Hong Kong has seen the city’s administration, led by Carrie Lam, use colonial-era emergency powers to essentially write a new law banning face coverings on the street.
This follows weeks of pro-democracy protests in the city. The aim of this policy, backed by the central Chinese government in Beijing, is clear. It is an attempt to allow authorities to identify and crackdown on protesters. In this law we see yet another example of the Chinese-government-backed administration trying to destroy the freedoms of the people of Hong Kong. The mask law was created under emergency powers in order for face recognition technologies to be used on protesters so that they might be targeted by the authorities. Protesters have defied this largely so far whilst using lasers, smoke and lights to disrupt facial recognition cameras.
What is important to remember is this law was not created democratically and is the result of a political class struggling to force their rule over a once free society without its consent through threat of force and coercion. Everything that makes Hong Kong a free society is currently under assault: this law is an affront on the freedom to assemble and, by extension, the freedom of expression. Even the free market, the mechanism that made Hong Kong so great among Asian cities, is under attack with companies finding themselves locked out of Chinese markets through regulatory loopholes. In August, the CEO of the prestigious Carthay Pacific airline was forced to resign over mounting scrutiny on the airline. The company now must screen its employees’ social media accounts before letting them fly to check for support for the protests. If found in support, they won’t be permitted to fly to the mainland, a career killer as this is where the vast majority of airlines based in Hong Kong do business.
The UK has a unique responsibility to the people of Hong Kong
The U.K. has a unique responsibility here to see the freedoms of the people of Hong Kong respected. London may be 6000 miles away but its imperative that the U.K. leads our allies, especially the United States, to position ourselves diplomatically, economically and even perhaps militarily in such a way that China is not allowed to crush the free peoples of the world.
Last modified: 8th November 2019