In a 2017 visit to Hong Kong, Chinese president Xi Jinping issued a warning about the "one country, two systems" model.
This was developed in the wake of the 1997 handover of Hong Kong to China and is supposed to guarantee more political and media freedom in the former British colony.
"Any attempt to endanger China's sovereignty and security, challenge the power of the central government...or use Hong Kong to carry out infiltration and sabotage activities against the mainland is an act that crosses the red line, and is absolutely impermissible," Xi said, according to the South China Morning Post. "Hong Kong needs to improve its systems to uphold national sovereignty, security, and development interests."
Two years later, the streets of Hong Kong have been filled with hundreds of thousands of outraged protesters—perhaps even a million—in a furious reaction to a proposed extradition bill.
Police have used tear gas to suppress the demonstrations.
The proposed law would allow "fugitives" in Hong Kong, Macau, and Taiwan to be sent to China to face criminal charges.
One of those who've criticized the legislation is Lam Wing-kee.
He was one of five Hong Kong bookstore owners arrested in 2015 in Hong Kong and taken to China, only to be released the following year.
This week, Lam fled Hong Kong for Taiwan, fearing he will be among those arrested and sent to trial in China should the extradition bill be approved by Hong Kong legislators.
Lam claims that the extradition bill would make kidnapping of Hong Kong residents "legal".
Canadians are well aware of China's inclination for kidnapping.
Canadian businessman Michael Spavor and Canadian diplomat-on-leave Michael Kovrig have both been formally arrested for allegedly stealing state secrets in China.
It appears to many Canadians that they have simply been taken as hostages to put pressure on Canada to release Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou, who's facing extradition to the United States.
Business people fear extradition law
In fact, the Xi-led government's propensity for kidnapping caused B.C. to delay the China leg of a forestry trade mission in December.
CNN analyst James Griffiths has argued the recent Hong Kong demonstrations grew so large because this extradition bill poses a huge threat to the city's business community.
"Under the new bill, business people fear they could be grabbed from Hong Kong by Chinese authorities for political reasons or inadvertent business offenses, undermining the city's semi-autonomous legal system," Griffiths wrote.
Again, Canadians are familiar with this issue.
The owners of the Lulu Island Winery in the Vancouver suburb of Richmond, John Chang and Allison Lu, were grabbed and jailed in 2016 after the winery allegedly failed to pay customs duties.
The punishment vastly exceeded the alleged crime.
"The excessive power of China Customs to unilaterally jail the owners of a reputable Canadian business on a mere allegation of non-compliance with customs valuation rules and to detain them in jail for more than 1-year without hearing or any meaningful recourse to justice is a gross violation of personal liberty and security," the law firm Fasken Martineau wrote in a 2017 legal brief to the Canadian government.
The law firm claimed that China was violating international law, but the winery owners still haven't been allowed to return home to Canada.
Other Canadians have also been detained in China for questionable reasons.
So it's easy to understand the anxiety of Hong Kong residents, including the approximately 300,000 Canadians living in the city.
At the root of the problem is Xi's desire to be seen as a great man of history who will restore China's territorial boundaries to what they were before the first Opium War in the 19th century. That led to Hong Kong becoming a British colony.
Xi's predecessor, Hu Jintao, took steps along the road to unification by absorbing Tibet more strongly into China. Hu did this first as a governor of this autonomous region and later as China's president.
This Sinicization of Tibet has led to protests that have been brutally suppressed. Tibetans maintain that they are not part of China in a historical sense.
To put it bluntly, Xi is on a massive ego trip to advance this questionable unification initiative, cheered on by his supplicants in Beijing and the Chinese media.
And it has the potential to jeopardize the freedom of Hong Kong residents and even trigger a war should Xi make similar moves against Taiwan.
In the 1840s, China's humiliating treaties with various western countries led to western citizens being free of prosecution under Chinese law in certain areas of the country, notably Shanghai. That was an appalling example of imperialism and one that should rightly anger Chinese citizens.
But that doesn't justify what's happening now.
This western imperialism of a bygone era is being exploited by Xi in the 21st century to rationalize imposing Chinese-style tyranny on freedom-loving Hong Kong residents.
They were promised one country, two systems until 2047, but that pledge is being undermined by the narcissist-in-charge in Beijing.
Taiwan was a colony, not a province
Taiwan is a different story. It has been colonized by many countries, not just China but also by the Netherlands, Spain, and Japan.
Xi wants to bring Taiwan back under China's authority, as was the case in the 1840s. But his claims that Taiwan is a long-lost province of China are extremely hollow.
In a statement earlier this year, Taiwanese Indigenous groups pointed out that the East Island nation is "sacred land where generations of our ancestors lived and protected with their lives".
"It doesn't belong to China," they declared. "We the Indigenous peoples of Taiwan have witnessed the deeds and words of those who came to this island, including the Spanish, the Dutch, the Koxinga Kingdom, the Qing Empire, the Japanese, and the Republic of China.
"We signed treaties with the Dutch and peace agreements with the Americans," they continued. "We have fought against imperialism and every foreign intruder of our land. We have suffered military suppression from colonial and authoritarian regimes."
American and French attacks in the 19th century were repelled by Taiwan's Indigenous residents.
"Once called 'barbarians', we are now recognized as the original owners of Taiwan," the groups said this year.
As Taiwanese historian Su Beng has documented in Taiwan's 400 Year History, China's Qing dynasty viewed Taiwan as "a wilderness land and, from the beginning, never a part of the Chinese domain".
In fact, the Qing dynasty impased severe restrictions on Taiwan residents moving to China until 1875, further proof that the island was a colony of China and not a "province".
Yet today, President Xi maintains the fiction that Taiwan—with an independently elected president, free media, national flag, and national health-care system—somehow belongs to his country.
It's time that the western media called out the Chinese government on this nonsense.
The "One China" extremists in Beijing and their friends in various countries need to open their minds and hearts to the reality of the situation.
Kidnapping of honest hard-working people can never be justified, not in Hong Kong or anywhere else in the world.