Satoshi Ikeuchi, Professor, Religion and Global Security, The University of Tokyo

China is rising from the ashes after the COVID-19 disaster, much more vehemently.

The National Security Law, or the Law of the People’s Republic of China on Safeguarding National Security in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region was passed by the closed session of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress on Tuesday June 30 and promulgated on the same day. Immediately after it took effect, hundreds of demonstrators were arrested.

It was a turning point for Hong Kong which has long been an enclave of the free and open world ingrained inside the authoritarian Chinese dominion, even though it is the remnant of British colonialism and encroachment of sovereignty of China.

Aside from the usual opacity and the lack of openness and accountability in the process of the enactment of law, the fact that the initial release of the text of the new law was only in Chinese and no English full-text was available immediately, tells a lot about the situation we are witnessing.

The new security law which strictly restricts civil rights in Hong Kong affects not only Chinese residents but foreign expats as well, whose expertise and money constitute the crucial elements of Hong Kong’s importance as a global financial hub. It has been the bridge connecting China and the outside world. It seems Chinese authority has decided the time has come to burn down the bridge.

The East Asia is a frontline of two worlds. It has the world most stable and matured democracies which have been industrially highly developed, like Japan, Taiwan and South Korea. These pro-US industrialized countries have been keeping incessant cross contacts with authoritarian and draconian China. Hong Kong was the tiny but indispensable outpost or a loophole for the free world to interact intimately with China.

Recent years have seen the building-up of more fierce and rigorous security apparatus under the Communist Party of China and its central leadership. It has become increasingly difficult to know whether such an excessive control over people’s hearts and minds was the outcome of China’s confidence in its autonomy emanating from its achievements in the development or it might come from the sense of insecurity because of which any public voice of dissent can’t be tolerated in fear of its upsetting the delicate balance of society in which there are tensions underneath the surface of apparent calmness and prosperity.