Hong Kong Agitations: Newly Engendered Epicenter of China’s Expansionism

  • Varunendra Pandey and Sakshi Vishwakarma
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  • Varunendra Pandey

    Student at Amity Law School, Delhi, India

  • Sakshi Vishwakarma

    Student at Delhi Metropolitan Education (Guru Gobind Singh Indraprastha University), India

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Abstract

The story of china’s expansionism traces its origin from the 1960s, with the passing course of time it has become an indispensable part of their global strategy. From being a secluded Asian country suffering the wrath of western involvement to being in the center of every international engagement, China’s involvement is not merely incidental but pugnacious. Fast pacing South china Sea issue among China and other states, of which the United States is a significant adversary, portrays that China is not ready to play defensively. This paper aims at unraveling China’s profuse Geopolitical Conflict of interest with other states in the light of Recent Hong Kong Agitations, the former British colony which is technically a part of the Republic of China but assumes a special Character. The paper also emphasizes on China’s stigmatic approach towards free speech and liberal existence. The Primary force has been exerted upon the legal apparatus created by Beijing in the guise of National Security Law that directly subjects the residents of the democratic Region of Hong Kong to the autocratic and communist regime of China. The paper concludes by acknowledging the Expansionist determination of the Republic of China. The hostile nature of overtly ambitious intentions of China are unconcealed and certainly not very pleasant for the Sovereignty of other states. In the international area the balance of power should keep shifting, China’s advancements certainly do not favor that argument thereby concluding the entire issue as extra-sensitive.

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Research Paper

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International Journal of Law Management and Humanities, Volume 4, Issue 2, Page 1066 - 1074

DOI: http://doi.one/10.1732/IJLMH.26282

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This is an Open Access article, distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution -NonCommercial 4.0 International (CC BY-NC 4.0) (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/), which permits remixing, adapting, and building upon the work for non-commercial use, provided the original work is properly cited.

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Copyright © IJLMH 2021

I. Expansionism as global strategy

China’s ideology of expansion has its traces from history, the prime objective of China is to be a ‘global power’, and strengthening its economic, military and territorial power[1]. The aforementioned policy that China follows forthwith reflects china’s centuries-old dogmatic approach. The successive regimes have been promoting the slogan, “Achieve the Great Revival of China” since 1997. The term ‘Great Revival’ in foreign policy field signifies China’s attempt to restore its position as regional hegemony[2]. Thus, China is currently exerting its influence on Central Asia and middle east in the quest to access oil and other natural resources. Their policy of expansionism leads to border disputes with their neighboring countries. However, China shares border with 14 countries but have border disputes with 18 countries including India, Japan, Bhutan, Vietnam and many other.

“Once China becomes strong enough to stand alone, it might discard us. A little later it might even turn against us, if its perception of interest requires it”[3]. Henry Kissinger in his book has defined aspirations of China as an unquenchable thirst that though satisfies its national interests but tends to violate the sovereignty of others. Hong Kong agitations are just a pictorial representation of what has been lodged in the book back in late 70s. It is not just the territorial Expansionism that has stirred the pot of Balance of power vigorously but the economic coercion has acted quite in the favor of the Chinese as well. Countries having natural resources in abundance are either in debt to the Chinese Government or somehow in agreement with them on the idea of China exploiting those resources for its benefit. Over the years a China Harbor Engineering Company, one of Beijing’s largest state-owned enterprises anchored the Hambantota Port Development Project and suddenly usurped the control and declared the port as theirs. After Mr. Rajapaksa was voted out of office in 2015, the new regime was forced to rent the aforementioned port for the debts that were provided to the previous Government though in the forms of aides but used for election campaign. The Hambantota port is now on lease for 99 years with Chinese that provides them a crucially strategic position in Indian Ocean[4]. China for over three decades has kept its foot quiet in the market but post-2010 China’s outward Expansion policy has affected the global market and the geopolitical Conditions of the continents as well.

