China plans national security laws for Hong Kong

China plans new laws to take control of Hong Kong by making it illegal to incite protests following anti-government demonstrations

  • China will discuss national security laws for Hong Kong at the national congress
  • The bill will ban secession, foreign interference and treason, sources revealed
  • The proposal is believed to be a response to the city’s pro-democracy protests
  • Beijing’s spokesperson said such legislation ‘is absolutely necessary’ for the city
  • Fears of China taking control of the semi-autonomous financial hub are rising

China has proposed new national security laws for Hong Kong to ban the city’s residents from initiating and participating in protests in a move that’s widely believed to be a response to the anti-government mass demonstrations last year.

The bill would block secession, foreign interference, terrorism and all seditious activities aimed at toppling the central government and any external interference in the former British colony, said the South China Morning Post newspaper, citing unnamed sources.

Fears have risen that China is eyeing to take control of the city as the potential legislation could be a turning point for its freest and most international city, potentially triggering a revision of its special status in Washington and likely to spark more unrest. 

But a spokesperson of the Chinese parliament said ‘it is absolutely necessary’ to set up such a legal mechanism in Hong Kong to ‘maintain national security’. The spokesperson cited the Chinese Constitution as the base for the bill. 

China is set to launch new national security laws for Hong Kong to take full control of the city by banning residents from initiating protests in a response to the anti-government mass demonstrations last year. Chinese President Xi Jinping is pictured today during the opening session of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) in Beijing

Sources said the laws would ban secession, foreign interference, terrorism and all seditious activities aimed at toppling the central government and any external interference in the former British colony. FILE: Police hold down a protester in Hong Kong on June 12, 2019

Online posts have already emerged urging people to gather to protest on Thursday night and dozens were seen shouting pro-democracy slogans in a shopping mall as riot police stood nearby. FILE: Pro-democracy protesters march on a street during a protest in Hong Kong

Online posts have already emerged urging people to gather to protest on Thursday night and dozens were seen shouting pro-democracy slogans in a shopping mall as riot police stood nearby.

Hong Kong people took to the streets last year, sometimes in their millions, to protest a now-withdrawn bill that would have allowed extraditions of criminal suspects to mainland China. 

The movement broadened to include demands for broader democracy amid perceptions that Beijing was tightening its grip over the city.

‘If Beijing passes the law … how [far] will civil society resist repressive laws? How much impact will it unleash onto Hong Kong as an international financial centre?’ said Ming Sing, political scientist at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology. 

The news comes nearly a week after the first Hong Kong pro-democracy protester to plead guilty to the charge of rioting during last year’s unrest was sentenced to four years in prison.

Sin Ka-ho, a 21-year-old lifeguard, was among thousands who surrounded the Legislative Council on June 12 during a pro-democracy rally. 

Online posts have emerged urging people to gather to protest on Thursday night and dozens were seen shouting pro-democracy slogans. Pictured, protesters shelter under umbrellas during a downpour as they occupy roads near the government of Hong Kong on June 12

Protesters wearing masks are pictured reacting after police fired tear gas during anti-government demonstrations outside the Legislative Council Complex in Hong Kong on June 12

Zhang Yesui, a spokesperson for China’s National People’s Congress, told reporters today that ‘it is absolutely necessary to maintain and improve the ‘one country, two systems’ rule by implementing security laws in Hong Kong.

He said at a press conference on Thursday: ‘The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region is an inseparable part of the People’s Republic of China. The National People’s Congress is the organ representing the highest national power. 

‘It is absolutely necessary for the National People’s Congress to conduct the authority bestowed upon it by the Constitution, based on new situations and needs, to establish and enhance the laws and execution mechanism for the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region to maintain national security; and to adhere to and refine the “one country, two systems” principle.’

The bill will be reviewed at the third session of 13th National People’s Congress, which will begin in Beijing on Friday, according to Chinese state news agency Xinhua. 

The technical details of the proposals remain unclear. The Hong Kong dollar weakened on the news. 

The proposed legislation could be a turning point for its freest and most international city, potentially triggering more unrest in the city. Pictured, a group of riot police officers clear the crowds of activists inside the New Town Plaza shopping mall in Hong Kong on May 1

The technical details of the proposals remain unclear but an announcement will be made in Beijing later on Thursday, one senior Hong Kong government source said. FILE: Pro-democracy protesters are seen marching on a street during a protest in Hong Kong on December 8, 2019

The movement broadened to include demands for broader democracy amid perceptions that Beijing was tightening its grip over the city. Pictured, pro-democracy lawmaker Ted Hui (C) is carried out by security guards at the Legislative Council in Hong Kong on May 18

Critics warn that Beijing’s bill could be a signal that it intends to take ‘full control’ of the semi-autonomous financial hub.

Johnny Patterson, Director of UK-based human rights group Hong Kong Watch, told MailOnline: ‘This is a devastating blow to the rights and freedoms of Hong Kongers. 

‘The imposition of draconian and highly controversial national security legislation directly from Beijing is an unprecedented attack on the city’s autonomy and way of life. 

‘It seems to be a sign that China are saying times up for the protest movement, and are intent on taking full control of the city.’ 

China’s parliament, the National People’s Congress, is due to begin its annual session on Friday, after being delayed for months by the coronavirus.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on May 6 he was delaying the report assessing whether Hong Kong was sufficiently autonomous to warrant Washington’s special economic treatment that has helped it remain a world financial centre.

The delay was to account for any actions at the National People’s Congress, he said.

Tension between the two superpowers has heightened in recent weeks, as they exchanged accusations on the handling of the coronavirus pandemic, souring an already worsening relationship over trade.

The alleged legislation, which could be introduced as a motion to China’s parliament, would possibly be a turning point for its freest and most international city. Pictured, delegates attend the 13th National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference today

FILE: A man holds a poster in Hong Kong, as people gather to sing ‘Glory to Hong Kong’, a protest song which gained popularity in the city as an unofficial anthem on September 11, 2019

A previous attempt by Hong Kong to introduce national security legislation, known as Article 23, in 2003 was met with mass peaceful protests and shelved.

Hong Kong has a constitutional obligation to enact Article 23 ‘on its own’, but similar laws can be introduced by Beijing separately into an annex of the Basic Law, the city’s mini-constitution.

That legal mechanism could bypass the city’s legislature as the laws could be imposed by promulgation by Hong Kong’s pro-Beijing government.

‘Some people are destroying Hong Kong´s peace and stability. Beijing saw all that has happened,’ pro-establishment lawmaker Christopher Cheung, who is not part of discussions in Beijing, told Reuters.

‘Legislation is necessary and the sooner the better.’

National security legislation has been strongly opposed by pro-democracy protesters who argue it could erode the city’s freedoms and high degree of autonomy, guaranteed under the ‘one country, two systems’ formula put in place when it returned to Chinese rule.

A senior Western diplomat, who declined to be identified, said the imposition of such laws from China, without any local legislative process, would hurt international perceptions about the city and its economy.

Protesters denounce what they see as the creeping meddling in Hong Kong by China’s Communist Party rulers. Beijing denies the charge and blames the West, especially the United States and Britain, for stirring up trouble.

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