Hacker News new | past | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login
[dupe] China to Allow State-Security Agents to Police Hong Kong (wsj.com)
158 points by JumpCrisscross 13 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 75 comments

I wonder if China is sneaking these changes in during COVID because the pandemic has everyone else distracted. Either way, it’s terribly sad. I love HK and China is killing what’s great about the place.

I think causation flows the other way. Xi’s regime is facing its first slowdown. Protesters in Hong Kong have morphed from a curiosity to an existential threat to his regime’s power. That changes the relative weight of its national-security threat versus economic value.

Given the world’s muted reaction to Beijing’s hard-handed tactics pre-COVID, it’s difficult to imagine they played a significant role here.

Well the health related lockdown means they can enact unpopular legislation or make unpopular moves and the opposition is cornered. They can’t protest and risk health, giving authorities a proximate reason to crack down even harder in the name of health... so nice opportune time .

I remember seeing many protesters in Hong Kong with gas masks to protect their identities and themselves from the police counter-protest measures. Is a virus too small to be filtered out by a gas mask?

Unfortunately I see a lot of parallels here, such as declassifying a lot of embarrassing information knowing it will get covered up by covid news.

Declassifying government shenanigans isn’t in the same league as crushing a dissent movement knowing they cannot protest.

I agree - everyone had been fawning over China and their impressive response to COVID-19. But the CCP is facing a existential threat right now that they may not be ready for.

China is not so easy to keep united, there are a ton of varied and potentially conflicting interests. Easy to keep conflict down when the pie is growing for everyone, much more difficult when the economy is falling apart at the seams and the US is beginning to get scared of how big you are getting and starting to close its market to your exports...

We'll see how they manage it, based on early returns it is is looking to be ugly. Xi is ramping up the nationalist rhetoric and burning down any soft power they've built up with the West in the process. The violent language towards "rogue provinces" is increasing, they are churning up the populace with anger and hoping it stays channeled externally.

The world is distracted. Even more important, I believe: coronavirus lockdown and demonstrations are antithetical.

If people demonstrate, the tools needed for public health can be used to silence the voice of the people.

It is a cowardly move to permanently alter governmental fundamentals during a time of crisis.

China is capitalizing on this distraction by military shows of force: https://www.businessinsider.com/chinese-military-resumed-dri...

This is how Xi thinks. He let those protests go unchecked on purpose. A boa constrictor always let's it's pray relax before it begins crushing it's bones.

That's a fun phrase, but I don't think it's any wiser than any opposite phrase like "strike while the iron is hot".

Personally I think Xi messed up igniting this thing when he was legally going to get hong kong if he just waited patiently. He lost a lot of face, and now is facing american repercussions for pushing harder on hong kong :/

People like to attribute wisdom to those who have power but, tbh, acquisition of political power is a weak signal on leadership competence

Perhaps I just find him akin to a snake in the grass. A constrictor doesn't make the conscious decision to give it's pray a false sense of security; it's simply in it's nature.

What would it take for Hong Kong to develop into a full out civil war? I wonder if it could even develop that far.

You don't fear a bad guy, you fear people with nothing to lose, since like everybody is reconsidering their relationship with China now, might as well go even lower while at it.

> I love HK and China is killing what’s great about the place.

Massive inequality and the lower class literally living in cages?

Okay, that was rude, but I have a feeling that what is driving most of what's great about it (almost unparalleled economic freedom being that driver) leads to that outcome. The vibrant cultural scene etc is a side effect of that inequality and the riches it provides to the upper class.

The massive inequality was the outcome of a Government not elected by people and doing absolutely nothing for 15 years with regards to land and housing policy, all while benefiting from the insane housing prices ( Above and Beyond SF and Toronto ) as they are participant and investors in the housing market.

It is not just China. The US has been ramping up things on multiple fronts. For example the Huawei sanctions and its military presence in the South China Sea.

Once again, "but America".

What in the world does the US being in the South China Sea have to do with the topic at hand: China sending their secret police into Hong Kong to "police" the protest movement (ie. detain and disappear people with impunity).

This knee-jerk reaction to complain about America every time China's misdeeds are reported on is growing tiresome.

To me it is obvious that those things have a lot to do with each other. By doing this now China is clearly ignoring the explicit warnings from the US as said in direct statements by US political figures, the US' threat to end Hong Kong's special trade status, and the ramped up military presence in the South China Sea.

The super powers are clearly aiming for a larger confrontation at this point.