China’s expansionism has a pattern[5], it claims those lands that are either naturally rich or which has strategic defense importance in crystalizing China’s international presence. China exerts indirect pressure on the domestic regime, assumes the liability of the population. Thereafter, through the course of time China not only commences treating the matter of that states as their internal matter but also prohibits the foreign intervention in that territory. As much as China wants to believe that these expansionist policies are beneficial for global trade and co-existence of Chinese Hegemony, it cannot detest the fact that the by-product of these territorial developments are Environmental Degradation, Human Rights Violations, Economic Exploitation, and Diplomatic Malfeasance[6]. Recent Victim of China’s preposterous acts of expansionism is Hong Kong. The former British colony after the transfer of power in 1997 was conferred an independent status free from interference of the communist regime of China. However, Introduction of newly formulated National Security Law has changed the democratic paradigm of Hong Kong significantly[7].

II. Clampdown on hong kong

In June 2020 China introduced set of National Security laws, which prima facie thwarts the special Character of the Independent Territory of Hong Kong conferred by the UK-Sino Declaration signed in1984. Major democracies of the world widely criticized these laws as they are fundamentally in contravention to Human Rights of the residents of respective State and also violates the treaty of 1984 which subsists till 2047[8].

China’s Newly unveiled National Security Laws targets the rightful citizens of Hong Kong by subjecting them to the police officials authorized by Beijing, invested with heavy powers. The PRC is authorized to search and seizure without a warrant. It also gives power to PRC to monitor and censor the Internet. It Criminalizes any act that signifies subversion, cessation, or colluding with any external force against the sovereignty of the Republic of China. These terms of Cessation, Subversion, and collusion, are loose, vague and open to interpretation thereby spiking the perils of residents of Former British colony[9]. In toto the legislation aims to reduce the Hong Kong’s autonomy, it violates certain fundamental freedoms of the citizens of the aforementioned territory. It undermines china’s Commitment to the treaty of 1984, whereby it committed to safeguarding the special status of Hong Kong till 2047.

The Sino-UK declaration of 1984, set forth the terms of transfer of Hong Kong from Britain to China, under the scheme of “one-nation two-system” that took place in the year 1997 when Britain’s lease for the region expired. Through the same agreement China agreed to the terms that it shall safeguard the special status of the territory until 2047[10].

The June of 2020 seems more like a night of terrors to the residents of Hong Kong. Set of newly formulated National Security laws are nothing like the usual nightmare, these laws will breathe and Co-Exist with its subject until it will prevail upon existing Geopolitical Dynamics in the region. The nature of these laws is such, that the deconstruction of the autonomy of Hong Kong and Suppression of growing dissent is the only visible prospective. On the inaugurating day of these national security laws 370 arrests were carried out[11]. The Press, Universities of Hong Kong have suffered chilling effects of these newly unveiled statute thereby restricting free speech and debates. The residents prospectively have self-censored their online activities due to the immediate subjection of national security laws on criticism of Communist party[12]. The blatant infringement of human rights has seen a significant upsurge ever since the Beijing flexed its muscles by setting up a legal apparatus by-passing the local authorities in the independent territory of Hong Kong. China has also authorized its “Great Firewall” to encroach upon the former British Colony as the Police can also control the flow of information on the internet and extract information about the same from private service providers as well[13]. The current state of Hong Kong is incredibly hostile in terms of stable governance. The Democratic structure seems to be vanishing with the effective presence of China at the borders with pellet guns. The augmenting agitations have also fueled the panic across borders within countries that share boundaries with china.

The controversial law gives Beijing unprecedented powers in the semi-autonomous region. Newly introduced legislation exerts significant control over the financial exploration of Hong Kong as well. This legislation has put the special character of Hong Kong guaranteed by its mini-constitution at peril. It is estimated that approx. 7.5 million residents of Hong Kong shall be subjected to the arbitrariness of the statute uncovered in the June of 2020. Key features of the laws are[14];

