• By The Financial District


The Economist today has warned that Chinese President Xi Jinping will pay a high price for his repression of the people of Hong Kong since the imposition of a new national security law in Hong Kong that penalizes activities of its nationals not only in Hong Kong but anywhere else in the world has shattered any trust in the future actions of Beijing.

In its weekly issue dated August 22, 2020, The Economist today said in the article “China’s rulers will pay a high price for repression in Hong Kong,” that the graver impact is that Chinese actions have unmasked Xi’s shoddy treatment of the agreement with the United Kingdom that guarantees freedoms for 3-million Hong Kong residents until 2047 as a betrayal of trust. “Narrowly, China’s rulers will get away with crushing Hong Kong’s freedoms. But in myriad, hard-to-quantify ways, they will pay a price.

Chinese officials are quick to allege impure motives when outsiders express concern for Hong Kong. Britain is called nostalgic for its empire. The Global Times, a party tabloid, calls Mr. Jimmy Lai a ‘traitor to the Chinese race’ for his past appeals for foreign support. But it is not race treachery if Hong Kongers make common cause with democrats overseas. Nor is it racism if Westerners find Hong Kong the most comprehensible place in China,” the magazine added.

“Party bosses and their apologists love to play up China’s exceptionalism. They call authoritarianism a reflection of China’s vast size, its poverty, its history or even its collectivist, Confucian culture. Such excuses do not work as well in Hong Kong. A modern, remarkably open world city, its hybrid culture includes many familiar, Western-style freedoms. That legibility makes its fate unusually important in shaping foreign perceptions of China… Chinese officials insist that last year’s protests were a bid to split the motherland and seek Hong Kong’s secession. In truth, only a small minority of Hong Kongers support independence, a hopeless dream.

Protesters last year talked more about democracy as a way to preserve liberties meant to last until 2047. Those include a raucous free press to hold the powerful to account, schools and universities with a mandate to inculcate critical thinking in the young, and a rule of law in which individuals have inalienable rights. British colonial rulers denied Hong Kong real democracy. But when given the chance to cast meaningful ballots, most voters have consistently supported more direct elections. Now China’s rulers have made their preference clear. They hate to be defied and loathe losing elections, so are rolling Hong Kong’s freedoms back,” the analysis continued.

“Western governments and people cannot alter China’s choices in Hong Kong. But they are entitled to draw conclusions from those decisions. China wants to become a high-technology superpower, selling the world 5G networks, nuclear-power stations or—who knows—a COVID-19 vaccine. China’s diplomats want a seat at the top table in global forums where standards and norms are agreed upon. Its universities want to strike partnerships with academic institutions around the world. Those are all reasonable ambitions, but they depend heavily on trust. Repression in Hong Kong will have an outsize impact on whether foreigners trust China. That may anger party bosses. It should not be a surprise,” The Economist today concluded.