The Atlantic

The Leader Who Killed Her City

Carrie Lam has been a unique failure. Yet she is merely a symptom of Hong Kong’s ills.
Source: Marly Gallardo

Updated at 5:10 p.m. ET

The sunny, humid Saturday should have been a day of cautious relaxation in Hong Kong. The city had not tallied a new case of COVID-19 in a week, and people were returning to markets, restaurants, and the popular hiking trails that traverse its sylvan hills.

But by that afternoon, social-media posts and alerts on messaging apps began to spread, initially in frantic, disjointed bits, raising alarm—not about new coronavirus infections, but about the movements of the Hong Kong police. Officers, it would become clear, were making their way across the city, arresting prodemocracy figures.

In a coordinated sweep that day, April 18, police rounded up 15 people, spanning generations and ideologies: Martin Lee, Hong Kong’s octogenarian “godfather of democracy,” was greeted by seven officers at his door; the media tycoon Jimmy Lai was walked from his home, his glasses slipping from the bridge of his nose onto his blue surgical mask; and Margaret Ng, a veteran lawyer, made her way into a police station clutching in her arms a copy of the book, China’s National Security: Endangering Hong Kong’s Rule of Law?

The arrests, police later explained, stemmed from the individuals having taken part in unauthorized marches held in August and October 2019, at the height of the territory’s prodemocracy protests, a movement sparked by a bill that would have allowed extraditions to mainland China. Months of enormous, and sometimes violent, demonstrations in Hong Kong laid bare the fear and despondency of an identity and way of life being forcibly pulled away, as well as the rage toward a government and its overlords in Beijing who were unwilling to listen or compromise. Along the way, as the relationship between residents and the police fractured, Hong Kong’s population grew familiar with the choking sting that follows the explosion of tear-gas canisters, and the severity of bruising inflicted by rubber bullets.

[Read: Lessons for American police from Hong Kong]

The pandemic put the protests on hold as the city battened down to wait out the virus. The territory, gleaning lessons from the SARS outbreak more than a decade ago, contained the spread enviably as deaths mounted elsewhere across the globe. But unlike other leaders, who saw their political fortunes rise on their deft handlings of the outbreak, Hong Kong’s success did little to help its chief executive, Carrie Lam. Residents continued to seethe as pro-Beijing lawmakers and mainland officials blatantly disregarded norms and expedited China’s chokehold on the city while the world largely turned its attention to the public-health crisis. The flurry of activity came to a stunning culmination this May, when Beijing announced that it would circumvent the territory’s legislature to force a national-security law on Hong Kong. The law has not been fully detailed but will target acts of subversion, secession, terrorism, and foreign interference in the city. The move ended 23 years of resistance to such regulations, and proved hollow the “one country, two systems” framework under which the city is supposed to be run until 2047.

Officials in Beijing nowadays speak of Hong Kong in terms normally reserved for Xinjiang and Tibet, describing it of these hidden hands from abroad, while polling shows that only a of people in Hong Kong favor independence.)

Вы читаете отрывок, зарегистрируйтесь, чтобы читать полное издание.

Другое от: The Atlantic

The Atlantic8 мин. чтенияPolitics
The Secret Service Is Bracing for Dangerous Times
Any chance of a normal security environment for the president-elect evaporated during the Capitol siege.
The Atlantic5 мин. чтенияAmerican Government
When the FBI Spied on MLK
The bureau’s surveillance of Martin Luther King Jr. reflects a paranoia about Black activism that’s foundational to American politics.
The Atlantic8 мин. чтенияAmerican Government
Donald Trump Is Out. Are We Ready to Talk About How He Got In?
I’ve been thinking about Barbara Tuchman’s medieval history, A Distant Mirror, over the past couple of weeks. The book is a masterful work of anti-romance, a cold-eyed look at how generations of aristocrats and royalty waged one of the longest wars i