In a fierce but very typically British exchange, BBC editor Andrew Marr grilled the nonchalant Chinese ambassador to Britain, revealing amateur drone videos showing chained people boarding a train flanked on both sides by black-armored troops. In a time when Department of Homeland Security agents are decried by the U.S. speaker of the House as stormtroopers for defending federal properties, videos from China show what a genuine totalitarian system looks like.
A full city full of people is staring down the threat of Chinese force. Three weeks after Beijing imposed a new draconian national security law on Hong Kong, China has established a “national security education” base in the neighboring mainland city of Shenzhen to “re-educate” Hong Kong students who are deemed insufficiently patriotic. As the London Times reported:
The centre is charged with helping pupils from Hong Kong and from Macau to ‘enhance their constitutional and national awareness through education,’ according to Xinhua, the official news agency. Du Ling, a senior party official in Shenzhen, said the base would ‘plant seeds of national identity and patriotic spirit in the hearts of more Hong Kong and Macau youth.’
Beijing also touted teen-aged party apparatchiks who were quoted saying why this facility was important because “youth years are formative,” and Hong Kong youths need “correct theoretical guidance.”
In response, the United Kingdom suspended an extradition treaty with Hong Kong, as it is no longer independent. The United States said it would follow soon. The British government appears to be serious about a confrontation with China, despite Chinese military threats and financial warnings about China banning students from the United Kingdom, which will result in an extreme financial shortfall.
The new security law, criticized by the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia, and Canada gives sweeping power in the hands of the Chinese state. This would, effectively, nullify the “One Country, Two System” farce — which guaranteed Hong Kong’s special status as a capitalist city-state out of the legal jurisdiction of Beijing — in place since Hong Kong’s handover to China in 1997.
As Mira Raap-Hooper recently wrote in Foreign Affairs, China’s former strategy of quietly biding time is over. Beijing is heading into the part of a great power’s life-cycle in which it starts to calculate whether open coercion is a better way to reshape the global balance of power.
A typical aim of moderate leftists is to show that Maoist or Leninist communism is merely “flawed” or “unmanaged” compared to historically evil fascism. It’s a neat trick that allows leftists to deploy their tried and true “not-real-communism” fallacy.
The reason is moderate leftists also want to use the coercive power of the state to punish dissidents. Indeed, punishing people for thought crimes or deviations from approved ideology has been a quintessentially leftist idea since the French Revolution. The sort of stifling authoritarians found on most Western university campuses and in most media houses have to make do without total coercive political power — for now. In communist regimes, however, they’re free to be completely open about it.
But time is running out for the residents of Hong Kong. For two years, they resisted brutal brawling and state coercion while waving the Union Jack and Old Glory in the face of tear gas, bullets, and batons.
But COVID-19 changed the game. With great powers busy about the survival of their financial systems, Beijing saw an opportunity to bring the wayward bastion of freedom into its fold. We’re seeing now the final dying gasps of a thousand different utopian ideas dreamed up in the 1990s, all imagining China filling the role of a responsible global power.
Three million Hong Kong residents have been offered the chance to settle in the United Kingdom, complete with a path to citizenship and settlement. Indeed, Britain still bears some responsibility as the erstwhile ruler of the city, where people still look to the colonial-era British flag as a sign of freedom. The figure of 3,000,000 includes 350,000 people who still possess British National Overseas passports with dual residence and 2.6 million more who will be eligible to apply.
It’s not the first time the Anglosphere took in pro-Western and pro-democratic refugees. Some of the most assimilated, conservative, and successful people in the United States are of Asian ancestry—most notably Koreans and Japanese. Some of the best-assimilated former immigrants in the United Kingdom are Indian refugees from old colonial regions, including the current British chancellor, Rishi Sunak, and Home Secretary Priti Patel.
Hong Kongers are mostly English-speaking and a highly educated workforce far more pro-Western than your average critical-theory-addled Antifa kid from Oxford or Harvard universities. They might even teach Nancy Pelosi and the deranged American media what real totalitarianism looks like.
As Beijing’s financial backbone, the loss of too many Hong Kongers to destinations throughout the nations of the British Commonwealth would be a huge loss to China. They are still currently free to leave Hong Kong, although that window might close soon. There’s an eerily similar feeling in the air to Germany during the early stages of the Cold War, when Germans could still move between East and West Berlin before the Berlin Wall and miles of barbed wire ended that for more than a generation.
Ever since Brexit, there have been talks of a restructured core Anglosphere, the oldest alignment in modern history. With British retrenchment from Europe, and American and German differences of interests, the “Anglosphere Five Eyes” has been at the forefront of balancing China led by the United States, the United Kingdom, and Australia.
Western nations accepting Hong Kongers will hurt Beijing. A spokesman for the Chinese embassy in London said allowing Hong Kongers to have Western passports would mean interfering in China’s internal affairs. “The UK government keeps making irresponsible remarks on Hong Kong affairs,” Ambassador Liu Xiaoming reportedly told the BBC.
No Marxist society wants its secrets out, or to have its best and most intelligent people leave, which is why the Soviets forcibly stopped people from leaving. Yet China has repeatedly interfered in Western affairs, from the Office of Personnel Management data breach in the United States to threatening Australia and the United Kingdom, as well as establishing Chinese lobby groups in the Western colleges and universities to buy and steal Western research. Now, it’s finally time for some payback.