For months, the Communist leadership tried everything from coercion to concessions, to squash the pro-Democracy protests in Hong Kong, but the protests only intensified. By late summer 2019, the movement, which had started over a law that allowed Hong Kong citizens to be prosecuted under the mainland’s jurisdiction, had become about much more than that. It was now about preserving a free Hong Kong. But when the headlines from changed from protesters to a virus and the world economy ground to a halt, other nations and their governments turned inward.
It’s no coincidence that Xi Jinping doubled down on his own cult of personality and cracked down on religious freedom just as China’s economy began to slow. The renewed call to Chinese nationalism from Beijing effectively distracted the population from growing economic worries and offered an effective pretext for cracking down on Hong Kong protestors, many of whom see their protesting as an outworking of their Christian faith and as something for which they are willing to die.