- The bill is aimed at preventing "secession, subversion, terrorism," or "activities by foreign forces that interfere in Hong Kong."
- It is believed to be in response to the massive demonstrations organized by the opposition last year.
- Pro-democracy politicians have lamented the bill as the end of Hong Kong itself.
In a new step of escalation against the anti-government movement in Hong Kong, the Chinese government submitted to its National People’s Congress a law on “national security” to govern the semi-autonomous city. Last year, Hong Kong witnessed massive protests against the local government and Beijing.
Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam announced Friday that she is ready “for full cooperation” with Beijing to implement the law on national security. The bill is aimed at preventing “secession, subversion, terrorism,” or “activities by foreign forces that interfere in Hong Kong.” It is believed to be in response to the massive demonstrations organized by the opposition last year against Beijing’s hegemony and for broader autonomy.
The bill calls for strengthening “enforcement mechanisms” in the area of ”protecting national security” in the former British colony that returned to China in 1997. The law was brought up for discussion during the annual session of the National People’s Congress, which begins Friday in Beijing. Its spokesperson, Zhang Yuesui, announced it Thursday to reporters. The NPC is little more than a rubber stamp for the Communist Party of China, and this text will surely be passed. The move is likely to cause trouble in Hong Kong.
Last year’s protests led to violent confrontations between the police, extremist demonstrators, and vandalism. It also led to the emergence of a movement calling for the independence of the Special Administrative Region. Beijing regards this as a red streak, and is upset by the Hong Kong government’s inability to adopt a local anti-sabotage law.
On Thursday, Zhang reiterated that “Hong Kong is an inalienable part of the People’s Republic of China.”
“One Country, Two Systems”
“I would just like to say to the international community that this will be the end of Hong Kong,” said pro-democracy representative Dennis Kwok from Hong Kong Thursday night, accusing Beijing of “breaking its promise.” Hong Kong enjoys broad autonomy compared to the rest of the country, led by the Communist Party of China, under the principle of “One Country, Two Systems.”
Its inhabitants enjoy the freedom of expression and the press, and an independent judiciary, rights that do not exist in mainland China. Hong Kong Democrat Tanya Chan also announced that the new bill “gives me the impression that the principle of ‘One Country, One System’ is being applied in Hong Kong.” For its part, the main pro-Beijing party announced that it “fully supports” the initiative.
Article 23 of the Basic Law, used two decades ago as a constitution for Hong Kong, stipulates that the region has a law prohibiting “treason, separation, rebellion, and sabotage.” However, the clause was never applied, because much of Hong Kong’s residents see this as a threat to their freedoms.
The last attempt to implement Article 23 in 2003 failed due to the massive demonstrations in the streets of Hong Kong. The controversial bill has been put back on the table in recent years as the movements demanding the preservation of Hong Kong’s identity resurfaced strongly.
In the first foreign reaction, US State Department spokesman Morgan Ortagus announced that “any attempt to impose a law on national security that does not reflect the will of Hong Kong residents will destabilize the United States and the international community.” The Taiwan government, for its part, urged China not to push Hong Kong into “greater unrest” due to wrong decisions. Taiwan also urged the Chinese government to “start a sincere dialogue” with Hong Kong people.
The Communist Chinese government blamed Hong Kong’s external influences and “separatists” for the unrest in the city. It is noteworthy that China regards Taiwan as its province and offered it the same system as Hong Kong, but it was rejected by all major parties on the island.