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China threatens retaliation against America after branding Trump's move to end Hong Kong's special status with the US a 'gross interference' in its domestic affairs

Not so long ago the US ended Hong Kong's special status after China passed a controversial security law. They were promptly criticized by China as interfering in its internal affairs. This didn't make sense to me because it seems like about all the US can do:

  1. If the US doesn't approve (and presumably even China has to agree that there'll be times when others don't approve of their actions), then they are going to say they don't approve. But since words are cheap, they are probably also going to do something.
  2. If the US does something, then the obvious thing to do is to change how they treat China (or Hong Kong). That's exactly what happened. They are changing only how they treat China/Hong Kong, so it doesn't seem like interference. In fact that's what society does, e.g. if I publicly declare a very unpopular position, others might refuse to interact with me.

However, China has still called this "gross interference". This sounds especially inappropriate since I can certainly think of even grosser interference, e.g. military intervention. On the other hand if this is gross interference, I can't think of milder ways to express disapproval that wouldn't be interference.

Has China ever explained how one can disapprove without also interfering? Alternatively, has China ever explained what exactly it considers interference, and what (presumably more serious actions) it considers gross interference?

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  • "Has China ever explained how one can disapprove without also interfering?" Why should China do that? – Roland Jul 20 '20 at 11:05
  • @Roland presumably when one sets clear boundaries, people know what not to do. – Allure Jul 20 '20 at 11:34
  • The Chinese government has no intention of helping others express disapproval of their actions. One could argue that this to some extend is true for all countries but it's particularly true for the Chinese government. Also, they are setting clear boundaries: They have repeatedly indicated that "people" shouldn't even comment on these issues. – Roland Jul 20 '20 at 11:51
  • @Roland They have repeatedly indicated that "people" shouldn't even comment on these issues. Really? You have a source for this? If so, that would be an answer. – Allure Jul 20 '20 at 12:02
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No they haven't and they wouldn't. China has totalitarian system of governance. In practice, that means that, in matters of national security, the only entity allowed to comment on government decisions is the C.C.P.

If it's not such a sensitive topic, they may be interested in your opinion. If not, and you are a local, then your comments may simply be deleted or you may be "invited for tea" with a not-so-friendly local policeman, or worse.

If you are a foreigner living overseas, they can only express their dissatisfaction verbally. Phrases like "gross interference" are stock responses, and often extremely predictable. The tone, and style is often slightly exaggerated to Western ears, and are not intended to be taken entirely literally. They will often use phrases they have used before specifically to signal historical parallels, or to communicate information to their own citizens rather than their interlocutor. Chinese language relies heavily on implicit suggestion, particularly in diplomatic contexts.

Your question touches on a much broader point: in China, you never really know what is allowed or not. This is entirely deliberate. If you don't know where the red lines are - you will take even greater efforts to self-censor. In the West, our laws broadly delineate what we are not allowed to do, and everything else is permissible. This is not the case in China. Despite the fact that there are written laws, In sensitive topics, one is expected to use one's own good judgement, or risk harsh repercussions.

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