"The arms of tyranny have reached Hong Kong," declared pro-democracy lawmaker Ted Hui. The Chinese government has taken advantage of the quiet streets of Hong Kong -- just months ago filled with hundreds of thousands of protestors -- to push an extensive national security law for Hong Kong through parliament. Critics say this overreach by the Beijing marks the end of the freedom and autonomy that has enabled Hong Kong to thrive.
Last year, pro-democracy protestors made international headlines for their fierce defense of Hong Kong's autonomy from mainland China over an extradition bill which would have allowed its citizens to be extradited to China.
Hong Kong currently operates under a unique "one country, two systems" policy agreed upon before the British returned Hong Kong to China in 1997. The city has flourished thanks to its freedom and because it has evaded the tight grip of the Chinese Communist Party.
Pro-democracy activist do not want their city to look like the Chinese mainland, which suffers from countless human rights and religious freedom violations. In contrast, Hong Kong has operated with a high degree of economic, political, and religious freedom -- freedoms most Hong Kongers refuse to relinquish without a fight.
Pro-democracy protestors ultimately succeeded in killing the extradition bill last year, and their momentum scares Beijing. The freedom-loving people of Hong Kong are proving difficult to control for the Chinese Communist Party. So much so that Beijing is unveiling a new legislative plan to control them.
So, what does Beijing's new legislation mean for the future of Hong Kong?
Chinese officials have said the sweeping plan includes creating new laws and a new enforcement mechanism for addressing what they deem to be national security threats in Hong Kong. The new law will criminalize anything the government chooses to classify a secessionist activities and subversion of state power.
The accusation of subversion of state power will be familiar to Chinese Christians. Just a few months ago, well-known house church pastor Wang Yi was sentenced to nine years in prison for "subversion of state power." With so-called "national security" laws like these, religious freedom may be at risk in Hong Kong as well.
One thing is sure -- the Chinese government doesn't tolerate dissent or any set of beliefs it may feel threatened by. The pro-democracy protest movement last year was a challenge to Beijing, one they are now cracking down on.
Pro-democracy protest leader Joshua Wong took to Twitter to highlight the risks of this new legislation: "The new National Security Law in HK will kill future democratic movements, since all pro-democracy protests in the city can be classified as attempts of subversions of China's authority, just like how the Beijing does in China." Activists say this law will effectively silence the people of Hong Kong.
The free world should not stand by silently as Beijing assaults Hong Kong's autonomy with stunning speed.
Senator Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) introduced a resolution this week condemning the Chinese government's proposed national security law, calling it a violation of the Sino-British Joint Declaration which established the "one country, two systems" policy that protected Hong Kong. The resolution encourages the U.S. government use diplomatic means, including sanctions, to dissuade the Chinese government from passing this law.
Hong Kong may feel far away, but the Chinese government has proven it has imperialist intentions which won't stop with Hong Kong. Taiwan, another free and prosperous society, is also experiencing heightened tensions with Beijing.
It is important that the leaders of free countries -- including the United States -- speak out loudly and resolutely in support of Hong Kong and against Chinese aggression. This city's legacy as a free society, one which embraces a robust view of religious freedom, is at stake. To watch Hong Kong become increasingly subject to the tyrannical rule of the Chinese Communist Party is a tragedy for freedom-loving people everywhere.