Chinese President Xi Jinping is a troubled man who appears to be going berserk with mounting external and internal challenges
Chinese President Xi Jinping is a troubled man who appears to be going berserk with mounting external and internal challenges. The blowback of China virus has resulted in 600 million low-paid workers in the country and its export-oriented economy being visibly hit with the majority of the world opinion gone adverse. Even China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) partners want repayments eased. Xi is still confident of global domination with China’s financial reserves and military muscle but appears more worried about dissent at home and his diminishing aura. Given China’s history of banning Falun Gong, a Buddhist-based practice of meditation and moral living, fearing that congregations might collectively develop anti-establishment views, calls for protection of democratic values in Hong Kong, in accordance with its special status, has been panicking the Chinese regime.
Even before the "China virus" swept the world, Xi was very worried over protests in Hong Kong, the spread of which to mainland China could fuel simmering population dissent already stressed under the draconian regime. That is why visiting Nepal the first time in October 2019, Xi thundered that any attempt to divide China will be crushed. He said, “Anyone attempting to split China in any part of the country will end in crushed bodies and shattered bones.” His signal was to Hong Kong and Taiwan but he could have added that his regime has unparalleled experience in crushing bodies and shattering bones in Auschwitz-like Xinjiang camps, in Tibet and in muzzling dissent in general.
In the so called Tibet Autonomous Region, excesses against Tibetans have been consistent despite demographically overwhelming Tibetans with Han Chinese; abductions, killings, destroying gompas / converting them to prisons, burning cultural-religious artifacts, mass punishments to villages not flying Chinese flag, etc. In the period 2009-2017 at least 150 Tibetan monks self-immolated in protest. Reports of May 2020 indicate at least 51 Tibetans have been prosecuted under China’s so-called ‘anti-gang crime’ campaign to stifle activists defending Tibetan culture and environment, supporters of Dalai Lama and those practicing unapproved religious practices. Beijing wants a treaty with Kathmandu to extradite over 20,000 Tibetan refugees living in Nepal.
China’s new security law imposed on Hong Kong undermines the Sino-British Joint Declaration under which Hong Kong returned to China, and also its own slogan of One Nation, Two Systems. Hong Kong’s puppet regime has promptly acquiesced, which means the latter’s legislature is no more independent. Under the new security law, China will post its ‘security agencies’ in Hong Kong – the Chinese equivalent of Hitler’s death squads that will monitor and muzzle dissent within the 7.4 million population of Hong Kong. Mass extradition of dissidents to mainland China for “re-education” can be expected.
US President Donald Trump has stated that the US would no longer treat Hong Kong and China as separate entities for the purposes of extradition, customs, trade, and visa issues. The US withdrawing the special status accorded to Hong Kong would hit businesses and damage Hong Kong’s standing as a global financial centre but Xi perhaps appreciate this will hit western economies more. Separately, Xi has also threatened countermeasures. Apparently, his preference is to muzzle dissent than business for boosting his own standing, especially with Taiwan supporting democratic Hong Kong. Taiwan has also said it will withdraw its special status accorded to Taiwan and offered Hong Kong residents the chance to escape Beijing's rule by moving to Taiwan under a plan for 'humanitarian assistance'.
The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) informally discussed Hong Kong in a closed virtual meeting after China opposed the US call on May 27 for a formal meeting. China argued that this was not an issue of international peace and security. US Ambassador Kelly Craft asked, “Are we going to take the honorable stand to defend the human rights and the dignified way of life that millions of Hong Kong citizens have enjoyed and deserve ... or are we going to allow the Chinese Communist Party to violate international law and force its will on the people of Hong Kong?” China and Russia promptly criticized the US for using excessive force against Afro-Americans.
China's new security law has angered the protestors in Hong Kong, uniting the old and the new. As China discussed the new security law, thousands of protesters flooded streets of Hong Kong, defying the city's ban on gatherings to voice their opposition, since the new law threatens Hong Kong’s autonomy and their civil liberties. The demand for virtual private networks (VPN) that helps bypass web restrictions went up exponentially, surging by 1,680 percent on May 21 from the previous day. Ironically, Hong Kong is doomed to be another Chinese city; the same surveillance, heavy censorship, zero freedom of speech, and dissent meaning death. Currently, Hong Kong is facing tear gas attacks by riot police and arrests.
Financial markets and foreign governments fear heavy interference in Hong Kong but Xi is confident he will prevail. His belief is based on the fact that the world can never unite against China. Russia sided with China in the abovementioned informal UNSC discussion on Hong Kong. Now Canada is objecting to Trump’s proposal to include Russia in expanding G-7 to G-10. The "China virus" attack proves the Chinese regime has become an existential threat to humanity. As China threatens Taiwan, flexes muscles in the South China Sea, and makes multiple intrusions into Indian territory, the question is will the world quietly sit on the fence and let Xi Jinping’s death squads brutalize Hong Kong into submission or unite and take the bull by its horns?
(The author is an Indian Army veteran. The views expressed are personal)