CHINA TIGHTENS ITS GRIP ON HONG KONG, AND BEYOND

by Gunnar Eigener

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

Chapter 1, Article 5 of the Hong Kong Basic Law

The recent introduction of the new Security Law in Hong Kong by the Chinese government has sent waves throughout the city, and beyond. The Law of the People’s Republic of China on Safeguarding National Security in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region is exactly the type of security legislation it sounds like. The law views subversion of central authority, secession from the mainland and collusion with foreign entities as criminal actions; furthermore, all applications of the law are open to interpretation. In line with communist tradition, the management of non-governmental organisations and media outlets will be stricter. Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam gave her blessing to the legislation, and encouraged the international community to accept its legitimacy, but reactions have varied.

The tit-for-tat diplomacy that threatens to break out into a full-blown trade war between China and the United States continues to flare up regularly with the US, who is no longer justifying special trade and travel privileges for Hong Kong. In a gesture of solidarity with the people, Australia suspended its extradition treaty with Hong Kong, and the UK reassured that it would not turn its back on its commitments to Hong Kongers. The UN has issued an oral rebuke, and The EU has urged China to reconsider the law. 

Two significant escape routes for the people of Hong Kong have presented themselves since. One is through the United Kingdom, where Boris Johnson announced that those in Hong Kong with a British (Overseas) Passport could gain British citizenship, with potentially up to 3 million who could claim. The second is through Taiwan, which has set up an office to help Hong Kongers resettle  and adapt to a new life in their own borders. There has also been increased internet searches for properties abroad, particularly in the UK, Australia and Canada. 

China is a friend that the UK and indeed most other economies, cannot afford to lose.

China has reacted strongly, however, accusing the UK of interfering in its former colony and accusing Taiwan independence activists of colluding with Hong Kong independence activists. Both countries face risk, as Taiwan lives with the constant threat of military action hanging over its head while the UK may well depend heavily on economic and financial relationships with China in the future. With its lure of cheap labour, as well as Beijing’s vast global investment funds, China is a friend that the UK and indeed most other economies, cannot afford to lose.

But alas, the UK has shown itself woefully incapable of influencing Chinese policy; only the US really has that power, but Donald Trump sways between disdain for Chinese business practises and admiration for the Chinese leader. Should Joe Biden win the upcoming US presidential election in November, the US might change its stance. Biden is likely to prove more amenable to creating strong trade bonds and dispensing with tit-for-tat diplomacy.

China is accustomed to acting with impunity when it comes to violations of human rights.

The new security law in Hong Kong is the latest in a string of assertive action against political dissent, and hardly comes as a surprise. China is accustomed to acting with impunity when it comes to violations of human rights. Despite outrage over the Uyghur ‘re-education camps‘, the international community has done next to nothing about it. Despite Chinese agents kidnapping dual-nationals and putting them on trial in China, the world has stood still. Even in regards to the land grabs by China in the South Seas and on the borders with India and Nepal, the global community says a lot and does nothing. It is little wonder that China is now unafraid to pursue aggressive state actions. 

China is not going to change. The belief from Western authorities that China can be slowly tempted to change its ways is not realistic. At the same time, pointing more missiles at the country is hardly likely to encourage them to lower their guard. China has never shown any intentions of softening its position on any of its issues, such as developing bases in the South China Sea, closing so-called re-education camps or giving independence to Tibet. Ever more media savvy, the reactions to any topic in which the country or party is criticised are always measured and strong-worded. China will continue to defend itself from public criticism even if that means cutting off its nose to spite its face. Suppression of the population through the Sesame Credit system, restriction on internet access, and threats of re-education discourage many from social and public criticism and, while the rest of the world turns a blind eye, China will push ahead. 

The situation in Hong Kong has drawn condemnation from various countries mainly because of its global financial status, but the biggest problem remains mainland China’s ability to mass-produce cheap goods; goods which Western economies are relying upon to reboot their domestic economies in the wake of Covid-19.

Most countries have incoherent policies when it comes to China. Condemning its actions while continuing to seek trade deals or accept Foreign Direct Investment (FDI). Most countries have allowed their supply chains to become interconnected with China to the extent that any significant action poses an immediate and serious economic risk. The Security Law is a warning shot across the bows; China intends to bring what it considers its own back into the fold and increase its political and economic reach; and that likely extends beyond Hong Kong.


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ISIS BRIDE SHAMIMA BEGUM IS BRITISH WHETHER YOU LIKE IT OR NOT

shamima begum bbc

By Jonathan Lee

Another day, another outrage. This time it’s about one-time ‘ISIS bride’ Shamima Begum, a 20-year-old girl from Bethnal Green who has finally had her right to return home recognised, after leaving the UK in 2014 to join the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham.

Begum had her citizenship stripped from her in February 2019 by the Home Office. This was declared legal on account of her being a Bangladeshi dual national, meaning she would not be made stateless. However, when she was asked by the BBC, she said she did not have a Bangladeshi passport and had never been to the country. Regardless of the decision against her, her son was a British citizen and should have been allowed to return. Perhaps if he had been allowed to he might have survived. As it was he died of pneumonia in a refugee camp in Northern Syria, a month after his mother had her citizenship revoked. You have to wonder if this all would have happened had she been white?Continue Reading

INDIA’S DEMOCRACY IS AT BREAKING POINT

by Ella Wade-Jones

On 12th December India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) passed the Citizen (Amendment) Act (CAA) into law. The series of protests that have erupted and brutal crackdown that has ensued has thrown the country into a state of flux. The highly controversial Citizen (Amendent) Act seeks to fundamentally amend the definition of illegal immigrants in India. Hindu, Sikh, Christian, Parsi and Buddhist immigrants from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan will be granted fast track Indian citizenship in six years. Muslims are not included on the list. 

