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The Asia-Pacific Report

Sameera Casmod |
21 March 2024 | 23:11 SAST
3 minute read

The recent enactment of Article 23, Hong Kong’s new national security law, which gives authorities full power to crack down on all forms of dissent, has been criticised for its potential to erode political autonomy and civil liberties.

The roots of this crisis can be traced back to the extradition law proposed in Hong Kong, which ignited massive protests among opposition students. What initially began as a debate over extradition quickly escalated into a broader movement against perceived encroachments on Hong Kong’s autonomy. The subsequent introduction of the national security law, described as draconian by critics, triggered more protests.

“And I think what people in Hong Kong are beginning to avoid is that their freedoms, their ability to have expression of interest and freedom of expression, etcetera, is essentially eroding, and it gives more power for the authorities in Hong Kong to defer back to mainland China,” says Foreign Policy Analyst Sanusha Naidu from the Institute for Global Dialogue.

Article 23 grants unprecedented powers to the authorities in Hong Kong, enabling them to crack down on dissent and suppress political opposition under the guise of national security. This law, coupled with the crackdown on pro-democracy protests in 2020, marks a significant departure from the promises made to preserve Hong Kong’s civil liberties after its return to Chinese rule in 1998.

The erosion of freedoms in Hong Kong is evident, with the new laws granting sweeping authority to the government and undermining the rule of law. Critics argue that the new laws undermine the rule of law, stifle political dissent, and threaten the region’s economic stability by undermining business confidence.

The situation in Hong Kong has raised alarm bells internationally, with many expressing solidarity with the people of Hong Kong and condemning Beijing’s actions, Naidu says.

India is gearing up for its general elections, a colossal undertaking that spans over several weeks and involves millions of voters. Naidu discusses the magnitude and duration of the electoral process.

“It [the India election] is the biggest one in the world, because this time around, it’s going to take 24 days before election results are announced on June 4th. And there’s two reasons why it takes so long. One is that it’s the sheer size of India as being the world’s most populous country, and the level of logistics that needs to be handled to ensure that every voter is registered and is able to cast their vote,” Naidu explains.

Scheduled to take place from April 19th to June 1st, the upcoming elections will see the participation of approximately 970 million Indians, constituting over 10% of the population. The sheer scale of the electorate, coupled with the geographical vastness of India, contributes to the prolonged nature of the electoral process.

Unlike many countries where elections are completed within a few days, India’s electoral system operates on a phased basis. With 28 states and eight federal territories, each casting their votes at different times, the process unfolds over multiple phases. This year’s elections will be conducted over seven phases, with the first phase commencing on April 19th and the final phase concluding on June 1st.

The logistical challenges posed by India’s diverse and expansive landscape are significant. In states like Uttar Pradesh, which boasts a population comparable to that of Brazil, organising the electoral process is a herculean task. The need to ensure that every eligible voter is registered and able to cast their ballot further complicates the process.

Moreover, the Lok Sabha, India’s lower house of parliament, is one of the largest legislatures globally, comprising hundreds of seats. The uneven distribution of population across different provinces necessitates an extended period for voting to accommodate the diverse electorate adequately.

Despite meticulous planning, the electoral process is not without its hiccups. Delays, logistical issues, and occasional controversies are par for the course in such a massive undertaking.

Meanwhile, in Malaysia, discussions continue regarding the hosting of the 2026 Commonwealth Games. Initially slated to be held in Australia, the event’s relocation to Malaysia raises questions about the country’s preparedness and the financial implications involved.

As Malaysia weighs its options, the decision-making process underscores the broader debate surrounding the legacy and value proposition of hosting mega-sporting events.

“And, you know, there’s been criticism of the short time period that they are given to prepare for the event. And I think it’s also linked back to, you know, what is the legacy of these events, these mega-events? What does it do for you as a country? Does it bring in the much-needed investment? Does it actually create the kind of trajectory and traction you want?” Sanusha says.

While the allure of hosting such events is undeniable, the long-term impact on a nation’s international standing and development trajectory remains a subject of scrutiny.

Listen to the Asia-Pacific Report on Sabaahul Muslim with Moulana Junaid Kharsany.


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