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The Western satellite of Hong Kong had a great run. Two decades resisting the authority of an empowered and modern Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is nothing to sneeze at. But with last month's passing of the National Security Law (NSL), which aims to clamp down on the raucous anti-CCP protests that have recently gripped the island, Hong Kong's unprecedented experiment in pseudo-sovereign liberalism looks to be coming to an end.
This law has already threatened the prized freedoms to which dissident Hong Kongers are accustomed. With the NSL also comes an uncertain future for both individual technology companies and the landscape of the global internet.
The law grants authorities with sweeping powers to root out what they consider "secession, terrorist activities, subversion, and collusion with a foreign country or with external elements"—no new feat for a government. At the same time, the NSL adopts the language of Western governments with promises to protect "human rights" including the "freedoms of speech, of the press, of publication, of association, of assembly, of procession, and of demonstration."
That is, unless those activities are deemed to be actually illegal by a newly created "Committee for Safeguarding National Security of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region" that is supervised by the Mainland government. Should a would-be freedom fighter be suspected as a secretive terrorist under the system the Committee creates, they will be tried in a special court and subject to penalties up to life imprisonment.
This de facto legal crusade against any discussion of Hong Kong independence or CCP shortcomings creates problems for U.S. tech companies operating in the region. Many U.S. companies only partially operate on the mainland, and some of them are basically shut out. Having offices in Hong Kong lets them have a footprint in China without being openly subject to CCP rule (and therefore the public criticism in the West that would follow).
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