By raiding Stand News, one of the few remaining independent media outlets in Hong Kong, China's Communist regime struck another blow against the city's freedom.

The operation on Wednesday saw seven staff members arrested and the media outlet suspended. This action was very likely taken at the direction of Zheng Yanxiong, a Communist Party apparatchik and hard-liner who leads China's Hong Kong Office for Safeguarding National Security.

A Stand News editor livestreamed Hong Kong police officers as they came to arrest him. An officer explained that the editor was being targeted for "conspiracy to publish seditious publications." Upset with being filmed, the officer complained that "your phone is obstructing our work."

Inspired by China's catch-all repression law against "picking quarrels and provoking trouble," John Lee, Hong Kong's No. 2 official, described the arrested journalists as "bad apples" and "people who damage press freedom." Lee continued, "Professional media workers should recognize this, say 'no' to these people and stand far from them."

Welcome to what China calls "democracy."

The raids came shortly after staged elections in which only preapproved candidates were allowed to run for office. Those "elections" followed two other repressive developments in Hong Kong. First, China removed pro-democracy and Tiananmen Square massacre memorials (for structural safety reasons, the authorities claim), and second, Beijing published a white paper asserting that its repression actually represents the delivery of democracy to Hong Kong.

As with its human rights counterpart, this white paper reflects the Communist Party's deep discomfort with U.S. efforts to contrast Beijing's authoritarianism with the democratic rule of law. Regime propagandists declared that the white paper will help deliver democracy of a form that replaces the British laws that formerly governed Hong Kong (note that Britain allowed free elections, history, protests, and free speech). Recognizing that the democratic facts are not on its side, however, Beijing's defense of the white paper rests on ludicrous hyperbole. Pro-regime academic Wang Zhenmin declared, "Whoever genuinely loves and cares about Hong Kong can sense the words full of emotions and selfless love between the lines after reading the white paper."

Yes, that's a real quote.

Of course, seeing as Communist China has about as much respect for actual democracy as it does for Uyghur human rights, the white paper isn't very serious. The Communist Party exists not to serve China or its people but rather itself and the mirage of its beneficent interest. That's why Stand News and other Hong Kong publications such as the Apple Daily newspaper have been so aggressively targeted. Not because they are plotting seditious terrorism, but because they dare to say things that do not align with Big Brother Xi Jinping's vision. Though often overused, the Orwellian reference is absolutely due in Hong Kong's case.

As with its shredding of history and reeducation campaigns targeting toddlers, Beijing's war on free speech is ultimately designed to reshape not what people say but how people think. As Syme explains to Winston in 1984, "Don't you see that the whole aim of Newspeak is to narrow the range of thought? In the end we shall make thoughtcrime literally impossible, because there will be no words in which to express it."

Deeply insecure about his and the party's durability as the sole and absolute master of the Chinese people, Xi is determined to crush independent thinking. This applies whether pertaining to children playing video games, celebrities being celebrities, or entrepreneurs being too successful. As with its repression of tennis star Peng Shuai, the Communist Party cannot tolerate anything that undermines its credibility. Even, that is, if its supposedly remedial actions make matters much worse.

Earlier this week, China's Global Times propaganda outlet declared that the "Let's go Brandon!" chant shows that the United States is "heading toward an inevitable decline." It claimed that "In a society that is so divided, almost no problem can be resolved, nor can anything be changed."

"Let's go Brandon!" is idiotic. As with most things liberals said about former President Donald Trump, the chant does nothing to promote national unity. But China's diagnosis of its political import is fundamentally misplaced. History looks far kinder on governments that allow their citizens to speak ill of their leaders than those that disappear innocent people for calling leaders "clowns."

In turn, what's happening in Hong Kong is a window both to China's deep political insecurity and its unpleasant ambitions for the world. Governments such as those of France and Germany, and U.S. corporations such as Intel and Mars, should pick a side.