Recent news reports from Hong Kong suggest yet another diplomatic skirmish between old and new Empires over a site of imperial conflict--Hong Kong. At the end of March Reuters reported that China sought to declare invalid (in accordance to the laws of China as applied in this context and in furtherance of Chinese interests) a form of passport issued by the UK to its overseas citizens (recognized as the UK determined in accordance with its own laws and in furtherance of its own sovereign interests).
The Hong Kong government on Thursday confirmed a Reuters report that it had told 14 countries to stop accepting a British travel document that many of its young people use to apply for working holiday visas in Europe, North America and parts of Asia. In a move seen by some envoys as a diplomatic affront, the government informed the foreign consulates in a letter that it no longer considered the British National Overseas (BNO) passport a valid travel document as of Jan. 31. The letter, seen by Reuters and confirmed by the Hong Kong government after the story was published, demanded that its Hong Kong passport should be used instead. "The UK will continue to issue British Nationals (Overseas) passports which remain valid travel documents." Almost 3 million Hong Kong residents hold or are eligible for the BNO document that was created ahead of Britain handing the city back to Chinese rule in 1997. (Exclusive: Hong Kong tells foreign governments to stop accepting special British passport (quoting a spokesperson from the UK Foreign Office))
Beyond the usual petty games that are the stuff of entertaining the masses by feeding the propaganda organs of empire, there is an important ideological element to the move that may be worth considering at some leisure. To some extent, it is possible to frame these decisions from the lens of Mao Zedong's germinal and still profoundly influential insights developed in his “On the People’s Democratic Dictatorship” (30 June 1949) in commemoration of the 28th anniversary of the CPC. Two insights are readily apparent. The first is the notion of the value of people as critical elements in revolutionary struggle. Controlling people (especially those who might be turned to counterrevolutionary purposes) is essential to the success of the work of a vanguard.
Revolutionary dictatorship and counter-revolutionary dictatorship are by nature opposites, but the former was learned from the latter. Such learning is very important. If the revolutionary people do not master this method of ruling over the counter-revolutionary classes, they will not be able to maintain their state power, domestic and foreign reaction will overthrow that power and restore its own rule over China, and disaster will befall the revolutionary people. (“On the People’s Democratic Dictatorship”)
Second, the work of the vanguard is critically hampered where it is unable to rectify counter revolutionary thinking. To those ends it is important not merely to ensure that foreign vanguards not have access to local potentially threatening popular elements, it is also important to maintain substantial control of the element oneself. That, of course, is the essence of building a strong people's democratic dictatorship--what may be understood to be a work in progress in Hong Kong.
You are not benevolent!" Quite so. We definitely do not apply a policy of benevolence to the reactionaries and towards the reactionary activities of the reactionary classes. Our policy of benevolence is applied only within the ranks of the people, not beyond them to the reactionaries or to the reactionary activities of reactionary classes. . . Here, the method we employ is democratic, the method of persuasion, not of compulsion. When anyone among the people breaks the law, he too should be punished, imprisoned or even sentenced to death; but this is a matter of a few individual cases, and it differs in principle from the dictatorship exercised over the reactionaries as a class. (“On the People’s Democratic Dictatorship”).
And thus its essence--democracy for the people (defined by reference to their patriotic loyalty expressed through the practices and behaviors indicated by the vanguard, for example through the National emblems and Anthem laws). For the rest of the population there is only to obey and to rectify false belief and action--or be punished (for example through operation of the National Security Law). There can be no middle way in this. And efforts of foreign states to project their power through their power of citizenship and residence will be viewed necessarily as a gross interference in the establishment of a proper peoples democratic dictatorship in Hong Kong. From the perspective of the Chinese vanguard this must be both necessary and good; the result inevitable. From the perspective of the liberal democratic states, the opposite is true; it evidences a gross violation of the rules of international comity and an interference with national authority to determine the character and availability of access to its own polity. This contradiction will not be easy to resolve. The contradiction is made harder to confront where the discursive needs of internal and external communicators--of performance of principle for inside and outside objectives are themselves incapable (for the moment) of rationalization.