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MYANMAR’S DISPLACED REMAIN RELUCTANT TO RETURN HOME, AND I DON’T BLAME THEM

by Yali Banton-Heath

New discussions have been taking place about the future of the displaced Rohingya population in Bangladesh, and their potential repatriation journey back over the border to Myanmar. The progression of the repatriation process however, as the UN has reiterated, remains frustratingly slow. A lack of guarantees, respect, and honesty on the Burmese government’s part is maintaining a firm unwillingness among Rohingya community leaders to make the decision to return home. But the Rohingya are not the only displaced minority demanding security guarantees and respect for their rights from the Burmese government. Elsewhere in the country, as well as across the Thai and Chinese borders other displaced ethnic groups – such as Kachin and Karen – are being faced with the same dilemma. Either to remain in squalid refugee camps, or make the journey home and risk returning to renewed violence and repression. 

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SHAMIMA BEGUM IS A REFLECTION OF SOCIETAL FAILURE: WE MUST BRING HER HOME AND LEARN

By Sarah Edgcumbe

The British press has been in a frenzy recently over nineteen-year-old Shamima Begum and her desire to return to the UK from the refugee camp in Syria where she currently resides. There are probably very few people in the UK who are unaware that Shamima travelled from the UK to ISIS territory in Syria at the age of fifteen, where she married an ISIS militant, conceived and lost two children before giving birth to a third (who also passed away) in the refugee camp in Syria she currently calls home.Continue Reading

STATELESS ROMA IN UKRAINE HAVE NOWHERE TO TURN TO

By Jonathan Lee
Content warning: this article contains mentions of violence (including police brutality), and structural discrimination.

According to a new report, up to 20% of Ukraine’s Romani population are stateless – that is, they are without identity documents such as birth certificates, passports, or identity cards which prove they are citizens. The lack of evidence to prove their nationality means these Roma are denied access to basic services such as healthcare, education, housing, and welfare, as well as to regular employment or for some, even something as simple as a mobile phone contract.

After a series of organised attacks on Roma by far-right organisations in the past year, most of the country’s Roma who regularly spend the summer working in the major cities have now returned to their home region of Zakarpattiya on the South Western border. Whilst reports of fresh attacks came in over the summer, Roma living in settlements in Beregovo and Uzhgorod began to look abroad for the vital work which they needed to survive; work they were being denied by the far-right militias whom had driven them out of the cities.Continue Reading

THE RESPONSE TO TERRORISM: STRIPPING CITIZENS OF THEIR NATIONALITY?

by Eve Lacroix

2015 was a turning point in French security. After the attack of the 7th of January on the satirical weekly newspaper Charlie Hebdo, and the multiple coordinated attacks in Parisian public spaces on the 13th of November, French President François Hollande decided to retaliate with a hardline approach, including a joint operation with the US forces of 20 airstrikes on the town of Raqqa in Syria.

After the November Paris attacks, President Hollande declared France in a state of emergency for three months. Those three months are soon coming to an end, and he plans to prolonge this measure when it runs out on the 26th of February. The state of emergency permits officials and police officers to raid houses and impose house arrests of suspected terrorists without passing first through the court. It is clear that this problem is ongoing. In the newspaper Le Figaro, a government report is cited stating that the number of radicalised individuals reported to authorities doubled since April 2015.

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BORDERLINES – THE PRIVILEGE OF PASSPORTS AND THE DANGER OF DUAL CITIZENSHIP

Borderlines is a collection of thought pieces, some creative, some direct accounts, some memoirs, all true. Borderlines collects stories from people who are not fleeing from one country to another, but rather chose to move, or were made to do so by a series of non-threatening circumstances. In these stories there is anger, hope, disappointment, joy, fear, optimism. They are all different, and yet all striking in their approach to the subject matter.

Borderlines aims to show the reality of migration, and how we are all, in our own way, migrants.Continue Reading

BUILDING CITIZENS

Disclaimer: One of the reasons I most enjoy writing for the Norwich Radical is the freedom I get to make sweeping generalisations and the ability to dress up my ‘reckons’ as hardened, well researched fact. With this in mind I invite you to continue reading and take a tour of my most recent ponders and speculations.

Universities are the place where the leaders of tomorrow are squashed into being. The people that pass through university doors go on to be the business owners, the entrepreneurs, and the politicians. They go on to be the citizens who, on average at least, are more likely to be those people who shape the lives of many others. So what do these people look like? Well, even I’m not brave enough to try and generalise all students into a homogeneous group but there’s certainly some conversations to be had about the changing ‘average student’.

The way we view ourselves as a part of (or not a part of) the society around us really shapes the way we act. The way we view ourselves alters the view of our neighbours, near or far. So, how do we create ‘good’ citizens? (If I can fall upon a perfect enough definition we might come back to what a good citizen looks like…) Let’s take a whistle-stop tour of life before uni.

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