Does China see the global coronavirus pandemic as an opportune time to seize power in Hong Kong? As world leaders are busy dealing with their health crises and economic backlash amid skyrocketing COVID-19 cases and deaths in the last several months, some speculate China has used that timing to their advantage, moving forward a controversial national security law that has been met with widespread demonstrations in the past.
“To some [extent], I think the coronavirus has some role to play in terms of the timing of Beijing to push this national security law [on Hong Kong],” Professor Ho-Fung Hung of Johns Hopkins University told InsideEdition.com.
A similar national security bill was attempted in 2003 but abandoned indefinitely when it led to massive demonstrations. Likewise, a 2019 bill that would cause the extradition of Hong Kong fugitives to China kicked off months of protests, only to be disrupted by the emerging coronavirus in early 2020.
“[China] might think that now the whole world, particularly the U.S., is very busy with taking care of the pandemic and its economic aftermath, so they might be less forceful and determined in pushing back,” Hung explained
Martin Lee, an 81-year-old barrister who was arrested last month for his role in the 2019 protests, also thinks the timing is no coincidence. “There is a Cantonese saying, which translated goes like this: ‘I will take full advantage of your sickness to kill you,'" he told InsideEdition.com. He and 14 other pro-democracy figures were released on bail and are now awaiting trial.
But China may have misjudged, Hung explained and the “strong pushback from the U.S. government,” including President Donald Trump’s statement Friday that said it would strip Hong Kong of its special status, following Beijing’s passing of the national security law and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s recommendation to congress last week that Hong Kong no longer enjoys a high level of autonomy from China, indicates the U.S. may be more keen to act than China initially thought.
He also speculates that China misjudged the will of the Hong Kong protestors. In fact, even Hong Kong seemed surprised its protestors’ persistence.
“The general population is very much still behind the protests, even though they are escalating their confrontational tactic,” Hung explained. “In the district council election in November last year, the pro-democracy candidates won in this landslide victory. That rarely happens.”
But now more than ever, the movement must not lose momentum, 23-year-old student activist Joshua Wong said in a statement to InsideEdition.com.
“Hong Kongers are prepared to fight to protect our vanishing freedoms," Wong said. "I call upon the world to stand with Hong Kong once again.”