Is Hong Kong’s autonomy dead or terminally ill?

“Is Hong Kong’s autonomy dead or terminally ill?” Hong Kong-based journalist Stephen Vines asks this morbid question in a column published today in the Hong Kong Free Press.

It’s a valid question. In the last week alone, at least 15 pro-democracy leaders were arrested in Hong Kong for their “unlawful” roles in last year’s protests, and have since been likened to terrorists by Chinese state media. The Hong Kong government also issued a series of late-night statements eventually agreeing with Beijing that the mainland’s Hong Kong Liaison Office was not bound by Article 22, in a major blow to the “one country, two systems” principle.  

Now, a foreign national from Belize is being prosecuted by authorities in Guangzhou “for his alleged involvement in providing funds to ‘meddle’ in Hong Kong affairs,” Reuters reports via RTHK. Lee Henley Hu Xiang (identified as Lǐ Hēnglì 李亨利 in Chinese media) was arrested in Guangzhou last November, is “uncontactable,” and stands accused of having “colluded with foreign anti-China forces to intervene in Hong Kong affairs, and funded the implementation of criminal activities that endangered our national security,” according to local media.

It is “only a matter of time” before Hong Kong implements Article 23 of the Basic Law, the city’s Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Erick Tsang said, the Hong Kong Free Press reports. That article “stipulates that the Hong Kong government shall enact laws on its own to prohibit any act of treason, secession, sedition, subversion against the central government,” which would open the door for prosecutions like those against Lee to happen in the city itself.

Hong Kong’s annual Labour Day (May 1) protest has been banned over coronavirus concerns, per HKFP. Meanwhile, the city recorded no new infections today, for the second time this week, according to the South China Morning Post.

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—Lucas Niewenhuis