If you want context to the particular change, look at neighbouring Macau where apparently it has been law for more than 10 years:


Two Sessions, two cities: what can Hong Kong learn from Macau’s experience of national security legislation?

I think the whataboutisms come up whenever China is mentioned because it feels a bit goofy to spend energy worrying about authoritarianism across the world while ignoring authoritarianism in your own country.

I'm not saying people shouldn't worry about both, but if you're wondering why people are saying "but America" I'd guess that is the main reason.

I don't think chvid is from America.

First, health crises spreading everywhere.

Then, almost simultaneously, economic crises spreading everywhere... but luckily for everyone, governments around the planet step in to keep it from getting worse.

Then, an incipient financial shock everywhere... but luckily for everyone, governments and organizations around the planet flood the financial system with liquidity, to maintain financial stability.

Now, I read this, and all I can think it is, let's hope we will not see geopolitical crises too.

Oh, we will have more geopolitical crisis too, for sure. Borders are easy to close but hard to open, and closed borders increase geopolitical friction. Even in mild-tempered Scandinavia tensions are currently rising, you can imagine how things will get in other areas.

What are the tensions in Scandinavia?

The locked-down countries (i.e. all except Sweden) are relaxing checks and considering reopening borders with each other... except with Sweden, where numbers are still worrying: https://sverigesradio.se/sida/artikel.aspx?programid=2054&ar...

Not reopening their borders with Sweden would be a massive diplomatic snub.

>> let's hope we will not see geopolitical crises too.

You are in one.

I lived in Hong Kong for many years in my early 30's. I may never be able to go back there with these new changes.

This basically destroys the Basic Law constitution China had agreed and signed when Hong Kong was handed over to China. This shows the current China has no credibility in upholding treaties and laws.

So what's the verdict lads. Do people get the government they deserve?

Looks like China's hand is a bit forced here from the last protest. They got scared from the last 2 major protests. Is just a chess move on their part and they always have more pieces.

They could have made this move when ever they wanted, they choose now because 1. HK couldn't enact the laws they wanted, 2. Covid chaos makes it a bit easier for them to do this.

Don't American federal police/law enforcement have rights to operate in Washington DC/NY city? Is not the MI5 allowed to operate in Glasgow/Belfast? Is it abnormal for federal governments to have some powers in the provinces/states?

The context in Hong Kong is completely different. Hong Kong is only part of China because the CCP agreed to the terms of the Sino-British Joint Declaration (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sino-British_Joint_Declaration), which specified that its existing laws and institutions would be preserved as they were under British rule until the year 2047.

"Hong Kong is only part of China because the CCP agreed to the terms of the Sino-British Joint Declaration"

It isn't true the "only" reason Hong Kong is a part of the PRC is because they agreed to that declaration. This agreement was made because PRC could unilaterally annex Hong Kong at anytime.

Sure, if they wanted to risk a war. That was the benefit of the agreement to the CCP: it gave them everything they wanted without having to risk war to get it. The only downside was that they just had to wait 50 years for the prize to fall into their lap.

What we’re seeing now is even just that extremely minor inconvenience is too much for Xi. He could get China everything he wants just by waiting. But he would rather tear up a signed treaty than wait.

Which will only cause more concern and disruption amongst HK citizens because what they feared was true.

They didn't care about risking a war because there is nothing the UK could have done.

The key is that HK was very useful as a gateway with the rest of the world for import/exports and finance. They preserved it because, while they despised foreign presence, it served their interests to. Iirc, at one point something like 90% of the PRC's imports and exports transited via HK.

> there is nothing the UK could have done

China would have immediately faced sanctions and the possibility of military support to dissident movements within its borders. Not to mention, accelerated arms sales to its neighbours.

So nothing, really, because none of that would have made any difference to China at the time of Mao.

They could not have cared less about 'sanctions', which seem like a meaningless threat at the time of the Cold War and Maoist China.

The West was and still is supplying weapons to their neighbours, which is not very important, anyway.

As for 'dissident movements'... This is not a South American banana republic. The CIA probably did try things at some point but clearly to no effect because there is no 'dissident movement' of any scale.

From a historical point of view the question I am very interested in is why did Mao stop short of retaking Macao and HK, and of taking Taiwan in 1949?

They refrained from taking Russian colonial possessions in the North, which is understandable. But I am puzzles about the rest.

For HK and Macao, perhaps he wanted to respect treaties because he also wanted to rely on treaties regarding Tibet (which all the powers recognised as Chinese by previous treaty), I don't know.

