But Hong Kong was a free city. I lectured on liberal education at universities there and advised Hong Kong U on its Common Core curriculum. I made friends there, and the academics took seriously their mandate to make the “two systems” philosophy work. Occasionally some stooge of the mainland government would make his presence known at a talk I was giving, but for the most part the audience behaved the way I expect college audiences to behave.
Then came the passage a few weeks ago of the “The Law of the People’s Republic of China on Safeguarding National Security in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region.” (Link here to a Canadian site with the English language text of the law.) It is impossible to overstate the scope and significance of this law. The four offenses are described as “secession,” “subversion,” “terrorist activities,” and “collusion with a foreign country or with external elements to endanger national security,” each with a broad definition and a broadening rider, for example: “A person who incites, assists in, abets or provides pecuniary or other financial assistance or property for the commission by other persons of the offence under Article 22 of this Law shall be guilty of an offence.” Penalties are up to life imprisonment. The whole law is to be administered by a special force, not by Hong Kong police.
And there is more. Companies that violate the law can be shut down. Turning in others may lighten your sentence. You don’t have to be in Hong Kong to commit an offense under the law. In fact, most ominously, “This Law shall apply to offences under this Law committed against the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region from outside the Region by a person who is not a permanent resident of the Region.”