Friday, April 15, 2022

28. Conversations About the Book "Hong Kong Between 'One Country' and 'Two Systems': Chapter 27 (Monday 1 June 2020) Inaugurating the New Era for Hong Kong with the National Security Law and the Cancellation of the Tiananmen Vigil


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 “言有尽而意无穷” [Words and meanings are endless]. 

From the run up to the book launch of 13 July 2021, the folks at Little Sir Press organized a series of short conversations about my new book, "Hong Kong Between 'One Country' and 'Two Systems'." We continue with that series here.

About the Book: Hong Kong Between “One Country” and “Two Systems” examines the battle of ideas that started with the June 2019 anti-extradition law protests and ended with the enactment of the National Security and National Anthem Laws a year later. At the center of these battles was the “One Country, Two Systems” principle. By June 2020, the meaning of that principle was highly contested, with Chinese authorities taking decisive steps to implement their own understanding of the principle and its normative foundations , and the international community taking countermeasures. All of this occurred well before the 2047 end of the 1985 Sino-British Joint Declaration (中英联合声明) that had been the blueprint for the return of Hong Kong to China. Between these events, global actors battled for control of the narrative and of the meaning of the governing principles that were meant to frame the scope and character of Hong Kong’s autonomy within China. The book critically examines the conflict of words between Hong Kong protesters, the Chinese central and local authorities, and important elements of the international community. This decisive discursive contest paralleled the fighting for control of the streets and that pitted protesters and the international community that supported them against the central authorities of China and Hong Kong local authorities. In the end the Chinese central authorities largely prevailed in the discursive realm as well as on the streets. Their victory was aided, in part by the COVID-19 pandemic of 2020. But their triumph also produced the seeds of a new and potentially stronger international constitutional discourse that may reduce the magnitude and scope of that success. These essays were written as the events unfolded. Together the essays analytically chronicle the discursive battles that were fought, won and lost, between June 2019 and June 2020. Without an underlying political or polemical agenda, the essays retain the freshness of the moment, reflecting the uncertainties of the time as events unfolded. What was won on the streets of Hong Kong from June to December 2019, the public and physical manifestation of a principled internationalist and liberal democratic narrative of self-determination, and of civil and political rights, was lost by June 2020 within a cage of authoritative legality legitimated through the resurgence of the normative authority of the state and the application of a strong and coherent expression of the principled narrative of its Marxist-Leninist constitutional order. Ironically enough, both political ideologies emerged stronger and more coherent from the conflict, each now better prepared for the next.

The book may be purchased through AMAZON (kindle and paperback), book information including free chapters and the access to all video conversations HERE.

I am delighted, then, to make available the next in the series of video recordings of conversations about the book with my former research assistant Matthew McQuilla (Penn State International Affairs MIA 2021). Today we discuss Chapter 27 (Monday 1 June 2020) Inaugurating the New Era for Hong Kong with the National Security Law and the Cancellation of the Tiananmen Vigil.

This Chapter is one of several in which the end game of the arc of protests that started in June 2019 is becoming clearer. Here, that clarity is illuminated by the banning, for the first time in 30 years, of the city's annual Tiananmen Square vigil. Ir was there most palpable evidence of the defeat of the protests. Where once their power was manifested in their ability to control the streets, now it is clear that this control has shifted to the central authorities. What is left, at this point, are the margins. Hong Kong’s pro-democracy camp “asked supporters in Hong Kong and around the world to light candles in their homes or other private places and post the images online.

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This, it might be said, represents the new state of affairs in Hong Kong in the wake of the determination by Chinese central authorities to approve a National Security Law for the HKSAR, and the subsequent declaration of the United States that Hong Kong was no long autonomous of the rest of the nation, a view shared by the US's Anglo-Australian allies. Even as these states declared that the special status of Hong Kong was voided in violation of the Sino-British Joint Declaration specifically and international law generally, Chinese authorities declared that nothing of the kind happened, only on adjustment to the core conditions within which that special status could be managed. One side privileged the treaty under which the territory was returned to China in 1997; the other on the fundamental character of sovereignty. And in that back and forth, over the course of the last year, both sides have decisively developed--and substantially extended the distance between--One Country ad Two systems. What had been one principle embodying a central contradiction in 1997 has now been resolved, but in two fundamentally distinct ways. COVID-19 here merely provided a cover for a quite conclusive move, one now manifested publicly in a most dramatic way. 

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2019-2020, then, serves as a point of rupture--a rupture between three primary of an internationalist conception of Hong Kong and sovereignty against a nationalist conception of both. This rupture more clearly marks the larger rupture between the Chinese and American approaches to the rationalization of the post global world than virtually anything else that marks the increasing detachment of these two centralizers of global production. This essay looks back to 1997 and forward to 2047 to consider the fundamental rupture in the concept of Hong Kong that occurred in 2020, and what that suggests both for the future of the Special Administrative Region, and the evolution of more flexible definitions of sovereignty within international orders. It suggests that a useful way of understanding the Declaration, and the evolving conception of "One Country, Two Systems" is to divide the period between 1997 and 2047 into an initial international phase for One Country Two Systems in Hong Kong (1997-2020), and now a national phase for One Country Two Systems (2020-2047). It attempts a rewriting of that history, and this rupture, from the vantage point of 2120.


The video of the conversation about Chapter 27 may be accessed HERE.

All conversations are posted to the Coalition for Peace & Ethics YouTube page and may be found on its Playlist: Talking About the Book: "Hong Kong Between 'One Country' and 'Two Systems'." All conversation videos are hosted by Little Sir Press. I hope you find the conversation of some use. 
A pre-publication version of some of the book chapters may be accessed (free) on the Book's webpage (here). All videos may also be accessed through the Little Sir Press Book Website HERE.

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