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The new normal? Armed police officers clear the streets in central Hong Kong. © David Ogg/Alamy Stock Photo

China is tightening its grip on Hong Kong

The space for free expression is narrowly dangerously

By Rana Mitter  

In mid-2020, one of the biggest shows on Chinese television was Autumn Cicada, a spy thriller set in Hong Kong just after the Pearl Harbor attack in December 1941—a compelling watch featuring glamorous mainland Chinese stars. (It’s available on YouTube with an English translation.) The story is about fiercely patriotic young Hong Kongers under the Japanese occupation who work for the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) underground. The implied contrast with the city’s youth today, whose dedication to the CCP is rather less enthusiastic, is not hard to see.

On 6th January 2021, a dawn raid saw the arrest of 53 pro-democracy activists in Hong Kong, mostly former legislators, charged with “subversion” under the terms of the new Hong Kong National Security Law. The charges related not to violent activity, but the suggestion that if elected again to the Legislative Council, they planned to use complex parliamentary tactics to…

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