Beijing Advances Plan to Secure Sweeping Powers in Hong Kong, Deepening Fears

Beijing Advances Plan to Secure Sweeping Powers in Hong Kong, Deepening Fears
A police officer (L) detains a man (C) as protesters gathered in the Mong Kok district of Hong Kong on June 12, 2020. (Isaac Lawrence/AFP via Getty Images)
Eva Fu

Beijing will establish a security agency in Hong Kong, allowing it to heighten its control over the territory, according to a blueprint of a new national security law unveiled on June 20.

China’s communist regime will set up a dedicated central government bureau in the former British colony responsible for analyzing so-called security risks in the region, supervising the Hong Kong government to “fulfill its duties of protecting national security,” and collecting relevant intelligence, Chinese state media Xinhua said on Saturday.

Hong Kong will also establish a national security council headed by the chief executive Carrie Lam under Beijing’s guidance, with a Beijing-assigned advisor sitting on the board.

The law will also empower Lam—who reiterated “unwavering” support to the law soon after the draft’s release—to appoint judges to hear cases relating to China’s national security. It would override local laws in any areas of conflict. New investigation and police units will also be set up to enforce the law.

The law, which was approved last month by the National People’s Congress (NPC), the regime’s rubber-stamp parliament, marks the deepest encroachment on the promise of autonomy granted to Hong Kong by the communist regime when the territory was returned to Chinese rule in 1997. Critics fear the law would allow Beijing to target dissenters of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) under the cloak of so-called national security.

The new details of the planned law, released following an initial review by the Standing Committee of the NPC, triggered immediate backlash.

Alvin Yeung, barrister and leader of Hong Kong’s local pro-democracy Civic Party, likened the announcement to a “sharp sword piercing into Hong Kong’s judicial and administrative organs” in a news conference.

Tam Yiu-chung, a Hong Kong representative at the Standing Committee of the NPC, said those who violate the law could face a sentence from three to 10 years.

Hong Kong democracy activist Joshua Wong said the law would erode Hong Kong’s judicial independence and give Beijing—“the country with the poorest human rights record”—sole power to interpret what constitutes a breach of national security.

“All these so-called ‘human rights protections’ will just vanish into thin air,” Wong wrote in a tweet. “Don’t forget, once Beijing intervenes, offenders can be sent to mainland China for trials and prisons.”


Police detain a man (L) as pro-democracy protesters gather in the Causeway Bay district of Hong Kong on June 12, 2020.(Anthony Wallace/AFP via Getty Images)
Police detain a man (L) as pro-democracy protesters gather in the Causeway Bay district of Hong Kong on June 12, 2020.(Anthony Wallace/AFP via Getty Images)

Beijing’s new security agency in Hong Kong “removes any remaining notions of the region’s autonomy,” Dan Garrett, author of a book chronicling the history of pro-democracy protests in the region, told The Epoch Times in an email. He described the body as “a second stove-pipe to ‘govern’ Hong Kong.”

Any judges appointed by Hong Kong’s government, meanwhile, would have surely been “vetted by the Party-state” of Beijing beforehand, Garrett said, calling the measure a “pure Chinese Communist political theater.”

“It is a farce,” he said.

A lot of deliberations may happen behind closed doors to ensure the trials move according to Beijing’s plans, providing “token transparency” in an attempt to avoid scrutiny from international society, he added.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo suggested on Friday that the degree of Hong Kong’s special trade privileges with the United States would be proportional to the political freedom it enjoys. The legislative elections in September, he said, would be a telltale sign.

President Donald Trump last month announced that his administration would begin the process of eliminating Hong Kong’s special treatment in response to Beijing’s “smothering” of Hong Kong’s autonomy from the CCP.

“We have many agreements that are unique between the United States and Hong Kong, separate and different from those we have with Beijing. We will move away from every one of those,” Pompeo said in the online Copenhagen Democracy Summit.

Garrett derided the regime’s promise to balance human rights with national security in implementing the new law.

“The Chinese Communist Party is gaslighting Hongkongers (who know better) and the international community (who should know better)” by using twisted communist logic, he said, citing the rights abuses against Uyghur Muslims in China’s Xinjiang region and its handling of mass protests in Hong Kong over the past year against Beijing increasing encroachment on how the city is run.

Under communist rule, “only communist patriots have rights—but only as far as they serve the interest of the CCP,” he said.