Although the finer details of the bill are still being crafted, the piece of legislation intends to punish acts and activities related to subversion, secession, terrorism and foreign interference.
The release of the webinar falls on the 30th anniversary of Hong Kong’s Basic Law – the island’s constitution – and the one year anniversary of the mass protests sparked by the now-tabled extradition bill.
The release also marked the most detailed explanation to date, of Beijing’s intentions and objectives with the contentious law from high-ranking government officials.
In response to the widespread fears that the law would encroach the city’s freedoms, the officials stressed that the law is instead intended to strengthen the “one country, two systems” principle and designed to act as an “antivirus software” to protect the community from “destructive forces,” such as those behind violent protests, extreme separatist movements and collusion with foreign powers.
Deputy director of the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office Zhang Xiaoming explained the need for the law, stating that separatist acts had become increasingly prevalent in the city since 2012 and that forces behind acts of opposition were turning Hong Kong into an independent political entity.
Zhang also warned viewers that the idea of Hong Kong independence has warped into a “political virus” and radicals had gone “too far.” He stated that the stronger the commitment to national security, the more room there would be for the “one country, two systems” principle to flourish.
Expressing the need to protect Hong Kong from the encroachment of foreign powers behind separatist movements, Zhang cautioned viewers of anti-communist and anti-China forces … trying to seize power in Hong Kong,” referring to claims that Hong Kong could be a “Trojan horse” for changes in China.
While Zhang does not explicitly name any country, he did raise United States Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s tweet that a “free and prosperous Hong Kong would provide a model for authoritarian China,” calling it an “utter delusion.”
Under the proposed law, the Hong Kong government would be required to allow mainland Chinese security agencies to operate in the city “when needed.” Zhang reassures people that the agencies would “act according to modern principles of the rule of law” and fully respect Hong Kong’s independent judicial power. He also mentions that “very few” people who expressly commit crimes will be targeted.
“For the majority of citizens, the legislation will give them more protection,” he said. “They can be free from the fear of violence. They can ride the trains and go shopping freely. They can speak the truth on the street without fear of being attacked.”
While many pro-Beijing politicians welcome and applauded Zhang’s explanations, many others were left unsatisfied by his address.
Speaking to SCMP, Civic Party leader Alvin Yeung Ngokkiu expressed disappointment that Beijing continued to misjudge the root cause of political turmoil in Hong Kong.
“Beijing only sees resistance as acts of secession instead of reflecting on what went wrong in the local governance,” he said.
Other opposition lawmakers echoed Yeung’s views saying that Beijing was wrong to accuse “radical” and “brainwashed” protesters when it was the government’s poor leadership that was to blame for the city’s sweeping unrest.
Furthermore, many Hong Kongers remain fearful that authorities could still make arrests and send suspects to the mainland to face prosecution.
Their distrust stems from incidents that point to the mainland’s seeming disregard for human rights and transparency within their own physical borders. Frequently cited incidents in Hong Kong include the infamous 2015 abduction of five Hong Kong booksellers and China’s suppression of the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre where a believed few hundred to several thousand people, including students, died.
While Hong Kong remains divided in political ideologies, Zhang argues that Beijing’s move would be a turning point for Hong Kong to end the chaos and restore stability in the city.
Only after that can discussion about “one country, two systems” commence, he added.
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