Dictatorships can be slow in coming, so slow that initially they are imperceptible, hard to recognize as dangerous – possibly very dangerous. This is how it was in Xi Jinping’s China.
Now though there is no mistaking the grim reality. Living in China can be life-threatening to anyone and everyone the regime decides, for whatever reason, is an undesirable.
I use the term “life-threatening” literally – as when someone’s life is literally in danger. And I use the term metaphorically – as when what is in danger is the daily life, or lifestyle, to which the person is accustomed.
Hardly a day now goes by without news out of China that is deeply offensive, even painful to anyone who is a democrat. While ordinary Chinese who go quietly about their business are left largely alone, extraordinary Chinese, even those who are apolitical, frequently are not. The threat now is palpable to wealthy Chinese, especially the ultra-rich, who have come to think the better part of valor is to head for the exits, whether by cashing out or shutting up, or both, slipping in any case under Xi’s radar.
And it is palpable as well to a raft of others, most of whom are much more vulnerable. These include: 1) members of groups that have failed to confirm to what the Chinese Communist Party wants, such as the Uighurs; 2) political and social activists who have sought in any way to challenge the regime; and 3) the people of Hong Kong who have had to learn a whole new way of being in the world since the Chinese authorities decided to clamp down – to swallow Hong Kong whole.
Lead sentence from an article in today’s Wall Street Journal, dateline Hong Kong: “Authorities sent shudders through Hong Kong media outlets after police arrested the top editor of a popular daily newspaper and the city’s security chief warned of severe punishment for anyone who uses news to challenge China’s national security.”
Drip, drip, drip, dictatorship.