> none of that would have made any difference to China at the time of Mao

Mao was long dead when the relevant treaties were negotiated.

> CIA probably did try things at some point but clearly to no effect because there is no 'dissident movement' of any scale

In the late 90s, the West best over backwards to accommodate China. It was a new market and stable Asian power.

Modern China has dissident and separatist movements. The NPC has prioritised legislation precisely to head off the threat. Censors scrub the Hong Kong and Tianamen Square protests for similar reasons.

> why did Mao stop short of retaking Macao and HK, and of taking Taiwan in 1949?

He didn’t have the firepower. Water crossings are taxing. It would have taken a full military commitment, and still left the endpoint uncertain. Consolidating power on the mainland was the more prudent move.

"Mao was long dead when the relevant treaties were negotiated"

We're discussing the option communist China had to take HK back by force. The point is thus why that did not occur in 1949 or the 50s.

Hong Kong was under British rule for 156 years aside from 4 years of Japanese takeover.

That is a long time, 156 years from 1997 is 2153.

Also New Territories can have reverted back to China without need for any agreement with the British, since they were only on lease to British till 1997 and was not a British possession in the legal sense.

> New Territories can have reverted back to China without need for any agreement with the British

But they didn’t. An agreement was reached.

“I could have walked away, but didn’t” isn’t a valid reason for breaking a deal.

Anyone who thought that agreement was going to be respected was a fool.

True but the status quo prior was also unsustainable.

Invalid comparison for two reasons. Hong Kong as per release in the 90s was to be given autonomy over it's own territory. Secondly, while the US certainly has it's share of skeletons they do not compare to modern day China. As I recall, the last time the US hired organized crime to beat protestors in the streets was in the early 20th century.

This isn't about US or Chinese skeletons. The fact is that in US as well as in most countries including western democracies, the federal police/law enforcement is allowed to operate in all their own territories, including states, provinces and cities.

Anyways New Territories was to revert to China at the end of British Lease in 1997. Only Kowloon and HK island was British territory, but PRC views the treaties at the end of the Opium War that granted British the possession of these areas to be "unfair and unequal". So PRC will continue to argue and assert that none has locus standi on this matter except them, and that Hong Kong is Chinese territory.

They will argue that, sure. But if their position is that any agreement they have ever signed can retroactively be declared invalid whenever it suits them, that’s bad news not just for Hong Kong but for the entire world. Signing treaties and then tearing them up when they became inconvenient was the behavior by Hitler that dragged the world into World War II.

International agreements are routinely abrogated when they no longer suit one or both parties. Every country is guilty of this.

Might makes right in geopolitics. There is no international court to take a broken treaty to. Nation states pretty much always act in their self interest when they can.

China thinks that it is in their self interest to do this. Someone can try to change their mind, but it probably won't be easy.

HK has always been part of China. It was a Chinese territory under foreign colonial rule.

What we're seeing now is a domestic Chinese political issue that has developed ultimately as a result of the Chinese Civil War.

It's really a masterstroke to have convinced Western opinion that this was an international issue between HK and China.

Yeah, we've graduated to using militarized police to do that for a while now.

Now imagine how scary the police would be if they were the arm of a political party.

It's not normal, on a global level, to have agents of a totalitarian dictatorship patrolling a city which is (ostensibly) a democracy, whose citizens were been promised political freedoms, further guaranteed by international treaty obligations.

It is, however, normal in the sense that it is a clear part of the trend in the China / Hong Kong situation — a trend towards ever-increasing political oppression.

If only they had oil, we could do something...

We would already have done a lot of things, among plant a flag and declare "terra nillius".

I think the normality of it isn’t the issue. The issue is that many residents of Hong Kong have been explicitly demonstrating that they are not comfortable with China having any control in Hong Kong


> Hong Kong is a province of China with some exemptions, and one of the exemptions is changed

Which involves Xi’s government breaching an agreement, with the U.K. and Hong Kong people, from 1997.

Countries are sovereign. But reputations matter. Any country dealing with Xi would be mad to take his word.

The repercussions of these actions in neighbouring countries, such as Taiwan and the Philippines, will be interesting to see unfold.

