China’s National People’s Congress gave its approval to a controversial draft security law that will apply in Hong Kong. The New security law is intended to prevent any threat to Beijing’s authority in the city through secession, subversion, terrorism or foreign interference. It may allow mainland security forces to operate within Hong Kong, and is widely expected to curb personal liberties, such as freedom of the press, freedom of speech and freedom of assembly. The new law allows Beijing to take aim at the protests that have roiled the semiautonomous city and posed a direct challenge to the Communist Party and its leader, Xi Jinping.
The Chinese communist party is painting a picture to make it seem like it is abiding by the basic law, but it is not. They’re imposing a draconian law which can be used to silence dissent in Hong Kong and infringe on freedoms guaranteed to Hong Kongers. The new security law will be used to suppress freedom of expression and curtail the activities of human rights defenders. It will be used not only to target protesters, but to permanently undermine the city’s autonomy under the “one country two systems” framework and the city’s de facto constitution, known as the basic law. It will be enacted through a provision bypasses Hong Kong’s legislature and therefore public debate and consultation on the law.
Hours before the NPC vote, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called it a “disastrous decision” as he sent a certificate to Congress saying that Hong Kong is no longer autonomous from China and no longer warrants special treatment under U.S. law.
“No reasonable person can assert today that Hong Kong maintains a high degree of autonomy from China, given facts on the ground,” said Pompeo. “While the United States once hoped that free and prosperous Hong Kong would provide a model for authoritarian China, it is now clear that China is modeling Hong Kong after itself.”
U.S. President Donald Trump may now take follow-up action. These range from sanctions on individuals or organizations who have promoted the new law, through to revoking some of the tariff and trade privileges which Hong Kong, separately from China, has enjoyed since 1997. Alternatively, Trump may choose to wait. However, the list of grievances between the two superpowers is a growing one. It includes: a coronavirus blame game; security and territorial disputes in the South China Sea; a U.S. pushback against Chinese technology success; legal actions against controversial phone equipment supplier Huawei; the expulsion of journalists from operating in each other’s country; a threat to bar Chinese companies from U.S. stock exchanges; and a Phase One trade deal that looks destined never to be followed by a Part Two.
Hong Kong ceased to be a British colony in 1997, and returned to full Chinese sovereignty. According to the Sino-British Joint Declaration, a U.N.-registered treaty, Hong Kong is designated as a Special Administrative Region. It should retain a high degree of autonomy and maintain its lifestyle and economic system for 50 years, until 2047. This arrangement is known as “One Country, Two Systems.” The Basic Law requires the Hong Kong government to enact its own local version of a national security law. But after half a million people marched against such proposals in 2003, the authorities backed down. And no Hong Kong leader has since dared.
Perceived national security threats amid an economic downturn sparked by the coronavirus pandemic and tense relationship with the US has prompted China to prod Hong Kong, roiled by months of anti-government protests since June last year, to speed up legislation of a controversial anti-subversion law which was shelved in 2003. China has long been growing impatient with Hong Kong’s perceived “waywardness” – particularly after pro-democracy movements in 2014 and last year. In a policy white paper in June 2014, China asserted that it had “comprehensive jurisdiction” over Hong Kong and ruled that it would allow “universal suffrage” so long as it can first vet the leadership candidates. In the communique of a key Communist party meeting in November 2019, the fourth plenum, Beijing told the city to “perfect” its legal system to safeguard national security.
China is still dependent on Hong Kong for trade and business, its dependency has lessened markedly over the past three decades, with Hong Kong’s GDP sliding from about a third the size of China’s in the 1980s to less than 3% in 2019. The Chinese leaders' mentality probably is that the loss of 3% of GDP would be painful but not intolerable. But it is not the case. The Asian financial hub’s value should however not be understated as it remains a gateway for western capital to reach mainland markets - it is the home to the largest number of initial public offerings by Chinese firms and the largest offshore centre for bond sales by Chinese companies. If the anti-subversion law goes ahead, hundreds of thousands are expected to be up in arms again, reigniting the anti-government movement which has largely paused amid the coronavirus pandemic. Driving the opposition into the political wilderness serves Beijing’s short-term interest, but it will embolden the opposition in civil society and attract more, not less, international attention.
People all around the world as well as Hong Kongers are under the threats from the Chinese Communist Party!