- As expected, the almost 3,000 deputies that constitute the NPC approved the measure.
- Critics of the influence of the Central Government say the move is a total blow to democracy and freedoms in the city.
- US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Wednesday in Congress that he no longer considers the territory autonomous from Beijing.
China’s National People’s Congress (NPC) adopted the controversial national security law in Hong Kong Thursday, despite protests and threats from the US, as well as other western nations and a section of world leaders. The cause of the move by China is most likely informed by the massive pro-democracy demonstrations that were witnessed in Hong Kong last year, and part of earlier this year.
As expected, the almost 3,000 deputies that constitute the NPC approved the measure that, in the recent past, reactivated the protests in Hong Kong. Only one Chinese deputy voted against and six abstained from the vote. The initiative got the backing of 2,878 deputies. The announcement of the vote result was celebrated with applause in the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, and was witnessed by the Chinese President, Xi Jinping.
In Hong Kong, critics of the influence of the Central Government say the move is a total blow to democracy and freedoms in the city, which is home to seven million people. Pro-democracy HK First legislator Claudia Mo said, “this marks the beginning of a sad and traumatizing era for Hong Kong.” She said “they’ve practically taken away our soul, our soul being the values we’ve been treasuring all these years: rule of law, human rights,”
In recent months, street mobilization has been halted due to sanitary measures to contain the COVID-19 epidemic. Last Sunday, however, thousands of protesters took to the streets to protest the bill, which had been announced just three days earlier.
“The new national security law will deal the most severe blow to the rights of people in Hong Kong since the territory’s transfer to China in 1997,” Human Rights Watch China director Sophie Richardson said in a statement. “Hong Kong people will now have to consider arrests and harsh sentences for protesting, speaking out, running for office, and other freedoms they have long enjoyed and struggled peacefully to defend.”
The New Law
The vote grants mandate to the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress to draft a bill that will be incorporated into the small Hong Kong Constitution, thus avoiding the opinion of the local Legislative Council.
According to China, the new law aims to “prevent, stop and punish any act to split the country, subvert state power, organize and carry out terrorist activities and other behaviors that seriously endanger national security.” The law would also ban “activities of foreign and external forces” interfering in Hong Kong’s affairs
On several occasions, the Chinese government has accused “foreign forces,” especially the United States, of spurring protests in Hong Kong. China also accused radical protesters of carrying out “terrorist” activities.
The NPCSC may examine the text as of June, and the bill would be adopted in late August, according to the NPC Observer website, which specializes in Chinese legislative issues. The text also provides authorization for bodies linked to the Central Government to establish offices in Hong Kong with authority in terms of national security.
Critics say the move implies an end to the “one country, two systems” principle, which has governed relations between Hong Kong and Beijing since the territory was returned by the United Kingdom to China in 1997. The future of this large global financial center worries the international community, especially the United States.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Wednesday in Congress that he no longer considers the territory autonomous from Beijing. “No reasonable person can assert today that Hong Kong maintains a high degree of autonomy from China, given facts on the ground,” he said.
After the finding, the Trump administration can now end the special status granted to the former British colony for commercial purposes. The Chinese foreign ministry in the territory has already protested the measure, which Washington has yet to announce would apply, terming it an act of “barbarism.”