Beijing’s Big Bet in Hong Kong

The security law over Hong Kong raises the question of whether Beijing passed it from a position of strength or weakness.

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When Beijing retook control of Hong Kong from the British 23 years ago, the understanding was that Hong Kong would maintain a high degree of autonomy under the “one country, two systems” framework for a period of 50 years. On Tuesday, the Communist Party of China declared that that time was up. And it did so with striking ease. There was no bloody Tiananmen-style showdown between the army and pro-democracy protesters; no tanks inside Victoria Park. Beijing merely had its rubber-stamp legislature unanimously approve a sweeping national security law – one first announced just a month ago and never released for public comment – bypassing the Hong Kong legislature in violation of the city’s mini-constitution, known as the Basic Law. The move presages a dramatic deterioration of political freedoms in Hong Kong. The security law, which will be enforced by separate courts and security forces effectively controlled by Beijing, is conspicuously broad, meaning things like peaceful pro-democracy protests, anti-CPC editorials and school curricula that don’t toe the party line could realistically be defined as “separatism, subversion, terrorism and foreign interference.” At minimum, uncertainty about how the law will be enforced will have a chilling effect on civil society in Hong […]

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Phillip Orchard
Phillip Orchard is an analyst at Geopolitical Futures. Prior to joining the company, Mr. Orchard spent nearly six years at Stratfor, working as an editor and writing about East Asian geopolitics. He’s spent more than six years abroad, primarily in Southeast Asia and Latin America, where he’s had formative, immersive experiences with the problems arising from mass political upheaval, civil conflict and human migration. Mr. Orchard holds a master’s degree in Security, Law and Diplomacy from the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs, where he focused on energy and national security, Chinese foreign policy, intelligence analysis, and institutional pathologies. He also earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Texas. He speaks Spanish and some Thai and Lao.