Hong Kong’s National Security Law is just over a month old and the Chinese Communist Party is already wreaking havoc in what was once one of the freest places on earth. The law – which effectively silences almost all criticism of the government in Beijing – has quickly been used to arrest pro-democracy voices in Hong Kong.
What started with the rounding up of pro-democracy students and political leaders has now turned to arresting prominent Hong Kong business figures, including Apple Daily’s founder Jimmy Lai. Lai was arrested this week on charges of “colluding with foreign powers,” when in reality his crime is that Apple Daily is a wildly popular source of pro-democracy news and commentary in Hong Kong.
To make matters worse, the National Security law is also being used to target anti-communist voices abroad. The CCP formally charged a handful of pro-democratic leaders who have successfully sought asylum abroad. In addition to that, the CCP extended itself to charge Samuel Chu, who has been a naturalized US citizen for over 25 years. When asked about the charges laid against him, Chu stated “I might be the first non-Chinese citizen to be targeted, but I will not be the last. If I am targeted, any American and any citizen of any nation who speaks out for Hong Kong can, and will be, too”.
A foreign power charging non-citizens for violating laws in a country they don’t live in shows that in the eyes of Beijing’s CCP, their reach knows no bounds. That overreach, and persistent threat, landed on Canadian shores just this week. Sing Tao – Canada’s largest Chinese language newspaper – rejected an advertisement that spoke out against Hong Kong’s National Security Law.
While the paper is free (in Canada) to run whatever ads it likes, and reject whichever ads it doesn’t, it does raise questions as to why the paper would turn away several thousands of dollars in advertisement money. It isn’t baseless speculation to assume that the paper rejected the pro-democracy ad because it would put those involved on Beijing’s blacklist. The CCP has already signaled that it will charge US citizens for supposed crimes against the Chinese state, so naturally that same adventurism would extend to Canadians guilty of promoting democracy in Hong Kong.
This over-step by Beijing demonstrates that the CCP won’t just oppress their own citizens, which adds more fuel to the fire regarding how Canada should treat companies like Huawei or Tik Tok. Beijing’s 2014 Counter-Espionage law and their 2017 National Intelligence Law mandates that individuals and firms must support state intelligence work when asked, which pretty much guarantees that your data could be handed over to the Chinese government if Beijing were to ask for it. While these companies may claim that they are independent from the Chinese state, it’s incredibly unlikely that these companies wouldn’t comply if asked for data. If these companies didn’t comply, it is certain that the Chinese state would simply take what it requested, and reprimand those who didn’t comply.
Regardless of what mainland owned firms want to be, their ties to the CCP are undeniable. Coupled with the fact that Beijing will not hesitate to charge non-citizens with crimes against the state makes for a toxic cocktail of privacy violations and state oppression.
That’s why in liberal democracies, we must remain vigilant and support our fellow democratic voices who end up in the CCP’s crosshairs. Because at one point or another, this could affect people in our nations.
David Clement is a columnist for the Western Standard, a Director at 21Democracy and the North American Affairs Manager with the Consumer Choice Center.