Hong Kong: Surrender or Tactical Retreat?

Hong Kong's democracy movement scored a big win over the weekend by forcing the territory's chief executive to suspend plans to enact a law that would allow for the extradition of Hong Kongers to the Chinese mainland. Carrie Lam, Hong Kong's chief executive, has apologized in hopes that the swelling crowds, estimated at more than two million people, might go home.

But the worst political crisis to hit Hong Kong since the United Kingdom handed it back to China in 1997 is far from over. The protesters believe more action is needed to protect the independence of Hong Kong's political and court systems and to safeguard the basic rights of the territory's citizens.

The crucial next questions:

How will Beijing respond to this setback? By all indications, Beijing wanted this law to be passed as part of President Xi Jinping's goal of bringing Hong Kong – as well as self-governing Taiwan – under greater control from Beijing.

But the protesters' victory sets a dangerous precedent by showing that a big-enough mobilization of people can deny China something it wants. So far, Beijing's response has been to blame Lam for mismanagement and to suggest that foreigners are stoking the protests.

Mr. Xi arguably has bigger fish to fry at the moment (the deepening trade war with the United States and a potential upcoming meeting with Donald Trump at the G20 summit in Osaka next week). And since tight state control of Chinese media means that most people on the mainland have no idea that millions of protesters faced down the government, he can probably afford to make a tactical retreat on the extradition law -- for now.

But will the protesters force Beijing to act sooner rather than later? The intoxication of success sometimes encourages protesters to make new and tougher demands. For many in Hong Kong, suspending the law isn't enough; they want it dead. What's more, far from accepting Lam's apology, the streets are now calling for her resignation.

That's a more serious and immediate problem for China's leadership. Postponing the law to try to quiet the crowd is one thing. Allowing the streets to take down a government official is quite another.

The bottom line: Chinese officials know that inaction may encourage, rather than quiet, the triumphant crowds. More repressive action by the state is dangerous, but if protester demands continue to mount, Beijing may see a rougher course of action as unavoidable. And no one knows where that might lead.

The world is at a turning point. Help shape our future by taking this one-minute survey from the United Nations. To mark its 75th anniversary, the UN is capturing people's priorities for the future, and crowdsourcing solutions to global challenges. The results will shape the UN's work to recover better from COVID-19, and ensure its plans reflect the views of the global public. Take the survey here.

Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro tested positive for the coronavirus on Tuesday. To understand what that means for the country's politics and public health policy, GZERO sat down with Christopher Garman, top Brazil expert at our parent company, Eurasia Group. The exchange has been lightly edited for clarity and concision.

More Show less

The Trump administration sent shockwaves through universities this week when it announced that international students in the US could be forced to return to their home countries if courses are not held in classrooms this fall. Around 1 million foreign students are now in limbo as they wait for institutions to formalize plans for the upcoming semester. But it's not only foreign students themselves who stand to lose out: International students infuse cash into American universities and contributed around $41 billion to the US economy in the 2018-19 academic year. So, where do most of these foreign students come from? We take a look here.

For years, the Philippines has struggled with domestic terrorism. Last Friday, Rodrigo Duterte signed into law a sweeping new anti-terror bill that has the opposition on edge, as the tough-talking president gears up to make broader constitutional changes. Here's a look at what the law does, and what it means for the country less than two years away from the next presidential election.

The legislation grants authorities broad powers to prosecute domestic terrorism, including arrests without a warrant and up to 24 days detention without charges. It also carries harsh penalties for those convicted of terror-related offenses, with a maximum sentence of life in prison without parole. Simply threatening to commit an act of terror on social media can now be punished with 12 years behind bars.

More Show less

16,000: Amid a deepening economic crisis in Lebanon that has wiped out people's savings and cratered the value of the currency, more than 16,000 people have joined a new Facebook group that enables people to secure staple goods and food through barter.

More Show less