefing. Thank you to Melissa Clark for the recipe. You can reach the team at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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