ylee1_LILLIAN SUWANRUMPHAAFP via Getty Images_hongkongUNflagprotest Lillian Suwanrumpha/AFP via Getty Images

Will Hong Kong Be Tiananmen 2.0?

The conflict between the Chinese authorities and Hong Kong’s citizens will continue to escalate as China implements its new security law on the territory, which is why international action has become urgent. The United Nations should not wait until all that is left to be done is clean the blood off the streets.

SEOUL – Hong Kong is on a knife’s edge. Once one of Asia’s freest and most open cities, it now faces the specter of a new China-imposed security law that would curtail its people’s liberties and create a climate of fear. The law is in flagrant breach of the Sino-British Joint Declaration, which is registered at the United Nations, and would open the way for widespread human-rights violations. The UN cannot let this stand.

The United Kingdom returned Hong Kong to China 23 years ago on the promise that the territory would enjoy a “high degree of autonomy” under the “one country, two systems” principle for at least 50 years. For the first decade or so, China largely fulfilled that promise. But its commitment to doing so soon began to wane.

By 2014, Hong Kong’s people were protesting the government’s failure to deliver on the guarantee, included in the Basic Law, that the city’s chief executive would be elected by “universal suffrage.” In the ensuing years, booksellers offering titles critical of China’s rulers were abducted to mainland China. Pro-democracy legislators and candidates were harassed and disqualified from elections. Foreign journalists and high-profile human-rights advocates were expelled from Hong Kong or denied entry. Simon Cheng, a Hong Kong citizen who worked for the UK government, was detained for 15 days after a trip to mainland China, where he was tortured until he “confessed” to soliciting prostitution.