Hong Kong is still 27 years away from Chinese control -- and already the situation is a powder keg. After waves of violence and mass arrests, even the coronavirus couldn't keep people from spilling into the streets to protest Beijing's latest attempt at a political takeover. From shopping districts to banks, people of all ages joined huge groups, declaring independence while police fired water cannons, tear gas, and rubber bullets into the crowd. "Fight for freedom, stand with Hong Kong!" they shouted.
From thousands of miles away, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo watched the situation unfold with the same anxiety as the rest of the world. "While the U.S. once hoped that a free and prosperous Hong Kong would provide a model for authoritarian China, it is now clear that China is modeling Hong Kong after itself." Spurred on by what China calls "National Security Legislation," it's obvious to the people of Britain's former colony that Beijing isn't going to wait until 2047 to exercise its power over the region. The law, Asia expert Gordon Chang explained on "Washington Watch," takes away any ruse of self-governance. "The enactment of Article 23... just bypasses Hong Kong altogether and [its] Legislative Council. It really means that China has taken over."
In essence, "China has basically closed off the political process," which is dangerous since, as Gordon points out, "this struggle will now be waged in the streets." "There'll be the large protests of middle-class Hong Kong people, you know, [one] to two million people." And that only means China will clamp down harder. "They might even bring in the People's Liberation Army or the People's Armed Police. And then it would really be open warfare."
So far, the Chinese have been able to use the coronavirus to restrict Hong Kong's movement, canceling events and vigils and other public gatherings and demonstrations. And while Hong Kong's executive, Carrie Lam, insists this new law won't affect people's rights, no one really believes that. "She'll say anything that Beijing tells her to say. She hasn't been governing Hong Kong in her own right for about a year. When we saw these protests began last April, she was basically put into the back seat and Beijing was running the territory."
As people like Secretary Pompeo know, the real danger here isn't just to Hong Kong. Once China gets its hands on that territory, there's no reason to think they'll stop. They have an insatiable appetite to control everything around them and impose their communist ideology on countries that eclipse them in their economic power, even though they're smaller, because they allow for freedom.
"China basically has a system which they talk about this going back to the imperial era...where Beijing is the only legitimate society under heaven, which means that the United States would not, for instance, be sovereign. And this really is expansive. You know, many people say, 'Well, China is trying to compete with the U.S. That's okay,'" Gordon insists. "Competition is part of the current international order. But what Beijing is trying to do is... overthrow the international system and to replace it with something that the Chinese emperors would be familiar with."
Taiwan would be next. We've even seen China's troops deep in Indian territory -- while they provoke other countries around the South and East China Seas. "So Beijing is going after everybody at the same time, which is really scary," Gordon warns, "because they're taking on all their neighbors. And they're taking on the U.S. because the tempo of dangerous intercepts of the U.S. Navy has increased recently."
"We've got to defend ourselves," Gordon insisted. "This is an existential attack. Beijing means us harm." All anyone has to do is look at this pandemic and realize that. "They deliberately released the coronavirus beyond their borders, which means that 100,000 Americans who have died were really killed by China. So this is an attack that we cannot ignore. And President Trump is doing everything he can. [But] we're going to have to support him, because... he's the only person who can stand up between us and China."