After protesters stormed Hong Kong’s (largely unelected) Legislative Council on 1 July, there is a real risk that China will invade the territory.
To international outcry about plans to ease extradition from Hong Kong to China — in effect, to give legal cover to the Chinese government “disappearing” dissidents, as it did with five bookshop workers in 2015 — Xi Jinping’s government has replied that all the issues in Hong Kong are China’s “internal” business, and no outsiders should comment.
Hong Kong was separate from China, as a British colony, for 150 years. After the Stalinist takeover in China in 1949, in particular, Hong Kong, although completely lacking any majority-rule electoral system, became a relative haven of free speech, free assembly, free association.
With the rise of unofficial strikes and worker organisation in mainland China, Hong Kong has become important as a base where groups like China Labour Bulletin can operate.
Under an agreement made in 1984, Britain returned Hong Kong to Chinese rule in 1997. The deal was “one country, two systems”.
Workers’ Liberty declared at the time that there was “nothing to celebrate”, and that “workers’ rights [would] be the first target” under Beijing rule.
Valuing Hong Kong’s role as a window to the capitalist world markets, and especially financial markets, China has generally been cautious about clamping down there.
But Xi Jinping has tightened repression in the mainland, and may not be as patient as his predecessors.
Solidarity with the democracy protesters! Self-determination for Hong Kong!