New security law will tighten Beijing’s grip on Hong Kong

Andrew Cummings
May 23, 2020

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that a proposed national security law, submitted Friday to China's rubber-stamp legislature, would be a "death knell for the high degree of autonomy Beijing promised for Hong Kong". For months, weekends in Hong Kong saw mass demonstrations and running battles with police.

The State Council's Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office, Beijing's top-level body overseeing the city, said the law would "build a firm institutional foundation for the stability and longevity of "One Country, Two Systems". A protest movement was born and for months the city was engulfed in violent street battles, in what has been described as Hong Kong's worst crisis since the 1997 handover of the former British colony to Chinese control.

The plan for the law was unveiled during the opening session of China's annual National People's Congress on Friday and follows seven months of fierce protests in Hong Kong previous year against Beijing's rule. It proposed legislation to do so in 2003, but withdrew it after hundreds of thousands of people came out to protest.

Other proposals he made were a joint reaction to China's security law by the ruling and the opposition camps at the Legislative Yuan, and the drawing up of more assistance measures for Hong Kong citizens.

But the increasingly notable national security risks in the HKSAR have become a prominent problem, the document says, citing activities that have seriously challenged the bottom line of the "one country, two systems" principle, harmed the rule of law, and threatened national sovereignty, security and development interests.

Hong Kong's embattled leader Carrie Lam said in a statement that the local government will "complete the legislation as soon as possible to discharge its responsibility".

With the economy already on the ropes because of the coronavirus, investors fled for the hills with many anxious about Beijing's increasing influence in the semi-autonomous finance hub and what that could mean for doing business there.

"Hong Kong has flourished as a bastion of liberty", Pompeo said in a statement.

"Hong Kong is an extremely important partner for our country, with close economic ties and exchange of people", Japanese Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi said Friday afternoon.

Hong Kong's South China Morning Post newspaper said a draft resolution would be brought before the National People's Congress on Friday afternoon and voted on at the end of its session on May 28. The congress' standing committee that handles most actual legislation will then consider the details of the measure, the newspaper said.

In response to the law, local politicians in Hong Kong's Legislative Council erupted in a mass brawl amid fears that Beijing could "take full control". After years of lobbying, the U.S. passed the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act.

Patterson questioned whether charities and groups such as his own and Amnesty International could be outlawed as subversive under the legislation.

Article 23 of Hong Kong's mini-constitution, the Basic Law, says the city must enact a law to prohibit "treason, secession, sedition (and) subversion" against the Chinese government.

"The bill introduced today at the opening of the National People's Congress in Beijing is 100% guaranteed to pass".

Conference members would "tell the world about how China, as a responsible major country, has taken firm action and contributed to global cooperation in the fight against the COVID-19 epidemic", Chair Wang Yang said in his report to more than 2,000 delegates in attendance.

Wang's comments were in the prepared text distributed to journalists, although he skipped over them in his delivery, apparently to save time.

Rank-and-file members wore masks in the vast auditorium inside the Great Hall of the People in the heart of Beijing.

The practice of "one country, two systems" has achieved unprecedented success in Hong Kong, according to an explanatory document delivered by Wang, state-run Xinhua news agency reported.

"The values underlying the criminal justice system in two jurisdictions are so different that any criminal law should only be enacted by HK and not by the Mainland", he says. Media access has been largely reduced and only a limited number of reporters, diplomats and observers were permitted into the meeting hall.

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