Daily US Times: China’s parliament has backed Hong Kong security legislation which would make it a crime to undermine Beijing’s authority in the territory.
The resolution will now pass to China’s senior leadership. It has caused deep concern among those who say it could end Hong Kong’s unique status.
The Hong Kong security legislation could also see for the first time China installing its own security agencies in the region. China’s step has already sparked a new wave of anti-mainland protests.
On Wednesday, clashes broke out as Hong Kong’s parliament debated a different proposed law, which would make it a crime to disrespect the Chinese national anthem. Police arrested hundreds of people in protests over that and the security law.
As a tense debate in the Legislative Council continues, security remains high on Thursday.
At least two pro-democracy legislators were ejected from the council. One lawmaker, Ted Hui, threw rotten plants on to the floor of the chamber, saying it symbolised the decay of Hong Kong’s political system.
He said: “I want the speaker to feel what is meant by rotten.”
Hong Kong’s leader Carrie Lam robustly defended a controversial national security law planned by China and said other countries “have no place” interfering in the territory. The law would ban treason, secession, sedition, and subversion, what critics described that it would limit the city’s freedoms.
This is the first public comment by Ms Lam since the proposed law resurfaced.
She defended the law saying it was a “responsible” move to protect the law-abiding majority and denied the accusation that the law would curtail the rights of Hong Kongers. These rights – set out in the Basic Law which is Hong Kong’s mini-constitution – have been in place since the territory was handed back to China in 1997 by the UK. The Basic Law guarantees certain freedoms to Hong Kongers, such as the right to protest, which do not exist on the mainland.
What has the reaction been?
It is not still clear about the full details of exactly what behaviour will be outlawed under the new security law. The law is due to be enacted before September.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said developments in Hong Kong meant it could no longer be considered to have “a high degree of autonomy” from mainland China. His comments hours before the vote was taken in Beijing.
That meant that Hong Kong no longer merited being treated differently from the mainland under US law.
What is happening with the law?
This is not actually a law, but a proposal – being dubbed a ”draft decision” – that will be put to a vote at China’s rubber stamp parliament, the National People’s Congress (NPC), this week.
If that vote is passed, the proposal will be fleshed out into a draft law and by the end of June, it could be in force.
Political figures from across the world have added to the growing condemnation of Beijing’s planned new security law in Hong Kong, but in her weekly press conference, Ms Lam said other countries had “no place in interfering with this arrangement”.
She said, no country would tolerate having a flawed national security legislation, and Hong Kong, as part of China, was no different.
Signatories from Australia, North America, Asia, and Europe called the plans a “comprehensive assault on the city’s autonomy, rule of law and fundamental freedoms”.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo condemned the plans earlier this week, which he described as a “death knell” for the city’s freedoms.
Canada, Australia, and the UK have also expressed their ”deep concern”.
Why does Beijing want to bring in the law?
Hong Kong is an economic powerhouse and a semi-autonomus region. It was required to introduce such a law after the handover from British control to Chinese rule in 1997. But its unpopularity means it has never been done – the government tried in 2003 but had to back down after 500,000 people took to the streets.
Hong Kong was rocked by months of protests last year, sparked by a bill that would have allowed extraditions to mainland China.
Now the Chinese government argues the new security law in Hong Kong is necessary to “prevent, stop and punish” such protests in the future.
China may also fear September’s elections ho Hong Kong legislature. If last year’s success for pro-democracy parties in district elections is repeated, it will be a big headache for China, and government bills could potentially be blocked.