The crackdown against the anti-government protest movement and the opposition is intensifying. When it will end is anyone’s guess. But two factors seem to be the main determinants. The first is Beijing’s need to neutralise the opposition and to prevent it from re-emerging. The second is the direction in which Sino-American relations will head under new United States president Joe Biden. One thing we can be sure of is that the worse Beijing’s relations get with Washington, the more severe and extreme the crackdown will be in Hong Kong. China claims US sanctions have ‘no legal effect’, but analysts demur For local activists and pan-democrat politicians who want the United States and other Western governments to intervene in Hong Kong, their prayers being answered will be their worst nightmare. Sometimes, their naivety is both pitiful and disheartening. The latest crackdown is the arrest of 11 people on suspicion of aiding 12 local fugitives to flee the city. Among those is well-known pro-democracy lawyer and district councillor Daniel Wong Kwok-tung. These came after the arrests of 53 activists, many of them prominent former pan-democrat lawmakers. National security police arrest 11 accused of helping Hong Kong fugitives Meanwhile, some internet service providers have been told to stop serving at least one online site suspected of breaching the national security law. But most significant may be an unscheduled meeting next week of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress. The People’s Daily has warned this week that only those “loyal” to the country and Hong Kong will be allowed to take part in public elections. “Those who love the country and Hong Kong should rule Hong Kong,” it said. “‘Those who are anti-China and troublemakers are out’ is a principle and bottom line that Hong Kong elections must follow.” In reshaping Hong Kong’s opposition, Beijing seeks to snuff out political uncertainty It’s likely that rules for running in district council and Legislative Council elections as well as qualification for membership on the election committee for the city’s chief executive will be radically changed. Beijing will no longer tolerate the gradual takeover of those institutions by anti-government activists or pan-democrat politicians. Hong Kong may be reverting to the old colonial system of limited political representation. But what of dissent and protests outside established institutions? That, I would argue, depends very much on whether Beijing can reach an understanding or compromise with the Biden White House. The better their relations, the more relaxed Beijing will be over Hong Kong. The worst scenario for the city will be Cold War 2.0 between the two countries.