“Hong Kong has forever changed!” many are lamenting these days. Well, change alone is eternal, for sure, and with a tailor-made, sweeping national security law imposed on the city by Beijing, changes are indeed happening. But changes don’t come from nowhere. Instead of asking “what if”, it would be more practical to focus on “how to cope with” anticipated changes. Those who oppose the law are crying foul, concluding that it signals the end of “one country, two systems”; those who support it are cheering and embracing it as the stabilising factor for Hong Kong’s future after a year of extreme social turmoil. There is also the “wait-and-see” group, shocked and anxious, caught in a “to leave or not to leave” dilemma. After all, with the rest of the world also gripped by volatility and uncertainty, there does not seem to be much in terms of options out there. There is indeed a growing trend of many exploring contingency plans that may give rise to what some are calling a “second migration wave”. The first wave came in the lead-up to Hong Kong’s 1997 sovereignty handover but many later returned to the city, giving rise to official rhetoric which characterised it as a “second return to the motherland”. Hong Kong national security law: What is it about? Read the full text This was followed by attempts to make Hongkongers truly appreciate that “one country” should come before “two systems”, and the repositioning of the city with an economic focus – not politics, and definitely not violent activities. In reality, this is an even harder mission than the “first handover”. Externally, even before this new law, Hong Kong had already been dragged into an unprecedented political vortex on a global scale. What first started as the US-China trade war has now been intensified by sanctions against both Hong Kong and the mainland by Washington and its Western allies. Internally, Hong Kong has changed profoundly into a city that is highly politically charged and polarised after months of protest chaos – a major reason for Beijing to introduce the new law. Back in the 1990s, Beijing was patient and gentle enough to pacify many anxious Hongkongers with assurances that “horses will continue to run, dances will go on”. Today, Beijing is still trying hard to reassure even more alarmed Hongkongers that there is a bright future ahead. Hong Kong national security law full text: Embed code: But now the approach is less accommodating and lays out a fundamental condition: plugging national security loopholes as the prerequisite for the city’s special governing formula to be maintained until and beyond its 50-year remit. Beijing is no longer coy about letting everyone know that its pledge to keep the one country, two systems policy does not necessarily come with unlimited patience. The high-handed way in which it brought in this deterrent national security law at all costs, including at the expense of its relations with the US and the West deteriorating further, speaks volumes. So the writing is on the wall for Hong Kong in Beijing’s eyes – get back on track to develop an economy-oriented city and hold on to the role of an international financial centre. As national security law nears, Hong Kong’s ‘second return’ to China will be easier said than done That may be the more practical way out for Hong Kong, a city that still needs more high-quality and dedicated political talent who would know how to deal with the Beijing leadership more tactfully and pragmatically. But a bitter lesson Beijing must also bear in mind is that genuine demands for political reform and greater democracy will not just go away in this city, and have to be addressed sooner or later. Greater changes are coming for Hong Kong and the road is going to be rocky. Get prepared.