What can China do for Hong Kong

China's crackdown on Hong Kong : Defend the freedom of Hong Kong like West Berlin did back then

Johannes Vogel is an FDP member of the Bundestag and FDP general secretary in North Rhine-Westphalia as well as deputy chairman of the German-Chinese parliamentary group.

The eyes of the free world must now turn to Hong Kong! Because Beijing seems to want to get serious in the shadow of the Corona crisis: The former British crown colony, which is entitled to far-reaching contractually guaranteed autonomy until 2047, threatens to actually lose it in a detour.

A new "security law" aims to undermine Hong Kong's legal independence and enable the Chinese Communist Party to arrest anyone it disapproves of for inciting separatism, conspiracy or denigrating state symbols.

Beijing apparently wants to enforce this law bypassing the Hong Kong parliament and even let its own security forces become active within Hong Kong. That would be the de facto end of the principle: "one country, two systems".

The rule of law threatens to be washed away

Elections are to be held in Hong Kong in September. The Beijing-loyal camp suffered a severe setback in the regional elections last November: 17 of the 18 districts went to the democracy camp.

With this, after months of protests in which up to two million people took part in the metropolis, the people of Hong Kong said no to an "extradition decree" that would have seized political persecution from Beijing.

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Now the security law from Beijing can be called a deliberate breach of a dam that threatens to wash away freedom and the rule of law in the city.

In April, under pressure from Beijing, the Hong Kong government began to criminalize and arrest prominent Democrats. Among them Martin Lee, the 81-year-old lawyer who, before the handover of Hong Kong, wrote the Basic Law, the constitution of Hong Kong and is revered in the city as the "father of democracy".

These arrests not only sent a massive signal, but also served to deny the convicts a place on the list to vote.
Unfortunately, we must therefore assume that the Chinese Communist Party wants to completely abolish Hong Kong's special status.

We have long been in a new system competition

The exodus from the city has already begun. The Hong Kong stock exchange collapsed. The term "emigration" was searched four times more often than usual online after the reports on the security law became public. Several activists have fled to neighboring Taiwan.

Xi Jinping shows once again how serious he is with his authoritative restructuring of the Chinese system. It is thus intensifying the new system competition in which we have long been.

Unfortunately, the West started late to think this through strategically.

However, it is already clear how important Hong Kong is in this competition - comparable to West Berlin in a completely different system competition in the last century. If freedom is important to you, Hong Kong cannot be indifferent. Ernst Reuter's sentence now applies: You peoples of the world, look at this city!

Where is the global alliance?

Europe must therefore act - with the aim of still being able to avert or at least weaken the Beijing plans. In addition three points:

1) Don't be silent! The European Commission with President Ursula von der Leyen and the German Federal Government with Chancellor Merkel and Foreign Minister Maas must take an unequivocal stance here. Has there already been a tough, clear statement about the Beijing plans?

It is high time for that - because the Chinese Communist Party must know that the world is not closing its eyes, despite Corona! Where is the alliance with Australia, Canada and Great Britain, who immediately expressed their views together?

Making China understand that its credibility is suffering

2) Make it clear to Beijing what is at stake! When dealing with Hong Kong, a question is touched on that Beijing has an interest in, even in competition with liberal systems: its own reliability on the world stage.

Anyone who breaks their own word and international law on this central issue can hardly be a credible partner in cooperation on other issues.

All questions in which China has an interest should therefore be considered by Europe and put on the table.

This also includes the planned mutual investment protection agreement and, if necessary, the EU-China summit itself planned in Leipzig in September. Even if we are still too dependent on China in some areas, China cannot yet without us Europeans - especially in the one that is breaking out again Trade war with the USA.

The prospect of residency for Hong Kong citizens would be a clear signal

3) The Hong Kong citizens need a clear signal that we stand by their side as part of the Free World! The UK is already considering giving at least all Hong Kong residents born before 1997 the right to permanent residence in the UK. So far, with the "British National Overseas Passport" they only have a limited right of residence.

Why are the states of the European Union not considering an initiative that would give the qualified and cosmopolitan Hong Kong citizens a freedom-breathing perspective to stay in Germany and other member states? Why don't we woo those who have made Hong Kong what Beijing should no longer be?

That would not only be a gain in terms of immigration policy for all of us, but also a strong signal to Beijing. Start-up entrepreneurs, scientists and many people in Hong Kong, which is highly developed in education and business, are inevitably looking for a perspective away from their homeland.

The prospect of losing these important layers might turn Beijing's plans into a different light.

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