HK society voices support for national security legislation for HKSAR

Darnell Taylor
May 23, 2020

It tried to do this subtly at first, pushing Hong Kong's pro-Beijing leader, Carrie Lam, to endorse measures that would extend Chinese control over the rambunctious city.

Hong Kong is what is known as a "special administrative region" of China. Now the story resumes as China holds a pandemic-delayed meeting of its National People's Congress in Beijing.

Beijing may also fear September's elections to Hong Kong's legislature. NPR's Emily Feng is following all this from Beijing.

INSKEEP: What's in this legislative proposal? These are really general terms that could be applied widely to everyone from protesters to politicians, even universities and media outlets.

Several pro-democracy lawmakers were dragged out of Hong Kong's legislative chamber yesterday after protesting against the proposed law.

"I deeply believe that the national law to be enacted by the Standing Committee of the NPC will seek to practically and effectively prevent and curb acts and activities that seriously undermine national security, as well as sanction those who undermine national security by advocating "Hong Kong independence" and resorting to violence", Lam said.

Eswar Prasad, a trade professor at Cornell University and a former head of the International Monetary Fund's China department, said Hong Kong is a "hot-button" economic and political issue for China, much like US sanctions on Chinese telecoms giant Huawei Technologies Co Ltd.

On Friday, campaigners urged mass protests over the weekend against the law, which they see as an erosion of Hong Kong's autonomy.

INSKEEP: OK. So does this mean that Hong Kong essentially doesn't have the partial autonomy that it has had since becoming part of China again in the 1990s?

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A number of pro-democracy figures in Hong Kong, including Democratic Party leader Wu Chi-wai, said the announcement was the death of "one country, two systems". This increases the possibility of Chinese security forces on the streets of Hong Kong. Some have described the proposed anti-sedition law as a "mark of desperation" after nearly a year of not being able to halt the protests.

The United States also maintains export control offices and academic exchanges in Hong Kong separate from mainland China. Demonstrators marched on the city's legislature and scuffles broke out between pro-democracy and pro-Beijing lawmakers.

The surprise move by the Communist Party also risks exacerbating tensions with the USA, and destabilizing global markets still reeling from economic fallout of the coronavirus pandemic.

White House economic adviser Kevin Hassett said China risked a major flight of capital from Hong Kong that would end the territory's status as the financial hub of Asia.

What makes the situation so incendiary is that Beijing can simply bypass Hong Kong's elected legislators and impose the changes, a BBC report said.

Senator Marco Rubio, a prominent Trump ally, said that Hong Kong showed that China will "lie to get any deal".

China is seeking to pass a law that would ban "treason, secession, sedition and subversion" in Hong Kong. This is against the Basic Law, no doubt about it. "It also provides that rights and freedoms, including those of the person, of the press, of assembly, of association and others, will be ensured by law in Hong Kong and that the provisions of the two United Nations covenants on human rights shall remain in force". Any challenge that Hong Kong can mount to it is going to be overturned by Beijing.

In a show of support for demonstrators, the US Congress a year ago overwhelmingly approved a law that would end Hong Kong's preferential trade access to the world's largest economy if it is no longer certified as enjoying autonomy - which Beijing promised before regaining control of the then British colony in 1997. Thank you very much.

INSKEEP: Dramatic news with the rights of millions of people at stake - and we have an update today from NPR's Emily Feng.

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