Hong Kong and Xinjiang

It’s worth starting to think through the Hong Kong – Xinjiang comparison for understanding why what might be coming down the pike in Hong Kong could be much more severe than people expect.

It’s easy to think that Hong Kong & Xinjiang are just two totally different issues. One, a cosmopolitan global city with a primarily Han population. The other, a heavily rural Central Asian region with a large Muslim population (Uighurs being the most well known minority).

But from the standpoint of a stability-obsessed one-Party state, they look similar. Both are border regions with populations that embrace identities that do not fully conform with the increasing narrow ethnocentric line being promoting by Beijing.

Both have institutions (cultural, religious, and in Hong Kong, political) that – at least in the past – had a degree of autonomous space.

And both also have links to a diaspora population overseas that Beijing is really concerned about.

That’s why it’s important to look at the new National Security Law not simply as a tool to go after a few outspoken individuals, but as a key step in what is likely to be a more comprehensive effort to rectify Hong Kong society. And that has already been done in Xinjiang.

Here’s one particularly distressing thing to consider. Right now, Beijing is primarily focused on figuring out how to extend its controls within Hong Kong. Schools, Legco. At some point, courts.

But at some point – perhaps after the exodus of some fraction of Hong Kong’s population and the emergence of a more organized set of voices overseas, Beijing is going to turn its sights on how to tighten its grip on the Hong Kong diaspora. (And, in fact, Hong Kong authorities have already begun to issue arrest warrants for activists based overseas – including one U.S. citizen.)

And at that point, it wouldn’t surprise me at all if they started reaching for some the tactics employed in Xinjiang – applying pressure on family and relatives in Hong Kong, as a tool towards that end.

(adapted and lightly edited from an earlier Twitter thread)