Hollowing Out Basic Freedoms in Hong Kong

Michael Davis, Jindal Global University

In the current global contest between illiberal authoritarian models and open societies one of the deepest threats to popular well-being in many developing societies is the loss of basic freedoms. With leading authoritarian regimes promoting an illiberal model of governance that threat around the world is no longer abstract. Openly hostile to liberal institutions, the PRC has become the leading proponent of such illiberal hollowing out of basic freedoms and Hong Kong has become its chief test case for such model. A new National Security Law (NSL) passed in 2020 has been used to turn Hong Kong from one of the most liberal open societies in Asia to effectively an unfree national security state. This paper will outline the story of this repressive turn, including media suppression under a related sedition law, the closing of over sixty NGOs faced with risk of prosecution, intimidation of universities with the state-directed brainwashing of students from top to bottom of the educational system, degrading the rule of law with the introduction of new national security bureaucracies beyond judicial review, degraded judicial independence, mass arrest, and so on. Added to this is a new Beijing-imposed electoral law allowing patriots only--meaning regime supporters--to run for office. The result is a constitutional order with a full spectrum of hollowed out liberal institutions. The larger portion of Hong Kong society that long supported the rule of law and democratic reform has been left in a state of shock. In an age when populist leaders with Beijing’s encouragement point in a similar direction a stock taking of this illiberal path is needed. Hong Kong offers a perfect test case. This paper is driver by my new book coming out later this year currently titled Beijing in Hong Kong: A City’s Freedoms Undone.

No extended abstract or paper available

 Presented in Session 231. Social Movements, Political Protest, and Advocacy