Imperialism need not always follow the classic British model of colonizing distant lands and peoples. No less typical in recent times is rule over groups with distinctive claims closer to home. But as China’s officials used to point out to the British, imperialism goes hand in fist with repression. With the new national security law, Beijing ironically doubles down on a disastrous model pioneered by Britain itself.
The key to this approach is the law’s adoption of a separate and draconian judicial system. In certain broad circumstances, an office of the mainland government in Hong Kong can now refer a case to mainland prosecutors and courts. Apparently, Hong Kong’s own common law courts are not up to dealing with security threats. But the real reason is to better intimidate a restive population. A favorite of imperial regimes and permanent emergency states, this tactic aims for easy convictions, jettisons fundamental due process protections and sweeps up legitimate political opposition.