CATO – By imposing a national security law on Hong Kong, Beijing violates the territory’s autonomy to a degree that fundamentally subverts the liberal system that made Hong Kong one of the world’s most outstanding success stories. The Hong Kong system – based on a sound rule of law and a high degree of economic, personal and civil liberties such as freedom of expression and association – allowed its citizens to emerge from widespread poverty towards a level of prosperity that exceeds even that of its former colonizer, Great Britain. This is the system that also helped inspire market reforms in mainland China, leading to extraordinary advances in human well-being being made there over the past four decades as well.
China’s crackdown on Hong Kong reflects the Communist Party’s troubled turn toward nationalism and the strengthening of authoritarianism during Xi Jinping’s presidency. As a bastion of human freedom, the Hong Kong system became increasingly incompatible, and even threatening, for an increasingly aggressive China. The new national security law will lessen all aspects of freedom in Hong Kong. It will weaken the rule of law, increase self-censorship by the press and others, restrict civil society, increase arbitrariness in local governance, and politicize business decisions, including those about where and with whom to invest and what charities or causes endorse. In short, the new measure will reduce economic, personal and civil liberties in Hong Kong and put a definitive end to the city as a symbol of human freedom.