Hong Kong has become a flashpoint in what some see as an emerging cold war between the U.S. and China. Exhibit A is Beijing’s decision to bypass Hong Kong’s legislature and impose new national-security legislation on the city on July 1 to stamp out a yearlong protest movement. Hong Kong’s Beijing-backed government has moved quickly to make use of those powers to pacify the city, arresting protesters and charging opposition figures, and most recently ejecting four pro-democracy lawmakers from the city’s legislature, prompting the entire opposition bloc to resign en masse.
The U.S. has taken steps to punish Beijing by restricting visas for Chinese officials and declaring that Hong Kong is no longer sufficiently autonomous to merit special treatment on trade in goods like defense technologies. It also imposed sanctions on key Chinese officials and Hong Kong governing figures including Chief Executive Carrie Lam. Here’s how we got to this point.
Q: Why did China force the expulsion of four Hong Kong lawmakers?
A: Hong Kong removed the four legislators just minutes after Beijing passed a resolution empowering local officials to unseat dissenting politicians without going through the courts. The new rule says lawmakers can be removed for supporting independence, endangering national security or refusing to recognize China’s sovereignty over Hong Kong—similar to the crimes outlined in the national security legislation imposed on the city by Beijing over the summer. While Hong Kong officials didn’t explain any violations of those provisions, the lawmakers had already been disqualified back in July from standing for a new term over a purported lack of loyalty to the city and its institutions. The other 15 lawmakers in the Pan-Democrats camp announced their resignation later in the afternoon.
Q: What impact will the legislative expulsions have?