  • Beijing shall be eligible to try cases if they are of special Nature. Special Nature being subjective to interpretation. The conviction rate of the criminal Justice System of China is 99%, which raises serious issues about the inadequate representation of the accused. The residents of Hong Kong have been living in a democratic system ever since the transfer of power, hence this tyrannical system of justice deliverance has created hysteria among the citizen.
  • Disproportional Sentencing structure, whereby imprisonment for serious offenses shall extend up to 10 years but the law fails to define “serious crimes”. With such tyrannical interpretation a frivolous act of nuisance can easily qualify the distinction of becoming an Act of terrorism[15].
  • Another Whimsical feature of this policy is Trial behind Closed-door. This feature allows closed door trial where matters of national security are involved, although the verdict should be made public, however the trial shall be confidential. The non-application of uniform procedure of law poses an existent threat to this approach.
  • Setting Up of National Security Agency that bypasses and undermines the local authorities of Hong Kong indirectly brings the subject of the semi-autonomous state under the influence of communist regime. It also authorizes the police to tap the communications of the apparent accused on mere suspicion.
  • Beijing’s new law controls the involvement of foreign entity and NGOs as well as news outlet in the territory of Hong Kong. China sticks to No intervention policy and expects the same from other states. China by this feature aims at regulating the foreign media outlets, the one legit source that has been audaciously vocalizing the China’s offensive presence in the independent Island of Hong Kong[16].

III. Leading democracies reactions to the hong kong crackdown

Hong Kong agitations have sparked a row of fire across the countries endorsing western democracy. A total of 27 countries led by UK have criticized Chinese aggression in the former British Colony. Several nations including- Australia, France, Germany, New Zealand, Canada and UK[17]. European Union plans inflicting sanctions on China for these horrendous acts of Undermining sovereignty and Human Rights Violation[18]. Most prominent adversary of china, United States has also acted quick and effectively to the situation. The United States suspended three bilateral treaties with Hong Kong providing for extradition of Fugitive offenders, transfers of Sentenced persons and reciprocal Income tax exemptions accounted from the international operation of Ships as the ports are now heavily controlled by police officials authorized by Beijing.

The US office of foreign asset has also inflicted sanctions on the foreign assets on the 15 officials involved in the legislation of the concerned law. Recently countries like Taiwan, Australia have relaxed their visa provisions for the Hong Kong residents with an introductory 5-year Visa extensions[19]. Additionally, Several Jurisdictions like UK, US, Germany have enforced sanction on export of defense technologies, Military Logistics or equipment that could be of dual use and can be used to facilitate the internal repression, suppressing internal communication or flow of information[20]. A joint statement of 27 Countries lead by UK has been issued against the oppressions of Hong Kong citizens. However, China has managed to get a support from 53 countries in support of China’s actions in Semi-autonomous territory[21].

IV. Is china a habitual expansionist?

CHINA AND INDIA

The border which came into existence after the war is known as Line of Actual Control (LAC), a military held line. After the war of 1962, several times skirmishes occurred between both the military which sometime lead to serious casualties from both the side.

In 2017, India and china had a month-long high-altitude dispute in Bhutan’s Doklam region. The turmoil began when Indian Army sent troops to stop china constructing a road in that area. The Doklam region is strategically indispensable to china as it gives access to land connecting India’s north eastern states with rest of the country. However, this issue was resolved after peaceful talks.

Today, china has illegally occupied the Indian territory of 38,000 sq km in Aksai chin. China is also in possession of another 5,300 sq km, which was ceded to china by Pakistan in 1963. This is the only one instance of china’s expansionism, it is embroiled in no less than 17 other boundary dispute including land and maritime. This clearly manifest the china’s notions of territorial expansion, international hegemony and inherent superiority. [22]

CHINA AND JAPAN

Both Tokyo and Beijing claim the uninhabited island, known as Senkaku Island in Japan their own, but Japan had administered Senkaku Island since 1972. However, the Senkaku Islands were formally claimed by Japan in 1895 when they won the First Sino- Japanese War. After the World War-II, Japan surrendered the Island to America, but America returned it to Japan in 1972; since then, Japan has been exercising territorial sovereignty over the Senkaku Island. Before 1971, China never made any claim over the island, neither objected the Japanese Government for exercising their rights until it knew about the potentially rich oil deposits beneath the seabed of the island through the findings of survey made by Bangkok- based Economic Commission for Asia and the Far East (ECAFE) in 1971, then China for the first time claimed over the possession of the Island.[23]

This dispute continues till date, china has been violating international law and encroaching upon the sovereignty of Japanese government in spite of continuous criticism bashed by other countries.

CHINA AND BHUTAN

There have been 24 rounds of discussion between China and Bhutan for resolving their border dispute from 1984 to 2016, back then only western and central parts of the Bhutan were held to be part of discussion. But on July 21, 2020, Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson Wang Wenbin said “The boundary between China and Bhutan is yet to be demarcated, and the middle, eastern and western sections of the border are disputed,”. Thus, giving rise to new territorial dispute between the nation.

