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China to Order Hong Kong to Enact Security Law, Threatening Showdown

China to Order Hong Kong to Enact Security Law, Threatening Showdown
(AP)

Thursday, 21 May 2020 06:36 AM

Chinese authorities are planning to write the country’s national security law into Hong Kong’s charter, the news site HK01 reported, in what would be a dramatic escalation of Beijing’s efforts to rein in dissent in the city.

China’s lawmakers were preparing to pass a measure in their upcoming session that would require the former British colony to enact a “new Hong Kong version” of the national law, HK01 reported Thursday, citing people it didn’t identify. Hong Kong representatives were slated to be briefed Thursday before a formal announcement in Beijing, the report said.

The newly appointed director of China’s cabinet-level Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office, Xia Baolong, is set to outline Beijing’s latest directives to numerous city officials, HKO1 reported earlier. The National People’s Congress will hold a news briefing at 9:40 p.m. Thursday, ahead of opening session on Friday.

“This is them saying, ‘I am calling the shots. I am setting the parameters. Resistance is futile,’” said Joseph Cheng, a retired political science professor and veteran pro-democracy activist. “It’s part of their approach of no concessions, no dialogue.”

Earlier, pro-Beijing figures including Chan Man-ki and Ng Chau-pei, both Hong Kong deputies to the National People’s Congress, had said they would propose such measures by bypassing the city’s Legislative Council. The laws -- including banning treason, sedition and secession -- are vigorously opposed by pro-democracy politicians and have sparked mass protests in the past.

The national security laws are required to eventually be passed by Article 23 of the Basic Law, Hong Kong’s mini-constitution. But successive governments have failed to pass them, with the latest effort in 2003 resulting in widespread street demonstrations.

An attempt to pass security laws now could reignite street protests that hammered the city’s economy last year and serve as a flash point amid broader U.S.-China tensions. The unrest dwindled only when the global pandemic put a stop to mass gatherings.

“It’s worrying, but I’m not surprised,” said Claudia Mo, an opposition lawmaker. “It really depends on how impatient Beijing has become with Hong Kong. The powers that be up north know perfectly well that such a move might just be considered savage, and there might be some heavy price to pay internationally.”

The proposal from the Hong Kong NPC delegates suggests passing the same security laws by using Article 18, which permits the national legislature to pass laws relating to defense or foreign affairs if, among other things, it believes there is “turmoil within the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region which endangers national unity or security and is beyond the control of the government” or a state of emergency.

Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam, whose extradition bill last year ignited unprecedented unrest in the city, said this week that she viewed the national security laws as an “important constitutional requirement for the government,” that was needed in light of the “violence and near terrorist acts” of the recent protests.

Scuffles broke out in Hong Kong’s Legislative Council this month as pro-democracy lawmakers sought to block Beijing-backed bills, including one criminalizing disrespect for the national anthem. Some protesters have called for demonstrators to surround the legislature to block the second reading of the bill on May 27, almost 11 months after some demonstrators broke into and ransacked the chamber.

© Copyright 2020 Bloomberg News. All rights reserved.


   
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Chinese authorities are planning to write the country's national security law into Hong Kong's charter, the news site HK01 reported, in what would be a dramatic escalation of Beijing's efforts to rein in dissent in the city.China's lawmakers were preparing to pass a measure...
china, hong kong, security, law, showdown, demonstrations
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2020-36-21
Thursday, 21 May 2020 06:36 AM
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