The Hong Kong we know is dead

After 23 years, China seems to be publicly affirming that the ‘one country, two systems’ experiment has failed and that Hongkongers were not sufficiently imbued with a patriotic love of the motherland and its authoritarian communist one-party system.

Now Hongkongers who had enjoyed a wide range of freedoms and a tiny taste of democracy will be subjected to the same sweeping constraints on their liberties as any Chinese citizen living on the mainland.

Over the past month, the new national security law was drafted behind closed doors in Beijing with no input from Hong Kong officials or citizens, who were not even allowed to see the text until a few minutes before midnight on the day it took effect. There was still some small hope that the law might not be as sweeping as some here feared, perhaps tailor-made for Hong Kong owing to this city’s special history and common-law traditions. Various leaks in the media in recent days appeared designed to assure people that their daily lives would not be greatly affected.

But the final text of the law was more severe and more detailed than the most optimistic here envisaged. Many when they saw it were aghast—shocked, they said, but not surprised.

The law establishes an entirely new infrastructure in Hong Kong to enforce a national security regime. Beijing will set up a national security agency in Hong Kong which will operate independently as it sees fit. China’s agents operating here, with special ID cards, and their cars, ‘shall not be subject to inspection, search or detention’ by local Hong Kong police. They are above the law.

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