- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 26, 2004

Beijing again is cracking down on democratic sentiments in Hong Kong. For a year, massive street protests have demanded free elections and the resignation of the Beijing-appointed chief executive, Tung Chee-hwa. Communist Party leaders from mainland China have responded by strengthening Mr. Tung’s power base and making clear that direct elections will not be allowed in the so-called special administrative region for decades. Over the past two weeks, Beijing leaders and government media outlets have stated that only “patriots” who “love the motherland” will be allowed to hold important offices in Hong Kong. In other words, the Communists will continue to appoint only anti-democratic politicians to power. Freedom for Hong Kong is more unreachable than ever before.

The plight of Hong Kongers is a sad tale in which they have not been allowed to play an active role in their own future. After 150 years of colonial rule, the British signed away their subjects to Communist domination through the Sino-British Joint Declaration of 1984. Thirteen years later, Hong Kong and its 7 million people were officially handed over to Red China — despite the protests of the population.

The British, supposed exporters of democratic ideals, did not give Hong Kongers any chance at self-determination. Their Communist rulers immediately drew the line against even the most simple form of self-rule, which would be to choose the region’s administrator. Now the regime is saying it will decide who is or is not fit for other high offices. China’s micromanagement is a violation of the 1984 declaration, which guaranteed that Beijing would not interfere with Hong Kong’s internal policies for 50 years, but there is no mechanism to enforce the pact.

On Wednesday, a Chinese government news agency warned that democratic activists in Hong Kong were seen by mainland leaders as “opposing the leadership of the Communist Party and subverting the central government.” Such language is a direct threat, given that the government has been trying to institute strict new anti-sedition laws in Hong Kong. The irony is that Beijing is preventing China’s true patriots — Hong Kongers who believe Chinese should be free — from government.

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