On September the 11th 2001, not half an hour after the second plane smashed into the twin towers, a ministerial adviser in the UK sent an email saying, “it’s now a very good day to get out anything we want to bury”.
She saw a crisis as an opportunity.
So, it appears to be seen in Beijing.
With the world focused on a pandemic that started in China, now is the moment chosen by the Chinese leadership to introduce a security law.
Pro-democracy activists in Hong Kong fear it could be the death of their beloved territory.
Dennis Kwok is a Civic Party politician and warned that if the law comes into force “one country, two systems will officially be erased. This is the end of Hong Kong”.
During last year’s sometimes violent protests, the constant question was ‘what is Beijing going to do?’
Now we know.
China finally makes its move
During the turmoil, there was surprise among some that the authorities in China did not directly intervene, even though it had troops stationed in the territory and it appeared Chinese soldiers and equipment were being massed on the border.
Perhaps the explanation was the global reaction to the bloody crushing of the Tiananmen Square protests in 1989.
In Australia, a sobbing prime minister Bob Hawke condemned the massacre and allowed Chinese students in our country to remain here.
The Chinese Government took years to move on from being seen as a pariah state.
Ironically the very virus that has drawn the world’s attention provides a handy diversion from the country where it all started.
Not that the proposed new law is going totally unnoticed.
President Trump has threatened to react but has not said what he has in mind.
Even a few months ago the Chinese might have been more cautious and fearful of a negative reaction, especially from the US.
But with Donald Trump recently in full anti-Chinese flight, there is not so much to lose anymore.
A weakened America appears to embolden Xi Jinping
The trade wars between the US and China have been eclipsed by the US President’s condemnation of Beijing for its handling of COVID-19.
If it’s China’s fault, therefore responsibility for the world’s worst death toll can’t be his.
Trump’s China tirades appear central to his re-election strategy.
He blames America’s horrible death toll and its damaged economy on a nation that, for now, feels less inclined to worry about Washington’s opinions.
And it would have been surprising if the Chinese leadership had not developed a strategy to counter the pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong.
Add to that the muscular promotion of expansionist nationalism under Xi Jinping and the stage is again set for more trouble ahead, and not just in Hong Kong.
The Taiwanese leadership will be watching with alarm.
Imposing new laws is just the first step. The question then is enforcement.
Are we about to see a reenergised movement in Hong Kong?
The very existence of sedition legislation may act as a brake on some protesters who fear they could be jailed for years on orders from Beijing.
But it would be naive to underestimate the determination of many in Hong Kong who have previously spent months battling in the streets against what they see as Beijing’s creeping authoritarianism in the territory.
If, as expected, the laws are approved, then we will hear diplomatic protests from the US, Britain, and possibly, Australia and others.
But with the world focused on COVID-19, it probably won’t unduly worry the Chinese leadership.
The vague threat of action by Trump may have consequences, but the President’s promises are not always followed by action.
From the Chinese Government’s point of view Hong Kong is a problem to be managed. And this law, it appears, is the mechanism.
Xi Jinping will not lose sleep worrying about the erosion of democratic freedoms enshrined in the 50-year agreement signed with Britain 23 years ago
But do not expect Hong Kongers to simply take it. The streets will most likely again become battlefields.
Despite the new threats of arrest and prosecution, many who maintained the rage last year will feel even more strongly there is nothing left to lose.
It feels like a collision is inevitable. How, where and when is impossible to know.
But clearly the Chinese leadership is feeling strong enough to risk whatever lies ahead.