Hence, the China has made claim to the Sakteng Wildlife Sanctuary, which covers an area of 650 sq km and lies in Bhutan’s eastern district of Trashigang at Global Environment Meeting (GEF) for the first time. Thus, claiming the eastern section of the Bhutan territory. Thus, indirectly targeting the Indian Border. Exerting influence for gaining strategic and economic value have always been the prime concern of the China, which show their adherence to expansionism policy.

CHINA AND VIETNAM

The Chinese-Vietnamese territorial disputes concern the Paracel Island and Spratly Island in South China Sea. This maritime territorial dispute with China has been ongoing since 1974, when China illegally took over the Paracel Island. These two islands being the part of South China Sea, has plethora of natural resources including natural oil and gas; and we know that China’s claiming any land is proportional to the natural resources present therein. Thus, China has been illegally attempting to exploit the natural resources of these two disputed islands by claiming their sovereignty and jurisdiction over the whole island.[24]

Post-cold war China has boosted its policy of outward expansionism not just in territorial terms but also economically and with inconspicuous use of soft power as well. China has expressed its intentions by flexing muscles in South China Sea. The aforementioned illegal encroachments of the communist regime put forth the priorities of China. Beijing’s policies reflect its unwarranted greed for its national interest, even if it is afforded on the cost of sovereignty of other states.

V. Suggestions and recommendations

The disgraceful state of democratic framework at the Island of Hong Kong in the presence of PRC apparatus is an eye-opening for the other sub-continental states who are currently under any territorial dispute with China. Countries should collectively condemn the Chinese aggression and work on following recommendations;

  • Countries should show their willingness to accommodate the asylum seekers from Hong Kong. Countries that can feasibly accommodate the residents, shall relax their Visa laws and look forward to provide them a better lifestyle.
  • An international Crackdown on “Firewall” censorship approach on the free flow of information can be reprehensible to current state.
  • Heavy Sanction on the Republic of China in the form of penalties forbidding anu further determent measure in Hong Kong.
  • To protect any geopolitical turmoil in the future, apprehensive measure should to be taken to prevent other democratically vulnerable nations.

VI. Conclusion

Over the past few Decades, the democratic institutions around the world have been significantly damaged, Myanmar coup being the freshest example of the same. Democracy in prominent countries has taken a hit, thereby setting precedent for the rest of the world. China in 21st century is no less than a world leader, but when a leader acts hastily subordinates follow. The Chinese aggression in Hong Kong is not just arbitrary and tyrannical but also against the very ideals China swore through the treaty of 1984. Under the regime of Xi Jinping the China has often represented its aggressive side to the international Arena and in the continued leadership of leaders like Xi Jinping the democratic Fate of Islands like Hong Kong hangs on the broken doors of uncertainty.

*****

FOOTNOTES

[1] Lt. Col. Yoginder Kandhari, China’s Expansionism- A strategic Perspective, INDIAN DEFENCE REVIEW, (July 20,2020), http://www.indiandefencereview.com/news/chinas-expansionism-a-strategic-perspective

[2] Zhuorn Ali, The Rising Dragon: Looking at China’s Expansion in a Historical Perspective, ZLI MEDIUM, (Apr 08, 2016), https://zli.medium.com/the-rising-dragon-looking-at-china-s-expansion-in-a-historical-perspective-f9322850c117

[3] Henry Kissinger, White House Years 1091, (Boston: Little, Brown & Company, 1979).

[4] Maria Abi-Habib, How China Got Sri Lanka to Cough up a Port, NY TIMES, (June 15, 2018), https://www.nytimes.com/2018/06/25/world/asia/china-sri-lanka-port.html

[5] Elizabeth Roche, Era of expansionism is over, this is era of development: PM takes dig at China, LIVEMINT, (July 08, 2020, 08:08 P.M.), https://www.livemint.com/news/india/modi-takes-a-swipe-at-china-says-world-has-joined-hands-to-reject-expansionism-11593767783377.html

[6] James Jay Carafano, China is an expansionist threat to the free world, HERITAGE ORG, (September 17, 2020), https://www.heritage.org/asia/commentary/china-expansionist-threat-the-free-world

