USA says China security law a 'death knell' for Hong Kong autonomy

Darnell Taylor
May 22, 2020

"It is very important for Hong Kong to prosper stably on the basis of 'one country, two systems.' I want to emphasize this again".

But China's National People's Congress, meeting in annual session to rubber stamp major policy passed by the ruling Communist Party, announced on Thursday it planned to adopt a law to "safeguard national security" by "establishing and improving the legal system and enforcement mechanisms" for Hong Kong.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that a proposed national security law, submitted Friday to China's rubber-stamp legislature, would be a "death knell for the high degree of autonomy Beijing promised for Hong Kong".

He justified China's move by saying "the increasingly notable national security risks in Hong Kong have become a prominent problem" and protests activities have "seriously challenged the bottom line of the "one country, two systems" principle, harmed the rule of law, and threatened national sovereignty and security".

U.S. lawmakers are pressing for tough action over Hong Kong, which has become the latest front in soaring tensions between Washington and Beijing, but even some supporters of the territory's democracy movement ask if the "nuclear option" would be effective.

Article 23 of Hong Kong's mini-constitution, the Basic Law, says the city must enact a law to prohibit "treason, secession, sedition (and) subversion" against the Chinese government. But Hong Kong's democracy movement opposed these measures and took to the streets in protest.

Chris Patten, Hong Kong's final British governor before the 1997 handover, said the proposal signalled a "comprehensive assault on the city's autonomy" and would be "hugely damaging".

"This is nearly like a nuclear option, which once you use it, everyone will get hurt, and it will be very hard to build Hong Kong back up again", Kwok told the conservative Heritage Foundation by videoconference.

In his statement, Mr Pompeo said any decision to impinge on Hong Kong's autonomy and freedoms would "inevitably impact our assessment" of the territory's status.

As freedoms and human rights in the special administrative region of China retreated, Taiwan needed to play an even stronger role as the defender of democratic values in the region, Lin said.

The US is now considering whether to extend Hong Kong's preferential trading and investment privileges.

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Many said the move was a wake-up call that provided fresh impetus for the year-old anti-government movement that has largely stalled amid the COVID-19 pandemic and authorities' intensifying clampdown.

President Trump has also weighed in, saying the USA would react strongly if it went through - without giving details.

Young, violent protesters who threw petrol bombs during skirmishes with police and who were derided by officials and Chinese state media as "terrorists" could also be covered in the laws.

The notion of "terrorism" also features in this proposed law.

The millions-strong, often violent protests a year ago sparked by a controversial extradition law shocked the Chinese leadership and in recent months, Chinese officials have unequivocally ordered the city to enact legislation to bar subversion, separatism, and foreign interference to plug the national security "loopholes" that threaten the country's stability. "I find it hard to believe this will not trigger either a massive peaceful and orderly demonstration or more vocal and aggressive protests..."

"More than 20 years after Hong Kong's return, relevant laws are yet to materialize due to the sabotage and obstruction by those trying to sow trouble in Hong Kong and China at large, as well as external hostile forces", Wang said.

Beijing may also fear September's elections to Hong Kong's legislature.

President Trump has warned Beijing that Washington would react "very strongly" against an attempt to gain more control over Hong Kong.

Activist Wong told DW News that Hong Kong's promise to cooperate with Beijing comes as "no surprise", calling Hong Kong a puppet state for the communist regime.

This was enshrined in the Basic Law, which runs out in 2047.

The British and Chinese governments signed a treaty - the Sino-British Joint Declaration - that agreed Hong Kong would have "a high degree of autonomy, except in foreign and defence affairs", for 50 years.

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