In a near-unanimous vote on Thursday, China’s legislature approved a plan to implement a national security law that aims to suppress acts and activities related to subversion, secession, terrorism and foreign interference in Hong Kong.
Over the next few months, Beijing is expected to determine the details of the law which will determine the extent to which the Communist Party can control the semi-autonomous region. The law is expected to take effect by September of this year.
If the law is enacted, it will also mark the first time Beijing has overtly bypassed the city’s legislature.
The law compromises the democratic freedoms that Hong Kong currently experiences. From possible arbitrary arrests of protesters to the punishment of dissenting political opinions, Hong Kong’s Chief Executive Officer Carrie Lam has also noted that “rights and freedoms are not absolute.”
The official decision was announced despite a stern warning from the United States, threatening to treat Hong Kong as mainland China – a threat that possibly opens the financial hub to face existing trade restrictions that the mainland also faces.
“No reasonable person can assert today that Hong Kong maintains a high degree of autonomy from China, given facts on the ground,” stated Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
In response to Pompeo’s statement, China pushed back though Chinese state broadcaster, CCTV. Commentators stated that the true intent of US politicians was to “make Hong Kong as chaotic as possible” to distract attention from Washington’s failures in handling the coronavirus pandemic and to “contain the development of China.” The commentators also responded saying that “the US has always seen Hong Kong as a stronghold from which to conduct political infiltration in Asia.”
The law, which has received vast backlash on the island as well as from the international community, impedes on civil liberties such as freedom of speech and press Hong Kong has enjoyed and under the Sino-British Joint Declaration, was promised until 2047.
Britain returned Hong Kong to China in 1997 under the promise that the region would continue to operate under the “one country, two systems” model – a framework which states Hong Kong would remain unchanged for 50 years.
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