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China’s Risky Endgame in Hong Kong

In 2017, Chinese President Xi Jinping declared that by the time the People’s Republic celebrates its centenary in 2049, it should be a “great modern socialist country” with an advanced economy. But following through with planned measures to tighten mainland China's grip on Hong Kong would make achieving that goal all but impossible.

CLAREMONT, CALIFORNIA – Although the rapid escalation of violence in Hong Kong seems terrifying enough, things may be about to get much worse. The communiqué of the recently concluded fourth plenum of the 19th Central Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC) indicates that Chinese President Xi Jinping is planning to tighten his grip on the former British colony at any cost. He should prepare to rack up a formidable bill.

The communiqué includes two ominous pledges. First, China’s central government will “control and rule” (guanzhi) Hong Kong (and Macau) using “all the powers vested in [it] under the constitution and the Basic Law,” the mini-constitution that defines Hong Kong’s status. Second, it will “build and improve a legal system and enforcement mechanism to defend national security” in both special administrative regions.

A few days after the plenum, the CPC’s plan to assert its control over Hong Kong became clearer when it released the full text of the resolution endorsed there by its Central Committee. China’s central government intends to change the process for appointing Hong Kong’s chief executive and key officials, and reform the system governing how the Chinese National People’s Congress Standing Committee interprets the Basic Law. Moreover, China will support the strengthening of Hong Kong’s law-enforcement capabilities and ensure that the city government enacts legislation to enhance national security. It will also deepen Hong Kong’s economic integration with the mainland and expand “education” programs to cultivate a “national consciousness and patriotic spirit,” especially among civil servants and young people.

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