> such as Taiwan... Taiwan is not yet a country based on wishes of its founding father, it’s still one part of China (Chiang Kai Shek‘a body is still waiting for going to China to have a proper burial one day when Taiwan and China is one). I doubt USA will ever help them to be an independent country because than they won’t play a part of being puppet in its bidding to control Asia Pacific, given Taiwan At present is playing a puppet in hands of USA, and with 40% economic downturn it’s just a matter of time they will fight US’s war and suffer the consequences.

If you look at the language of the CPC meeting today you will know they have already removed the word peaceful reunification, which is an indication that they have accepted that if push comes to shove they need to fight USA through Taiwan (which will be very unfortunate in my view as they should determine their own course, independent of USA).

I've seen multiple American protests with the Russian flag. If we include flags of historic Nations I've also seen the swastika and Soviet Union flag. This along with desecration of the countries own flag at protests happens in most Western Nations.

It's called freedom of expression.

Please try in the largest democracy India and many other commonwealth democracy with common law jurisdiction. It’s an offence and that too criminal and many of those nations will invoke British colonial era, sedition laws to punish, torture protestors.

If USA or for that matter any country condemn China, they should do the same condemnation and restrictions on other country with same fervour, don’t have dual standards. What I see here is the same Cold War, not a reasonable or justifiable action.

I do understand the definition of freedom of expression as defined in many constitutions and also in common law jurisdiction, which I understand better than continental law jurisdiction followed by Germany, Japan and China.

> I have yet to see an example in a democratic nation where population can take a flag of another country or a colonial ruler in protest against their own country

This was your assertion, word for word. You were given an obvious counterexample, and now you're deflecting to claim you only meant India?

Here's another example: in New Zealand, burning the flag was most recently punished by... An NZ$500 fine. Nothing like what you're claiming.

How about the UK? In 2011, 20-30 students publicly burned a large British flag. They got a verbal warning. Waving American flags is legal.

How about Northern Ireland? Burning the flag is literally legal. Waving American flags: also legal.

How about Japan? Once again, burning the Japanese flag is legal. Waving American flags: also legal.

And as you know, the USA legally allows flag-burning as well, and waving whatever flag you want.

> torture protestors

Do you have any links/data regarding modern events to back up your extraordinary claims?

> If USA or for that matter any country condemn China, they should do the same condemnation and restrictions on other country with same fervour

Classic whataboutism.

The actions of India in Kashmir have certainly been strongly condemned as well. What happens there is terrible.

Perhaps the Kashmir situation got less media attention than Hong Kong, but I think that's more of a result of more developed regions getting more global news attention in general. It's the same reason that the Uyghur situation doesn't get as much media attention as Hong Kong either.

Comparing HK to California seems intellectual dishonest. The history is not comparable at all. The very existence of the notion 'One Country Two Systems' should tell you that the Hong Kong situation is quite special.

As for 'desecrating the Chinese flag'. You can also see that as a hint that people are really angry. I don't understand at all how oppression is a sensible answer to that.

Hong Kong was broken off of China so that the British could push heroin opium on Chinamen. It's a laugh that westerners think they still have some colonial claim at what goes on in Hong Kong, based on their old drug pushing operation.

Well 156 years of ruling a place will change its culture. That is a long time, PRC won’t have ruled Hong Kong for that long until 2153 if you begin at 1997.

Unless newborns start living into their 130s no one alive today will witness it.

You can’t “fast-forward” and erase 156 years in a few decades.

Portugal ruled Macao for 400 years (interestingly Macao does not seem to face any unrest, btw). The British were in India for close to 400 years as well.

This is not evidence of anything and I think this is quite irrelevant here.

The main issue is not the length of the British "occupation", it is the Chinese political division that has existed since the Civil War. Many in HK (like in Taiwan) fled the communists and the others moved there during "old China" times. The issue is opposition to communist forces.

"State security" in this regard means political policing and the arrest of dissidents. Up til now, HK policing has been under local control. This makes it abundantly clear that HK is going to be absorbed and lose its political freedoms.

They were always going to, regardless. The question is timing now vs 2047.

Well, actually not exactly: The Constitution limits what kinds of laws federal police can enforce in NYC. But probably more importantly, NYC gets a significant say in who runs federal law enforcement. Neither of those are true about CCP and Hong Kong.

What say does NYC gets in who runs Federal Law Enforcement?

According to chapter 1 article 5 of Hong Kong basic law, yes:

"The socialist system and policies shall not be practiced in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, and the previous capitalist system and way of life shall remain unchanged for 50 years."

(50 years from 1997)

Guidelines | FAQ | Support | API | Security | Lists | Bookmarklet | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact