China over the years have been involved in many controversies whether it takes responsibility of it or not involving other Nations as well as its own people. It has been involved in border issues with India, Bhutan, Russia, rather almost all countries sharing a boundary with it. It has also been involved in trade wars and has also been accused of Genocide of Tibetans as well as the ongoing Uighur Muslim conflict in Xinjiang. Here is a brief study of the recent conflicts that China was involved in.
The Hong Kong protest and the new law
The National People’s Congress of China on 1st July,2020 imposed the much controversial National Security Law on Hong Kong in response to the pro democratic protest that started in June 2019 due to ‘Fugitive offenders and Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters Legalisation Bill, 2019’ which apparently allowed China to extradite political opponents from Hong Kong and try them on mainland China.
The 2019 Bill became a major source of outrage and protests and were the result of years of political tensions between China and Hong Kong, much of which can be understood through their history together.
Hong Kong – China Relations
In the 19th century, Hong Kong was taken by the British over The Opium Trade Wars that began when China tried to criminalise the lucrative Opium trade. The war ended in the favour of the British and China was forced to sign a 99- year lease beginning July 1, 1898 under the now known as ‘The Unequal Treaty’.
Under this treaty, Hong Kong became a British Colony and was handed back to China in 1997. After the handing back, Hong Kong was supposed to exist under the ‘One Country – Two system’ framework which meant that although Hong Kong will be a part of China, it would still keep its own capitalist system for the next 50 years i.e. up to 2047.
This meant Hong Kong has its own currency, legal system, free press, the right to protest and its very own legislature. This was guaranteed by the mini constitution of Hong Kong called ‘The Basic Laws of Hong Kong’.
As the protest of 2019 gradually increased, the protesters presented 5 explicit demands that were: Retraction of the official characterisation of the protests as riots, the release of arrested protesters, Enquiry into the alleged police brutality, Implementation of universal suffrage, Withdrawal of the new bill – which was achieved.
The problem with National Security Law
The new National security law for Hong Kong came into effect on 1st of July with the content of the law only being publicised on June 30 at 11 pm local time. The law was drafted behind closed doors with so much secrecy that even the Chief Executive of Hong Kong, Carrie Lam, was not involved.
The Article 18 of The Basic Laws of Hong Kong prevents Chinese law applying in Hong Kong except if it involves Defense, Foreign Affairs and exceptional circumstances.
As China could not directly interfere with the legislation and only holds power over the Annex III of the constitution, it added the National security Law to it, thus bypassing the local legislature.
The new law contains 66 Articles and criminalises “acts of secession, subversion of state power, terrorist activities, and collusion with foreign or external forces to endanger national security.”
The violation of this law can lead to a maximum sentence of life imprisonment.
Under this law damaging public property will be considered terrorism, right to trial in front of jury can be taken away, some cases will be tried behind closed doors, suspected people can be wire tapped and put under surveillance, cases can be sent for trial on mainland China. These rules also apply to people who are not permanent residents of Hong Kong.
A new security office in Hong Kong will be set up which will not fall under the local jurisdiction and during any conflict, the National security law will take precedence over any other. Above all, Beijing will get the power to interpret law instead of a local body.
The people are afraid that their freedom of speech and judicial independence has been threatened. There were reports of people taking down anti- government posts from Facebook, tearing off anti-government banners from their shops and walls. A wave of terror has spread among the residents. 27 countries including UK, US, Canada and Australia condemned Chinese action in Hong Kong.
The Doklam and LAC border conflict
Doklam is an area with a plateau and a valley, lying between China’s Chumbi Valley to the north, Bhutan’s Ha Valley to the east and India’s Sikkim state’s Nathang Valley to the west. Doklam was shown as part of Bhutan in the Bhutanese maps since 1961, but China has also claimed it. Doklam has been of utter importance to all three countries, including India. Even after negotiation talks the border issue has not been solved with the confrontation of 2017 between China and India raising questions on the border conflict.
In June 2017, a military standoff occurred between India (who was acting on behalf of Bhutan) and China.
China was constructing roads near Doka La pass to which Bhutan had objected. On June 16, 2017 the Chinese army with construction equipment and construction vehicles began extending an existing road toward Doklam, a territory claimed by both China and Bhutan. On June 18, 2017 about 270 Indian troops armed with weapons with two bulldozers crossed from Sikkim border into Doklam to stop the road construction. By 28 June, both countries had retreated.
But what started another confrontation between the two countries was the clashes between Indian and Chinese troops along the Line of Actual Control in Eastern Ladakh which led to a loss of 20 Indian soldiers in a man to man combat on the June 15, 2020.
This has led to heightened tensions between the two countries with India preparing to boycott Chinese products and technology.
The Uighur Muslim conflict and human rights violation
According to the Testimony of Deputy Assistant Secretary Scott Busby from Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Since April 2017, Chinese authorities have detained at least 800,000, and possibly more than 2 million, Uighur and members of other Muslim minorities in internment camps for indefinite periods of time.
At first, China denied such camps existed but with the help of interviews from victims, researchers and journalist the international community began speaking.
Chinese authorities have recently asserted that these internment camps are “vocational education centers” designed to help young, unemployed people in Xinjiang learn job skills and the Chinese language, glossing over the fact that renowned Uighur intellectuals and retired professionals are also detained there.
Some detainees who reached safety have talked about harsh conditions. This includes reciting communist slogans, praising the Chinese communist party and failure to do so results in beating and food deprivation. Some have also talked about sexual abuse and sleep deprivation. One common goal in reports from former detainees seems to be to forcing detainees to renounce Islam and embrace the Chinese Communist Party.
Recent report has come up of Uighur Exiles, who have urged the International Criminal Court on July 6 to investigate Beijing for genocide and crimes against humanity over its draconian crack down on the Muslim minority.