Citizens of Hongkong glance towards exits as China foists security law on them

Summary

  • China imposed a wide-ranging security law on Hong Kong, which was brought in due to rising unrest and widening pro-democracy movements.
  • The bill has been widely criticised at both domestic and international levels, but has been formed to stop terrorism, subversion, and foreign interference in Hong Kong.
  • Hundreds of people turned out to protests, and about 300 people were arrested on suspicions of violating national security law.
  • Chinese government defended the new law stating that it targets only a small minority of people who wants to cause real harm to Hong Kong.

China’s decision to impose national security law, which was drafted and approved in a swift and secretive process, on Hong Kong has strengthened Beijing’s authoritarian rule over the territory.

In the last week of May, the Central government of China announced that it would develop laws to outlaw secession, subversion, terrorism, and foreign interference in Hong Kong.

On 28 May, China’s parliament ratified plans to levy a national security law on Hong Kong which will ruin the city’s autonomy. About 2,800 members of National People’s Congress voted in favour of the proposal to draft the legislation.

Beijing imposed new laws in Hong Kong after the Communist Party of China’s standing committee unanimously voted, on the last day of the 3-day meeting, through new national security legislation on 30 June. The new laws were needed to put an end to year-long protest on separate laws that would transfer Hong Kong residents to China for trial.

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The move resulted in hundreds of people to protest legislation but were met with tight security. More than 350 people were arrested on 1 July on suspicion of breaching the national security law.

The new security law

In addition to outlawing terrorist activities, treason, and collusion with foreign forces, nearly everything, but unconditional compliance with Beijing was considered illegal. Some of the details of the security law are as follows:

  • The legislation also forbids provoking by unlawful means hatred for the Central People’s Government or region’s Government among Hong Kong residents.
  • Further, anyone who takes part in protests or speaks out against the Communist Party could face charges.
  • A Hong Konger who advocates for democracy at the US university or meets with members of Congress carry the risk of arrest when he returns.
  • The law also permits authorities to go after journalists and human rights workers, including activities that happen outside Hong Kong.
  • Hong Kong’s Chief Executive can appoint judges in national security cases, and the justice secretary can decide on the jury.

The move invited global criticism

The new law has been slammed by various human rights groups, opposition lawmakers in Hong Kong and politicians worldwide.

After being under British control for several years, in 1997 Hong Kong was handed back to China, but under a unique agreement that Beijing would preserve the city’s judicial and legislative autonomy for 50 years. The agreement was supposed to protect certain freedoms that people in mainland China does not have. The step has also sparked domestic and international condemnation with the future of the former British colony at severe risk.

The British government has claimed to offer a path to citizenship to eligible Hong Kong residents, citing the new law as a threat to the freedom of the city. Britain extended the immigration rights of Hong Kong residents after calling China’s new security law for Hong Kong a serious violation of autonomy.

Recently, the United States also began to end preferential treatment to Hong Kong in trade and travel with the US. It has barred export licence exceptions, defence exports and some technology sharing deals with the city immediately. Australia, the UK and the US have argued the laws are a breach of the “one country, two systems” that had governed Hong Kong after it was handed over to China by Britain.

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China has fired back at the global criticism arguing that the new law is part of its internal affairs, and other countries must not interfere with it. As per China, the new law is needed to alleviate violent unrest and return Hong Kong to stability.

However, Chinese government defended the law by stating that if China wanted “1 country, 1 system”, things would have been much simpler. China could have applied Chinese criminal code, prosecution, and national security law directly to Hong Kong instead of tailor-made national security law for the city, as stated by Zhang Xiaoming, a senior official of China’s Hong Kong, and Macao Affairs Office.

Government of China called the law a perfect embodiment of “1 country, 2 systems” policy. Further, officers kept aside matters over the law’s effect on freedom of speech, judicial freedom, and political multiplicity reaffirming that the law aims at a small number of individuals (minority group) who intends to cause real harm to Hong Kong. Chinese agents and judicial authorities will get involved in Hong Kong cases only in very rare circumstances.

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