Beijing’s plan to tighten its grip on Hong Kong could spell the end of China’s economic dream
- Beijing vows to change Hong Kong’s political appointment process, pass security laws and push patriotism in education – ideas that Hongkongers have protested
- Shutting down Hong Kong would sever China’s access to global financial services, bring on sanctions and spark countries to join the US’ effort to contain China
The communique of the recently concluded fourth plenum of the 19th Central Committee of the Communist Party indicates that Chinese President Xi Jinping plans to tighten his grip on the former British colony at any cost.
He should prepare to rack up a formidable bill.
Second, it will “build and improve a legal system and enforcement mechanism to defend national security” in both special administrative regions.
A few days after the plenum, the Communist Party’s plan to assert its control over Hong Kong became clearer when it released the full text of the resolution endorsed there by its Central Committee.
China’s central government intends to change the process for appointing Hong Kong’s chief executive and key officials, and reform the system governing how the Chinese National People’s Congress Standing Committee interprets the Basic Law.
Moreover, China will support the strengthening of Hong Kong’s law-enforcement capabilities and ensure that the city government enacts legislation to enhance national security.
It will also deepen Hong Kong’s economic integration with the mainland and expand “education” programmes to cultivate a “national consciousness and patriotic spirit”, especially among civil servants and young people.
Though the details of the plan have yet to be worked out, it seems evident that China’s leaders intend to gut the Basic Law, exercise more direct control over the appointment of key officials, weaken or eliminate Hong Kong’s judicial independence, curtail civil liberties and suppress political dissent, including through ideological indoctrination.
China’s leaders must know that they will run into powerful resistance.
As the Communist Party attempts to exert total control over Hong Kong, even larger demonstrations, marked by even more violence, are likely. The city will descend further into chaos and become ungovernable.
What Xi and the Communist Party seem not to understand is how much this approach will hurt them. After all, China is likely to lose much of its access to the global financial system as countries revise their relationships with the new Hong Kong.
But in a country whose top leadership brooks no dissent, there are few safeguards against bad policymaking.
Two years ago, Xi declared that by the time the People’s Republic celebrates its centenary in 2049, it should be a “great modern socialist country” with an advanced economy.
The fourth plenum communique reiterated this objective. But if China’s central government reneges on its obligations to Hong Kong, that goal is likely to become little more than a distant dream.