[7] Brenden Clift, How China’s new security law further restricts Hong Kong autonomy, (July 6, 2020, 09:30 P.M), https://scroll.in/article/966559/how-chinas-new-national-security-law-further-restricts-hong-kongs-autonomy

[8]Daniel Victor, Why People are protesting in Hong Kong, NY TIMES, (May 18, 2020), https://www.nytimes.com/2019/11/13/world/asia/hong-kong-protests.html

[9] Anna Downs and Ash Jain, Countering China’s crackdown on Hong Kong, ATLANTIC ORG, (December 17, 2020), https://www.atlanticcouncil.org/in-depth-research-reports/issue-brief/countering-chinas-crackdown-on-hong-kong/

[10] History. Com Editors, Britain agrees to return Hong Kong to China, HISTORY, (December 17, 2020), https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/britain-agrees-to-return-hong-kong-to-china

[11] Joanna Chiu and Jeremy Nuttall, What the new Hong Kong security law means for Canadians- Everywhere, THE STAR, (July 03, 2020), https://www.thestar.com/news/canada/2020/07/03/what-the-new-hong-kong-security-law-means-for-canadians-everywhere.html

[12] Patrick Wintour, Academics warn of chilling effect of Hong Kong Security law, THE GUARDIAN, (October 12, 2020), https://www.theguardian.com/education/2020/oct/12/academics-warn-of-chilling-effect-of-hong-kong-security-law

[13] Lily Kuo, China great firewall descends Hong Kong internet users, THE GUARDIAN, (July 08, 2020), https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/jul/08/china-great-firewall-descends-hong-kong-internet-users

[14] The Hindu Editor, Hong Kong National security law: five facts you need to know, THE HINDU, (July 01, 2020, 06:41 IST), https://www.thehindu.com/news/international/hong-kong-national-security-law-five-key-facts-you-need-to-know/article31959413.ece#

[15] Jerome Taylor, Every person on the planet affected: Hon Kong security law draconian than feared say analysts, HONG KONG FP, (July 02, 2020), https://hongkongfp.com/2020/07/02/every-person-on-the-planet-affected-hong-kong-security-law-more-draconian-than-feared-say-analysts/

[16] Taylor, supra note 15.

[17] Editor, UK Suspends Extradition Treaty with Hong Kong, BBC (July 20, 2020) https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-politics-53476811

18 Lawrence Norman &James Marson, EU Imposes Sanctions Over Hong Kong Security Law, Financial News (July 29, 2020, 08:25 AM) www.fnlondon.com/articles/eu-imposes-sanctions-over-hong-kong-security-law-20200729

19Rosie Perper, Here Are All the Countries Considering Citizenship or Refugee Status for Hong Kongers Fleeing China’s Harsh New Security Law, Business Insider India (July 03, 2020, 03:11 PM), www.businessinsider.com/ho ng-kong-countries-offering-citizenship-refugee-status-2020-7#neighboring-island-taiwan-which-has-its-own-political-disputes-with-china-opened-up-a-new-office-to-help-hong-kongers-flee-2;

20Editor, New Controls Could Have “Significant Impact” On Exporters of Strategic Items to Hong Kong, Institute of Export and International Trade (Aug 05, 2020, 11:51 PM), https://www.exportcontrolprofession.co.uk/2020/ 08/05/new-controls-could-have-significant-impact-on-exporters-of-strategic-items-to-hong-kong/

[21] Dave Lawler, 53 countries supporting China’s Crackdown on Hong Kong, AXIOS (July 03, 2020), www.axios.com/countries-supporting-china-hong-kong-law-0ec9bc6c-3aeb-4af0-8031-aa0f01a46a7c.html

[22] Vivek Gumaste, Expansionist China a dangerous cocktail of past and present, SUNDAY GUARDIAN LIVE, (July 25, 2020, 10:31 P.M), https://www.sundayguardianlive.com/news/expansionist-china-dangerous-cocktail-past-present

[23] Shantanu Rai Chaudhary, Senkaku Island Dispute, INT POLICY DIGEST, (August 01, 2016), https://intpolicydigest.org/senkaku-islands

[24] Hannah Cottilon, Territorial Disputes and Nationalism: A Comparative Case Study of China and Vietnam, 36 JCSAA 1, 51-88 (2017)