China’s rubber-stamp legislature, the National People Congress (NPC), has passed a draft resolution on a so-called “national security” law for Hong Kong, amid international criticism about how the Communist Party’s proposal would destroy the former British colony’s autonomy and its people’s basic freedoms.
The draft resolution was approved with a vote of 2,878 in favor, one against, and 6 abstentions. The approval now paves the way for NPC’s standing committee to draft details of the legislation before it is added to Annex III of Hong Kong’s mini-constitution, the Basic Law.
By adding it to Annex III, Hong Kong’s legislature will not have a chance to scrutinize the legislation. Instead, Hong Kong’s chief executive can issue a legal notice in the Government Gazette, paving the way for the law to be applied verbatim.
The law would ban acts and activities in connection to secession, subversion, and terrorism, as well as activities related to foreign interference. Moreover, Beijing’s security agencies would be allowed to set up operations in Hong Kong.
About an hour and a half after the vote, Hong Kong’s pro-democracy camp held a press conference expressing worries about the city’s future.
“The beginning of a sad and traumatizing era for Hong Kong. They [Beijing] effectively take away our soul. Our soul being the values that we treasure all these years, rule of law, human rights, they are taking away,” said lawmaker Claudia Mo during the press conference.
Mo added: "From now on, Hong Kong is nothing but just another mainland Chinese city.”
Another lawmaker Dennis Kwok said: "Make no mistake about it. This is the end of one country, two systems. The end of Hong Kong as we know it.” He was referring to the framework by which Beijing promised to rule Hong Kong upon its return to Chinese sovereignty in 1997.
Kwok added: "The air has gone out of Hong Kong today and it is suffocating. And I ask all of you to pay attention to what's happening in Hong Kong."
Lam added that her government will also push for Article 23 “as soon as possible,” an anti-subversion bill that was first proposed in 2003, but quickly scrapped that year due to mass protests amid concerns that it could threaten Hongkongers’ civil liberties.
On May 26, the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ), a Geneva-based human rights NGO, also issued a statement voicing grave concern about the Chinese law, calling for it to be withdrawn.
IBAHRI Director, Baroness Helena Kennedy QC, joined a cross-party international coalition of parliamentarians and policymakers from 27 countries in signing a statement decrying Beijing’s ‘unilateral introduction of national security legislation in Hong Kong.' #HongKong #RuleOfLaw https://t.co/5IDEVsotQw— IBAHRI (@IBAHRI) May 26, 2020
PompeoChina’s passing of the national security law came one day after U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo certified that Hong Kong is no longer autonomous from China while reporting to Congress. He added that the national security law was a “disastrous decision” by Beijing.
The U.S. secretary of state is required to certify every year whether Hong Kong is sufficiently autonomous from China, under the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act of 2019. Being autonomous is a prerequisite for Hong Kong to enjoy special economic and trading privileges as a separate entity from mainland China, under the 1992 U.S.-Hong Kong Policy Act.
China is a pariah state. The CCP will not be allowed to profit from Hong Kong even as it destroys that great city’s freedoms. https://t.co/9MWYnoU65b— Tom Cotton (@SenTomCotton) May 27, 2020
Three members of the local pro-democracy party Demosistō—Agnes Chow, Nathan Law, and secretary-general Joshua Wong—held a press conference on Thursday morning, in response to Pompeo’s statement.
Wong, citing unnamed sources, said that the U.S. government was contemplating suspending Hong Kong’s preferential tariff rates.
Chow said that even though any potential U.S. sanctions could have an impact on the local economy, it was a “tragic but necessary step.”
Chinese companies have branded themselves as “Hong Kong companies” since the start of the Sino-U.S. trade war, Demosistō claimed. “We believe the U.S. termination of Hong Kong’s special status is aimed at eradicating such behavior,” it stated.