Why did Xi Jinping and the rest of the Chinese leadership decide to act now?

Vivian: The short answer is the massive anti-government protest movement in 2019 in response to a government proposal that would have allowed extraditions to mainland China.

The scale of the protests really shook Beijing. All previous protest movements had lasted a few months at the most. This time there was great support and it didn’t die on its own.

Did the process work from Beijing’s point of view? And has it caused problems for the central government?

In many ways, it absolutely worked. There are no more street protests. There is extensive self-censorship. Virtually every prominent pro-democracy activist is in exile, in prison, awaiting trial, or has disappeared from public life.

But there is a lot of simmering anger among Hong Kongers, even if they no longer dare to express it publicly.

Do people see reasons for optimism in the movement?

Since the Security Act came into force, the mood within the democracy movement has been gloomy. I expected at least some people to offer fiery defiance, reminding people that there is still hope – if only as a rally, whether they believed it or not. But everyone I speak to is pretty much agreed that there isn’t much they can do to change the situation, at least for now.

That’s it for this briefing. From Tuesday this newsletter will have a new look. We hope you enjoy it. Until next time.

– Whet and Amelia

Thank you
Carole Landry helped write this brief. Thanks to Melissa Clark for the recipe. You can reach the team at briefing@nytimes.com.

PS
• We listen to “The Daily”. Our latest episode features a police officer’s account of the Capitol Rebellion.
• Here is our mini crossword puzzle and a clue: Pinocchio’s problem (five letters). You can find all of our puzzles here.
• Our Brussels correspondent Matina Stevis-Gridneff discussed the EU hunt for coronavirus vaccines with BBC Outside Source.

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