Hong Kong: how to react to China's crackdown?

During the protests against the security law in Hong Kong on Wednesday police reportedly arrested more than 180 people. On Tuesday China had passed the controversial law which gives the authorities sweeping powers to take action against the opposition in the territory. The media in Europe analyse the consequences of China's repressive policy and demand action.

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Berlingske (DK) /

Ominous silence

The EU must finally put China in its place, Berlingske demands:

“The Europeans are holding their tongues about China's brutal exercise of power. ... This comes at a price: there are only vague limits on China's demonstrations of military power, and that also poses a threat to peace in our part of the world. ... Europeans value trade above principles such as freedom, democracy and freedom of expression. No wonder democracy is currently having a hard time if not even the institutions that are supposed to guarantee compliance with these principles are willing to stand up for them. It's time for Denmark and the rest of the EU to speak out and impose sanctions on China.”

Savon Sanomat (FI) /

China's own Crimea

China and Russia are very similar in important ways, Savon Sanomat explains:

“China's head of state Xi Jinping has cemented his position for life. Russian President Vladimir Putin is pursuing the same goal with the constitutional reform. ... Another thing China and Russia have in common is what they think about the rights of self-determination in the region. The most striking example is the Russian occupation and annexation of Crimea six years ago. … With Hong Kong, China has its own Crimea. … China and Russia are relying on the principle of might makes right to expand their influence. ... It is now more important than ever that the West act as a strong counterweight. And because the United States has lost its balance, European unity must be strengthened even during the coronavirus pandemic.”

Ria Novosti (RU) /

Beijing cannot afford weakness

Ria Novosti considers that China is right to resist the external pressure:

“The Chinese leadership had a choice: either give in to blackmail and end up with a fully-fledged separatist enclave in the south of the country, which can easily be stirred into rebellion by anyone who feels the urge. Or face sanctions but preserve the unity of the country, which is so important for the Chinese national identity. ... The crux of the matter is that short-term economic benefits (which would of course be felt, if only because of the absence of sanctions) could never compensate for the economic damage China would suffer if the process of disintegration had not been halted right now, and precisely in Hong Kong.”

Financial Times (GB) /

A tough blow for business in Hong Kong

Hong Kong is now far less attractive as a location for foreign companies, writes the Financial Times:

“The undermining of Hong Kong's freedoms poses profound questions for foreign countries and businesses about their future relations with Hong Kong and with China. ... Foreign companies that operate in Hong Kong will inevitably be reconsidering their presence there. On business grounds alone, all foreign multinationals will have to be wary of a city where freedom of expression and the rule of law can no longer be guaranteed. The security law places foreign corporations on notice that, in the Hong Kong of the future, both their businesses and their employees could be at risk.”

Neue Zürcher Zeitung (CH) /

The very opposite of security

Beijing is seeking to prevent opposition in Hong Kong through perfidious means, writes the Neue Zürcher Zeitung:

“The fact that the Hong Kongers went to bed on Tuesday without knowing what would be law from Wednesday on is no random development. It is intentional. Beijing doesn't want legal certainty, it wants control. An authoritarian system exercises maximum control by being unpredictable. If the subjects don't know exactly what they can and cannot do, a large majority of them will prefer to play it safe and avoid testing boundaries from the outset - this is what the Communist rulers are counting on. ... The big question is how the new law will be implemented. It's quite possible that in a first phase it won't be applied directly, serving instead as a sword of Damocles that is now hovering over the heads of the Hong Kong people and could fall at any moment.”

The Times (GB) /

Stand up to Beijing now

The international community must not tolerate China's aggressive approach, warns The Times:

“Hong Kong democrats know they can do little alone. Their only hope is to get the message across abroad to put pressure on China. ... The representative of the democracy movement, Joshua Wong, compares the situation to the deployment of a canary in a coal mine. The bird's death from poisonous mine gases is a warning to everyone. If Hong Kong can be intimidated, can it take long before Beijing brings Taiwan under its direct control and uses its growing military power to challenge India and even Japan? That is a strong argument for standing up to Beijing sooner rather than later.”

Frankfurter Rundschau (DE) /

China? Soon to be history

The Frankfurter Rundschau, on the other hand, says the law shows how weak China is:

“No empire has ever lasted forever. China is crumbling a little more every day, hollowed out by its web of contradictions, be they coronavirus, the Uyghurs, its dissidents or Hong Kong. And so the new 'security law' for Hong Kong, which undoubtedly entails intolerable oppression, shows only one thing: a fatally wounded, insane monster that is striking out blindly in all directions. China? Soon to be history.”

Lidové noviny (CZ) /

Hong Kong's star is finally setting

Lidové noviny is already saying goodbye to the semi-autonomous Hong Kong:

“The idea that democracy will spread from Hong Kong to mainland China was naive. Just like the idea that Hong Kong's economic importance will motivate China to maintain freedom in the city. Communist China has been intervening for years, and Hong Kong's economic power has been declining for just as long. This was foreseeable. But in 1997, when the British handed over Hong Kong to China, it was by no means so clear. Now we can see what will happen if Beijing someday offers Taiwan a similar model.”

La Repubblica (IT) /

If Trump weren't in the equation

The EU is facing a momentous decision, says French journalist and MEP Bernard Guetta in La Repubblica:

“One option would be to side with the United States to get China to come to its senses. ... A viable option if the Democrats prevail in November. ... But if Donald Trump prevails it will be difficult - given his unstable nature - to negotiate a long-term agreement. In this case the European Union should, if at all, try to balance its relations with Washington and Beijing by negotiating the guarantee of its basic economic interests in exchange for relative neutrality.”

Der Standard (AT) /

Beijing has alienated the moderate majority

As far as Der Standard is concerned China is only harming its own interests with the new law:

“A large number of Hong Kongers had managed to come to terms with the special status. ... They made good money on the tourists from the mainland, prosperity increased, the South China Morning Post continued to publish critical articles, the Internet was free. Independence from Beijing? That was the demand of just a few radicals. ... With the new security law Beijing has now put an end to that status quo. ... Hong Kong as we know it will cease to exist. The protesters are now asking for help from abroad. The most radical feel confirmed in the view that Beijing cannot be trusted. And the moderate Hong Kongers who previously wanted everything to stay as it was must now join those who are calling for change.”