When China received Hong Kong from the British government in 1997, the Communist government agreed to let the city have considerable political autonomy.
It was called “one country, two systems.” Beijing said this structure would last for 50 years.
A new national security law was imposed in 2020 that gave the Chinese government broad powers to silence dissenters and punish critics. It’s a change that will alter life for those who live in the city for good unless those freedoms are restored.
The Concept Hasn’t Worked as Expected
When China adopted the idea of “one country, two systems,” the goal was to bring the territories it lost over the years back into the country’s fold. Portugal returned Macau, Great Britain sent back Hong Kong, and there was an internal hope that Taiwan would also return.
Since Taiwan continues to be independent with global support to stay that way, China looks to change the dynamics of its promises. By stamping out capitalism, the argument that a more mixed economy is better can potentially disappear.
Beijing maintains the authority to interpret Hong Kong’s Basic Law, which is a power the government rarely used until recent years. Although Communist officials don’t preside over the city as they do the other municipalities and mainland provinces, the shift in attitude is profound.
Since the handover, there have been no free votes for the chief executive that leads Hong Kong’s government. In 2017, only candidates vetted by a Beijing nominating committee were allowed to run.
The risks that Hong Kong faces are many right now. China seems committed to a path of bringing the city into Beijing’s governing structure. Only time will tell what that means for its residents.