Beijing makes its move on Hong Kong

Beijing makes its move on Hong Kong

It looks like China's leadership has finally had enough of Hong Kong's pro-democracy movement.

In a speech on Thursday to the national people's congress, a symbolic confab of the country's ruling elite, Premier Li Keqiang announced a new national security law that would outlaw secessionist activity and criminalize foreign influence in Hong Kong. The measure, an explicit response to recent pro-democracy protests there, would also permit mainland China's security agencies to operate openly in the city.


The move caught Hong Kongers and the rest of the world almost totally by surprise.

If the law is passed, it would in practice end the "one country, two systems" arrangement between Beijing and Hong Kong that has existed since the territory reverted from British control to Chinese rule in 1997. Under that model, Hong Kong enjoyed special democratic and economic freedoms unknown on the mainland.

This isn't the first time Beijing has tried to impose a security law like this on Hong Kong. In 2003, a similar attempt provoked mass protests that forced Beijing to back down. But 17 years later, China's leadership has grown much more assertive — both at home and abroad — while Hong Kong's share of the now-massive Chinese economy has dwindled from nearly a fifth of GDP to less than 3 percent.

Establishing firmer control over Hong Kong, which is already within China but living under different laws, is in some ways a dress rehearsal for President Xi Jinping's larger ambition: reunification with Taiwan, which he has pledged to make happen by 2049.

The move could provoke fresh protests. It wasn't long ago that Beijing's attempt to subject Hong Kongers to the jurisdiction of the mainland's (highly politicized) courts touched off the largest demonstrations in the city's history. Those protests, some of which turned violent, fizzled out as the coronavirus pandemic began. But smaller scale ones have popped up again lately, and pro-democracy activists have responded to the new security law by sounding an urgent call to return to the barricades.

Will this inflame US-China ties?

They are in bad shape already, as Beijing and Washington blame each other for the pandemic, expel each other's journalists, and continue to "decouple" their economies. The Hong Kong move could make things worse. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called the new security law a "death knell" for Hong Kong's autonomy, and a related sanctions bill is already circulating in the US Senate. President Trump said the US would respond "very strongly" if the security law is implemented. But what, in practice does that mean? The US has limited tools to force China to behave differently within its own borders.

The bottom line: the coronavirus pandemic cooled things off in Hong Kong for a while, but Beijing just whipped out a blowtorch.

For more than 15 years, Walmart has been collaborating with others to drive change across global supply chains. The company's sustainability efforts prioritize people and the planet by aiming to source responsibly, sell sustainable products, protect natural resources and reduce waste and emissions.

  • Walmart powers around 29% of its operations with renewable energy.
  • The company diverts about 80% of waste from its landfills and incineration globally.
  • Walmart is working with suppliers through its Project Gigaton initiative to avoid a gigaton of greenhouse gas emission by 2030.

Iran has vowed to avenge Sunday's attack on its Natanz nuclear facility. Tehran blames Israel, which — as in the past — has neither confirmed nor denied it was responsible. And all this happens just days after indirect talks on US plans to rejoin the 2015 Iran nuclear deal resumed in Vienna. What the Iranians do now will determine the immediate future of those negotiations, a Biden administration priority.

More Show less

In recent weeks, both Pfizer and Moderna have announced early phases of vaccine trials in children, and Johnson & Johnson also plans to start soon. If you know a kid who wants to learn about vaccines, how they work, why we need them, this story is just what the doctor ordered.

Watch the episode: Vaccine nationalism could prolong the pandemic

Ian Bremmer's Quick Take:

Hi everybody. Ian Bremmer here. Welcome to your week and I've got your Quick Take and thought I would talk a little bit about where we are with Iran. One of the Biden administration's promises upon election was to get the Americans back into the JCPOA, the Iranian nuclear deal. As of last week, negotiations are formally restarted, and pretty quickly, in Vienna, they're not direct. The Americans and Iranians are both there, but they're being intermediated by the Europeans because they're not yet ready to show that they can talk directly to each other. That's Iran being cautious in the run-up to their presidential election coming this summer. But the movement is there. So far the talk has largely been about sequencing the Iranian government, saying that all of the sanctions need to be removed before they're willing to go back into the deal, because the Americans after all, unilaterally withdrew from a deal that the Iranians were indeed adhering to, and the inspections did confirm that.

More Show less

Ukraine is once again in a tough spot.

More Show less

Andean aftermath: Two big weekend elections in South America produced two stunning results. In Ecuador's presidential runoff, the center-right former banker Guillermo Lasso upset early frontrunner Andrés Arauz, a leftist handpicked by former president Rafael Correa. Lasso will take power amid the social and economic devastation of the pandemic and will have to reckon with the rising political power of Ecuador's indigenous population: the Pachakutik party, which focuses on environmental issues and indigenous rights, is now the second-largest party in parliament. Meanwhile, in a big surprise next door in Perú, far-left union leader Pedro Castillo tallied up the most votes in the first round of that country's highly fragmented presidential election. As of Monday evening it's not clear whom he'll face in the June runoff, but three figures are in the running as votes are counted: prominent neoliberal economist Hernando De Soto, rightwing businessman Rafael López Aliaga, and conservative Keiko Fujimori, daughter of the country's imprisoned former strongman. Meanwhile, in the congressional ballot, at least 10 parties reached the threshold to win seats, but there is no clear majority or obvious coalition in sight.

More Show less

A controversial new World Health Organization report on the origins of the coronavirus that suggests it likely originated from a bat but transferred to humans via an intermediary animal. Could the virus have emerged from a Chinese lab, as former CDC Director Robert Redfield recently suggested? That's the least likely scenario, says the WHO's chief scientist, Dr. Soumya Swaminathan. "The betacoronaviruses are very, very common in bats and there's a lot of genetic similarity between the SARS-CoV2 and many of the viruses in the...bat species," Dr. Swaminathan told Ian Bremmer in an interview on GZERO World, airing on US public television stations starting April 9. Check local listings.

Watch the episode: Vaccine nationalism could prolong the pandemic

2.8 billion: Chinese regulators fined e-commerce giant Alibaba a record $2.8 billion — about four percent of its 2019 revenue — for abusing its dominant market position and forcing merchants to operate exclusively on its platform. Alibaba founder Jack Ma has fallen out with Beijing in recent months after the billionaire publicly criticized China's regulators for stifling innovation in technology.

More Show less

Subscribe to GZERO Media's newsletter, Signal

The GZERO World Podcast with Ian Bremmer. Listen now.

GZEROMEDIA

Subscribe to GZERO Media's newsletter: Signal

A children’s book on vaccination

GZERO World Clips