Is Democracy Dead in Hong Kong?

Is Democracy Dead in Hong Kong?

March 15, 2021

In what looks like the abrupt end to what little democracy was left in Hong Kong, a new election law from Beijing now makes it impossible for anyone to run for political office without demonstrating their "patriotism." Of course, for Beijing, "patriotism" doesn't mean love of China. It means love of the Chinese Communist Party.

Rep. Michael Waltz (R-Fla.) described Beijing's new attack on freedom on "Washington Watch" last week. He said, "We're watching the systematic dismantling of what few freedoms the Chinese populace have. Hong Kong was a beacon of the freedoms that we hold near and dear, freedom of the press, assembly, religion, free financial flows. Those have been brutally and systematically dismantled."

For the freedom-loving citizens of Hong Kong, this is a devastating development. Hundreds of thousands of Hong Kongers took to the streets throughout 2019 to demand more democracy, not less. Now, Beijing is in an all-out political crackdown in the city.

"We are seeing people literally disappearing out of their homes in the middle of the night," Rep. Waltz emphasizes. "And the imposition of the national security law where not only if you criticize the Chinese Communist Party in Hong Kong, but anywhere around the world is just incredibly alarming and disturbing."

Following mass arrests of pro-democracy leaders in February, no prominent pro-democracy activists who are not in jail remain in Hong Kong. This is what repressive, authoritarian regimes do to secure their power against the consent of their people. For many years, the people of Hong Kong avoided this fate. Under the "one country, two systems" agreement with the United Kingdom at the time of the British handover of the city, Beijing promised Hong Kong a high degree of autonomy. Yet, Beijing has violated its promise to Hong Kong and to the United Kingdom. So far, they have had few consequences for doing so.

On "Washington Watch," Bob Fu, FRC's Senior Fellow in International Religious Freedom compared the new election law to the way China tries to suppress religion. "Like what they did to the Chinese Protestant and the Catholic Church, saying churches will also be governed under the so-called Patriotic Associations, the underlying taxes, these associations are absolutely controlled by the Chinese Communist Party and was actually a tool to eradicate and destroy the church."

In mainland China, "patriotism" is a tool of suppression. "Patriotic Associations" try to keep churches in line with Communist Party doctrine. Now, the requirement of "patriotism" is being utilized in Hong Kong to eliminate the very possibility of a Chinese dissenter earning a spot on the legislative council. When the people are unable to elect someone who truly represents their values, there is no longer a democracy.

Biden administration officials have articulated a desire to uphold American's global leadership and tradition of fostering human rights and democracy. This is the perfect opportunity to do so. Authoritarian regimes who destroy democracy must be aggressively countered by free countries.