One year ago, Hong Kong voters sent a clear message to Beijing: They would not give up the freedoms they enjoyed. Pro-democracy forces won 389 of 452 parliamentary seats in a recent election, more than 3 times their previous total. The results showed overwhelming support for the pro-democracy protesters that had been filling the streets of Hong Kong for weeks. The world wondered how Xi Jinping would respond. They feared that Beijing would not sit idly by. Though distracted by the global pandemic, it’s now clear they have turned their attention back to Hong Kong. China’s National People’s Congress has announced it will pass a new law for Hong Kong in order to “safeguard national security.”
This means that Communist dictator Xi Jinping has had enough of Hong Kong’s trouble and has decided to put an end to their independence. There is little the rest of the world can do about it. After all, it already dictates terms of surrender to global corporations like Apple and cows the European Union into changing its findings on COVID-19 so not to criticize China. It silences protests from Muslim nations about its genocide of millions of Chinese Uighurs. We got to this point when the British handed Hong Kong over to China in 1997. A “one country, two systems” regime was established that would make Hong Kong part of China, but also maintain its own local government, economic and social systems.
At the time, China and the U.K. agreed the arrangement would last for 50 years. We’re not even halfway there yet. It’s hard to imagine that anything short of an unprecedented global outcry will cause China to back off. The natives of Hong Kong have no doubt about the seriousness of this threat. As Hong Kong lawmaker Tanya Chan told NBC news, “I recall the time when I was young, and I believed in ‘one country, two systems,’ and we were going to showcase to the world that Hong Kong people can rule Hong Kong. But now, I’m not yet 50 years old and suddenly all is gone.” Despite this show of force and so much that we hear, China is a lot weaker than it appears.
Economic growth there is at “its slowest pace in nearly three decades of modern record-keeping.” Throw in a sinking labour force and the added economic impact of COVID-19, and China’s Communist Party has a big problem on its hands. Their only source of legitimacy has been economic growth. For the past forty years, the Chinese people have been asked, over and over, to trade certain freedoms away for increasing prosperity. The fragile balance is sure to collapse if that prosperity goes away. It’s no coincidence that Xi Jinping doubled down on his own cult of personality and cracked down on religious freedom just as China’s economy began to slow.
Beijing’s renewed call to Chinese nationalism effectively distracted the population from growing economic worries and offered a pretext for cracking down on Hong Kong protestors, many of whom see their protesting as an outworking of their Christian faith. Because so much of the Christian activity in China flows through Hong Kong, an assault on Hong Kong is seen as part of the larger war on Christianity. We must pray for Hong Kong, and the hundreds of thousands of Christians there. We must pray against the power of Beijing and Xi Jinping. We must pray that world leaders will show backbone when it comes to dealing with China. There must not be “business as usual” with such a brutal regime.
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