Some years ago, I was talking to a government minister in Singapore. In a moment of frankness, he acknowledged that his government deliberately made life difficult for its political opponents — and then added with a faint smile: “But here in Singapore we use dental tools. In China, they use a sledgehammer.”

I thought of that conversation as Beijing last week imposed a new national security law on Hong Kong. Among the territory’s business elite, there are many who hope that — once people get used to the law — Hong Kong can resume its status as one of the world’s great business cities. They argue that a year of unrest and demonstrations had left Hong Kong teetering on the brink of anarchy. Now, so the argument goes, Beijing has acted to restore order and Hong Kong can get back to business.

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