“The Biden administration in July issued a warning to US companies: Doing business in Hong Kong is increasingly risky. The advisory, released jointly by the departments of State, Treasury, Commerce, and Homeland Security, was basically a giant red flag cautioning companies and investors against the complications that are emerging under China’s national security law.
China imposed the sweeping legislation a little more than a year ago. It has since stifled Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement and undermined its autonomy, rule of law, and free speech traditions.
This tenuous political climate has shaken Hong Kong, but it has not yet upended its status as a global financial capital. The United States’s advisory is recognition that this might change as China continues its crackdown in the territory. International businesses — and their employees — could soon find themselves entangled in national security law enforcement.”
“China, for its part, is banking that Hong Kong’s infrastructure and economic climate will still make it a destination for foreign businesses in Asia despite the crackdown. After all, trade wars, tense Washington-Beijing relations, Beijing’s atrocious human rights record, and US sanctions have yet to stop most US firms from doing business in mainland China. And that may keep Hong Kong’s economic might intact while doing little to stop its democracy from crumbling.”
“Hong Kong’s freedom once provided a shining example for others to follow. While that freedom was never perfect, it enabled residents of the resource-poor territory to prosper. Residents enjoyed respect for their liberties that was rare in the region and unknown in neighboring China. But administration of Hong Kong was surrendered to China in 1997 and, as the recent raid on a pro-democracy newspaper demonstrates, the territory is losing its liberty as the world looks on in what the Chinese government clearly assumes is a mixture of disinterest and impotence.”
““Effectively, they are imposing the People’s Republic of China’s criminal system onto the Hong Kong common law system, leaving them with complete discretion to decide who should fall into which system””
“More than most members of Congress, Sen. Ted Cruz (R–Texas) understands the desperation of individuals fleeing autocratic communist regimes.
Cruz’s father, Rafael, fled Cuba in 1957 with little more than a student visa and $100 sewn into his underwear—an oft-repeated detail that effectively conveys both the fear and hopefulness of the refugee experience. The other details in the story are familiar to anyone who has followed Cruz’s career, even in passing, given the prominence of those personal details in the senator’s speeches. Rafael bribed his way out of Cuba, reached the United States, enrolled in college, worked as a dishwasher, earned his degree, and eventually started a successful business. Importantly, he was granted political asylum when his student visa expired.
If not for that last detail, it’s highly unlikely that Rafael’s son would have ever had the chance to stand on the floor of the U.S. Senate and declare, as he did on Friday, that America ought to make it more difficult for individuals and families to flee other oppressive communist regimes. In blocking the passage of a bill that would have granted political asylum to anyone fleeing Hong Kong due to the Chinese government’s takeover of the formerly semi-autonomous city, Cruz not only dimmed America’s status as a bastion of freedom for the world’s oppressed people, but spat upon his own heritage as the son of a political refugee.”
“In remarks delivered on the Senate floor Friday, Cruz outlined two objections to the bill. Both are misleading, at best.
First, Cruz politicized the attempt to provide an exit strategy for Hongkongers, calling the bill a Democratic plot to “advance their long-standing goals on changing immigration laws.” But the bill has a bipartisan list of cosponsors and passed the House earlier this month by a voice vote—usually an indicator of such broad support that no roll call is demanded.
Second, Cruz maligned Hong Kong refugees as potential spies, arguing that China would use the special immigration status to slip its agents into the United States. Except, well, China doesn’t seem to have any trouble doing that already, and recipients of political asylum would have to undergo a background check before their status is granted. If anything, the bill’s passage would ensure that immigrants from Hong Kong to America are subject to more vetting than they might otherwise receive.
Again, Cruz’s father’s story stands in stark contrast. Prior to fleeing to America, Rafael Cruz had worked for the Castro government in Cuba. If Ted were a member of the U.S. Senate at the time, would he have viewed his own father as a potential spy who should not be trusted with political asylum?”
“Cruz’s biography aside, there is a more important and obvious point. Granting political asylum to Hongkongers looking to flee China is absolutely the right thing for the United States to do, politically and economically.
Politically, the image of tens of thousands of Hongkongers fleeing China’s takeover of the city by relocating to the United States would be an international humiliation for the regime in Beijing. That’s why China has tried to stop the United Kingdom from extending special immigration status to residents of Hong Kong—and the U.K. has responded, correctly, by turning its passport-making machines up to 11.
Economically, China’s loss would be America’s gain. An influx of people from Hong Kong—and the knowledge, skills, money, and entrepreneurship they would bring—would be an economic boon for the United States, particularly if they resettle in areas where the population is stagnant or declining.”
“China has criticized Britain for opening its doors in this way, but the U.K. deserves praise for acting quickly and decisively in defense of freedom. Bloomberg’s reporting certainly suggests that demand is surging for this escape route.
It is shameful that America has not stepped up to do something similar.
Hongkongers currently have few options for coming to America. They can seek political asylum in the United States—and an executive order signed by President Donald Trump in July does reserve more spots on the refugee list for people fleeing Hong Kong—but to claim asylum one must be physically present in the United States. That, in turn, requires having another type of visa in order to get on a plane across the Pacific. Meanwhile, the Trump administration has slashed the number of political refugees the country will accept: just 15,000 during the current fiscal year, down from 85,000 in 2016.
