BFF-37 China parliament eyes Hong Kong national security law after unrest

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CHINA-HONGKONG-POLITICS

China parliament eyes Hong Kong national security law after unrest

BEIJING, May 21, 2020 (BSS/AFP) – China’s parliament said Thursday
it will introduce a proposal for a national security law in Hong Kong
at its annual session, in a move likely to stoke unrest in the
financial hub.

Beijing has made clear it wants new security legislation passed
after the semi-autonomous city was rocked by seven months of massive
and sometimes violent pro-democracy protests last year.

The proposal will be introduced on Friday, the first day of the
National People’s Congress, and would strengthen “enforcement
mechanisms” in the financial hub, the parliament’s spokesman Zhang
Yesui said.

China’s parliament considers it “necessary to improve and uphold
the ‘One Country, Two Systems’ policy,” Zhang said, referring to the
arrangement that has underpinned the city’s liberties and free market
economy.

Article 23 of Hong Kong’s mini-constitution, the Basic Law, says
the city must enact national security laws to prohibit “treason,
secession, sedition (and) subversion” against the Chinese government.

But the clause has never been implemented due to deeply held public
fears it would curtail Hong Kong’s widely cherished civil rights.

The city enjoys freedoms unseen on the Chinese mainland which are
protected by an agreement made before former Britain handed the
territory back to Beijing in 1997.

An attempt to enact Article 23 in 2003 was shelved after half a
million people took to the streets in protest.

The controversial bill has been put back on the table in recent
years in response to the rise of the city’s pro-democracy movement.

Zhang did not provide more details about the proposed law.

But if it is introduced to the NPC it is likely to be approved, as
the body rubber-stamps decisions already made by Communist Party
policymakers.

– ‘End of Hong Kong’ –

Hong Kong’s largest pro-Beijing political party DAB was quick to
voice its support for the proposal, describing it as a “responsible
move”.

But pro-democracy lawmakers in Hong Kong were furious.

“This is the end of Hong Kong, this is the end of One Country, Two
Systems, make no mistake about it,” Civic Party lawmaker Dennis Kwok
told reporters.

Pro-democracy lawmaker Tanya Chan said Beijing had “shown zero
respect for Hong Kong people” by attempting to enact the law without
consultation.

“Many Hong Kongers must be as angry as us now, but we must remember
not to give up,” she added.

Chris Patten, Hong Kong’s final British governor before the 1997
handover, said the proposal signalled a “comprehensive assault on the
city’s autonomy”.

“This will be hugely damaging to Hong Kong’s international
reputation and to the prosperity of a great city,” Patten said.

Hong Kong has its own lawmaking body, but at least two Hong Kong
deputies to the NPC have openly said they would propose the idea of
introducing the national security law without going through city’s
legislature.

Article 18 of Hong Kong’s basic law allows the NPC to add
legislation to an annex of the mini-constitution after consultations
with a Basic Law committee and the Beijing-backed Hong Kong
government.

The legislation can then be applied to Hong Kong without being
scrutinised by the city’s lawmakers.

The NPC’s move comes after Beijing appointed a hardline senior
official, known for a crackdown on Christians in mainland China, as
its main policymaker for Hong Kong.

Xia Baolong, previously secretary-general at the national committee
of China’s top political advisory body, was promoted to director of
the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office of the State Council in
February.

BSS/AFP/MRU/2240hrs