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'Pandemic Card to Tighten Grip': Tibetan Activists in Exile Blast China's New Security Law for Hong Kong

A booth with sign

A booth with sign "Free Hong Kong" is set up near Victoria Park where people gather to mourn those killed in the 1989 Tiananmen crackdown in Causeway Bay, Hong Kong, on June 4, 2020. (AP Photo/Kin Cheung)

Tibetan activists say policies being imposed by the Communist Party of China in Hong Kong bear resemblance to what the Chinese government has been doing in other regions like Tibet.

In strong condemnation of China’s contentious new national security law for Hong Kong, Tibetan activists in exile in India have said that the Communist Party of China is using the Covid-19 pandemic to tighten its grip over the former British colony.

Last month, China’s parliament passed the national security legislation that it said sought to quell secession and “terrorism” in Hong Kong amid massive anti-government protests in the city.

Rinzin Choedon, National Director, Students of Free Tibet India — a network of Tibetan activists around the world — feels that the policies being imposed by the Communist Party of China in Hong Kong bear resemblance to what the Chinese government has been doing in other regions like Tibet.

“Tibet has been under Chinese occupation for over 60 years and what’s happening now in Hong Kong has already happened in Tibet. We definitely understand the magnitude of the current situation in Hong Kong and stand in solidarity with the protesters,” Choedon said.

She believes that China is using the coronavirus pandemic to crack down on protesters in the Asian financial hub.

“In Tibet, China has been crushing the voices of all those who have been fighting for democracy and even environment protection. Now, China is playing the pandemic card to tighten its grip over Hong Kong and accelerate oppression in Tibet and East Turkestan,” Choedon added.

The day people of China revolt against the narrative that the Chinese Communist Party is infallible, the state will be destroyed

According to a Reuters report, Hong Kong police on Tuesday arrested 53 people as pro-democracy protests intensified in the city.

Protests began in June last year when a government bill was introduced that would make it possible for individuals to be extradited and tried in mainland China. The bill was later withdrawn by Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam after weeks of clashes between police and protesters, but unrest has continued over China’s alleged attempts to subvert freedoms guaranteed to Hong Kong for 50 years at the time of its handover.

‘Expansionist Agenda’

Choedon claimed that the Covid-19 pandemic posed a great threat to the Communist regime and said that not just Hong Kong, but the current border situation with India is also a manoeuvre by China.

“Whenever there’s a problem inside China, it tries to divert the attention of their general public to national security issues by poking neighbouring countries,” Choedon added.

Tibetan activist Tenzin Tselha views the recent moves of China as part of the Xi Jinping-led government’s expansionist agenda.

“China is pushing its expansionist movement — be it Hong Kong, Taiwan, One Belt One Road Road, South China Sea, or incursions in India. They are trying to create an empire that expands into almost everywhere,” she said.

The West has been going on about the human rights issues for the last 40 years and yet it has retained its trade relations with China

She fears that there may be an increased crackdown on pro-democracy protesters, much like the one witnessed in Tibet where activists were imprisoned for decades. "There’s a deep sadness that this is happening again and there’s a sense of fear about what will happen to all those activists in Hong Kong,” Tselha said.

Against this backdrop, she said that she and other activists are trying to collaborate with movements in Hong Kong, Taiwan and other areas to build solidarities.

‘Support from International Community After Covid-19’

Activists like Gonpo Dhundup, the president of the Tibetan Youth Congress feel that international support for their resistance struggle has grown since the coronavirus pandemic.

In a key development, US lawmaker Scott Perry on May 29, introduced a bill recognising Tibet as an independent country. Earlier, Perry had also tabled a bill for Hong Kong backing the people’s fight for democracy.

“We can take the example of US Congressman Scott Perry who has openly supported the independence of Tibet in his bill. There’s a small mistake wherein he mentioned only the Tibetan Autonomous Region (TAR), which is half of the actual Tibet. We have urged him to include the whole of Tibet,” Dhundup said.

But he welcomed the bill and hailed it as a historic gesture by the international community.

Tenzin Tsundue, a poet, writer, and Tibetan activist argues that the pressure is no longer on Hong Kong or Tibet but on China.

“The day people of China revolt against the narrative that the Chinese Communist Party is infallible and China is a monolithic, the state will be destroyed. The pressure is on Xi Jinping as he is not only fighting the international community who are hostile to China, but his own people who are questioning his decisions, his dictatorial rule,” he said.

Jigme Yeshi, assistant professor of political science at Calcutta University, also believes that CCP’s handling of the pandemic may even prove to be a tipping point and would give a push to movements in Tibet and Hong Kong.

“The West has been going on about the human rights issues for the last 40 years and yet it has retained its trade relations with China. But the mismanagement of the viral outbreak and the threat of concentration of power with Xi Jinping will lead to more support for the struggle of Hong Kongers and Tibetans,” Yeshi said.

He, however, issued a note of caution and said that given Hong Kong’s status as a financial hub, the West’s reaction may be stronger as compared to other territories like Taiwan and Xinjiang.

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