Britain issued nearly four times as many BNOs to Hongkongers in October as the number of refugees America will accept from the entire world this year.
What could America do instead? Some members of Congress have proposed a bill to automatically grant asylum to any resident of Hong Kong who arrives in the United States and to exempt those numbers from the official refugee counts set by the White House. A more robust idea, proposed by Matt Yglesias in May, would be to grant a special visa allowing Hongkongers to settle in American counties where the population is shrinking, with permanent residency granted after five years.”
“Many U.S. companies only partially operate on the mainland, and some of them are basically shut out. Having offices in Hong Kong lets them have a footprint in China without being openly subject to CCP rule”
“China is exerting more direct control of Hong Kong through the Committee for Safeguarding National Security and another new body called the “Office for Safeguarding National Security of the Central People’s Government in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region,” which is totally under the control of the mainland and not subject to Hong Kong jurisdiction at all. As the lines between the CCP and Hong Kong governance become blurrier, it becomes harder to claim you do not collaborate with or enable foreign governments that operate ethnic concentration camps.
And the NSL asks for much collaboration. Article 43 of the NSL empowers Hong Kong police with authorities to investigate suspected subversion. Specifically, law enforcement can “[require] a person who published information or the relevant service provider [i.e. technology company] to delete the information or provide assistance” including decryption. If the service provider refuses, the police can petition for a warrant to force the intended digital deeds.
In other words, to operate in Hong Kong, a technology company, foreign or domestic, must accept being deputized as a CCP informant. Failure to comply means possible fines of up to $100,000 HKD (around $13,000 USD) and six months in prison.
There are also provisions for surveillance.”
“The “one country, two systems” principle — enshrined in the Basic Law, Hong Kong’s de facto constitution — has been in place ever since Britain handed back control of the territory to China in 1997.
As Vox’s Jen Kirby explains, “The ‘one country’ part means [Hong Hong] is officially part of China, while the ‘two systems’ part gives it a degree of autonomy, including rights like freedom of the press that are absent in mainland China. China is supposed to abide by this arrangement until 2047, but it has been eroding those freedoms and trying to bring Hong Kong more tightly under its control for years.””
“Beijing’s imposition of this new national security law is the most direct and dramatic move China has made toward erasing those freedoms once and for all.”
“New York City, with a population of about 8.4 million, has had over 28,000 coronavirus deaths as of May 18. Meanwhile, Hong Kong has officially recorded only four Covid-19 deaths, despite having 7.5 million residents.
One reason that could help explain the stark disparity: In Hong Kong, nearly everyone wears a face mask in public.
If any city in the world was likely to experience the worst effects of the coronavirus, Hong Kong would have been a top candidate. The urban area is densely populated and heavily reliant on packed public-transit systems, and it has very few open spaces. Moreover, a high-speed train connects Hong Kong to Wuhan, China, where the coronavirus originated.
Hong Kong, it seemed, was doomed.
But almost as soon as the outbreak first began in the city, millions of residents started wearing masks in public. One local told the Los Angeles Times that the government didn’t have to say anything before 99 percent of the population put them on.
Experts now say widespread mask usage appears to be a major reason, perhaps even the primary one, why the city hasn’t been devastated by the disease.
“If not for universal masking once we depart from our home every day, plus hand hygiene, Hong Kong would be like Italy long ago,” K.Y. Yuen, a Hong Kong microbiologist advising the government, told the Wall Street Journal last month.”
“Starting last spring, pro-democracy activists took to the streets of Hong Kong to protest a set of laws that would give mainland China — which isn’t supposed to have full control over the city until 2047 — more power over Hong Kong. To protect themselves from police tear gas and avoid the city-state’s ubiquitous surveillance cameras, millions of protesters donned masks.
In an effort to quash the movement last October, Hong Kong’s China-backed government banned the wearing of face masks in public. The hope was that forcing demonstrators to show their faces would make them stay home instead.
Just a few months later, the coronavirus happened.
As the coronavirus first hit the city, Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam fumbled her response, not wearing a mask during a press conference and, eventually, wearing one incorrectly in public. She also asked government employees not to wear masks.
By April, public health experts in Hong Kong were calling on the government to not only repeal the mask ban but also to mandate the wearing of masks in public as a means of curbing the coronavirus’s spread.
But by then, almost everyone was already wearing them, ban be damned. Indeed, the fact that the government seemed to advocate against masks may have helped make them more popular. Almost in protest, residents started wearing masks in large numbers and helping the most vulnerable communities obtain them.”
“The city has faced pandemics before, including the 1968 flu, which began in Hong Kong and killed about 1 million people worldwide. When SARS came to Hong Kong from mainland China in 2003, residents took it seriously and nearly everyone wore a mask. Partly as a result, the city lost only 300 people during that crisis.
Experts say that instilled a sense among the people of Hong Kong that masks are vital to thwarting a pandemic. That sense was reignited when the coronavirus hit. Now they’re everywhere.”
“Despite Hong Kong’s mask ban officially remaining in place, some of the government’s health officials now praise the citizenry for organically putting the coverings on without being told to do so.”
“It’s worth noting that Hong Kong also implemented a strong testing, tracing, and isolation program, in addition to strengthening travel rules and closing bars at the end of March. Those moves, perhaps just as much as masks, have helped keep Hong Kong’s coronavirus death toll low.
But the masks, research shows, are still very important.”