China demands ‘patriotism’ from Hong Kong’s elected leaders

Last year as the coronavirus was shutting down the United States and creating chaos around the world, the Chinese Communist Party pushed a new security law through the National People’s Congress. It was clear at the time that this new law was going to be the end of the “one country, two systems” agreement China had made with the UK in 1997. And that’s exactly what has happened. China has used the law to crack down on pro-democracy protesters and publishers. Here’s the crowd of police sent to arrest the publisher of pro-democracy Apple Daily last August.

Now China is taking things a step further, requiring Hong Kong’s district councilors to demonstrate their “patriotism” or be banned from running for office. You can probably guess what patriotism means in China:

On Tuesday, Hong Kong’s government announced that anyone running for these local positions will need to be a “patriot” — meaning they must swear loyalty not to their constituents but to Beijing and the Communist Party — as China moves to quash the territory’s last avenue of democracy.

The changes, which are expected to be introduced to the legislature — where there is no viable opposition — next month and become law soon thereafter, will trigger the expulsion of several young pro-democracy councilors, even if they read the oath as instructed. Disqualified candidates will be barred from running in any elections for five years.

“You cannot say you love the country but you don’t respect” the Chinese Communist Party, said Erick Tsang, Hong Kong’s secretary for constitutional and mainland affairs. “It does not make sense.”

Another CCP stooge explained the “red line” which China won’t allow anyone to cross:

“In our country where socialist democracy is practiced, political dissent is allowed, but there is a red line here,” Xia Baolong, China’s director of Hong Kong and Macau affairs, said on Monday in a strongly worded speech that outlined Beijing’s intentions. “It must not be allowed to damage the fundamental system of the country — that is, damage the leadership of the Communist Party of China.”

You can dissent as long as you basically agree with whatever Xi Jinping tells you to do. It’s a system only a communist could love.

This new patriotism rule is more than just symbolic. The district councilors are fairly low-level positions but those elected to them do get a say in who is selected as chief executive for Hong Kong. By removing all pro-democracy candidates, China can ensure that all future chief executives will also be “patriots” in the very limited Chinese sense. Naturally, all of this is coming from Xi Jinping:

China’s top leader, Xi Jinping, raised the issue in late January with Mrs. Lam, telling her that having patriots govern Hong Kong was the only way to ensure the city’s long-term stability. And on Tuesday, the Hong Kong government said it would introduce a bill requiring district councilors to take loyalty oaths and would ban candidates from standing for office for five years if they were deemed insincere or insufficiently patriotic.

The Times’ story ends appropriately enough by quoting a pro-CCP lawmaker who initially believed he and other Hong Kong lawmakers would create and pass the law in keeping with the idea of Hong Kong’s independence. Then he learned that, no, actually the central government will be doing this without his input. His response to being cut out of the decision making: “I don’t think you’ll find these things very often.” In other words, hey, we can’t expect to decide everything for ourselves. When you’re a CCP toady, job number one is doing what you’re told.

It hasn’t even been a year since the new security law was put in place but political freedom in Hong Kong is over. From now on, the only choice voters have is which patriotic, pro-CCP candidate they want to represent them.

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