Hong Kong under tension over Beijing security bill
US, WASHINGTON (ORDO NEWS) — China‘s plan to impose a national security law on the semi-autonomous territory of Hong Kong was denounced on Friday by democratic activists who see it as a will to deprive them of their liberties by “force and fear “while Washington believes that such legislation would spell the end of the relative autonomy enjoyed by the “special administrative region”.
A mid-day demonstration project in the city’s business district did not materialize, however, only a handful of people gathered while riot police were visible in the streets.
New calls for nightly rallies nevertheless emerged, and Joshua Wong, one of the figures in the protest movement, was preparing to announce “street actions”.
“Beijing,” he tweeted, “is trying to silence the critical voices of the Hong Kong people by force and fear.”
“It’s a good time to relaunch the protests,” said Kay, a 24-year-old student who participated in the protest movement in 2019, choked since the start of the year by containment measures and assembly bans due to the epidemic of new coronavirus.
The security bill also weighed on the financial markets, with the Hong Kong Stock Exchange falling 5.6% at the close due to investors’ fear that the city would lose its status as an international financial center.
Addressing this issue during the annual session of the National People’s Congress opened this Friday in Beijing, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang said China would establish a “solid” legal system with the means to implement it, to ensure national security in Hong Kong and Macao, which also has semi-autonomous status.
The security bill for Hong Kong, of which Reuters was able to consult a draft, provides for a rapid transposition of national security rules into the Basic Law – which acts as the Constitution for the territory – in order to combat secessionist, subversive activities and terrorists as well as against foreign interference.
According to this plan, the Chinese security and intelligence services – which cannot currently intervene in Hong Kong – could “if necessary” establish antennas in the city to defend national security.
In addition, the Hong Kong justice system, as well as the executive and the local parliament, “will have to effectively prevent, stop and punish acts endangering national security”.
Hong Kong local executive chief Carrie Lam said her government “would cooperate fully” with the Chinese parliament to guarantee national security, which she said will not affect rights, freedoms. or the independence of the judiciary.
This project could further complicate relations between Beijing and Washington, already marked by persistent trade tensions and mutual accusations over the management of the coronavirus pandemic.
President Donald Trump warned Thursday that Washington would react “very strongly” if Beijing went ahead with this project.
On Friday, his secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, denounced an “arbitrary and disastrous” project that “would sound the death knell” for Hong Kong’s autonomy.
He asked China to “respect the high degree of autonomy of Hong Kong, its democratic institutions and its civil liberties which are essential to the maintenance of its special status under American law”.
In London, the former colonial power, a spokesperson for Prime Minister Boris Johnson said that Britain expected China to respect the rights and freedoms enjoyed by the people of Hong Kong and the “high standard” of autonomy “guaranteed to the territory within the framework of its retrocession to China in 1997.
“We are closely monitoring the situation (…) As a party to the Joint Declaration (editor’s note, which organized in 1984 the restitution of Hong Kong), the United Kingdom is determined to defend the autonomy of Hong Kong and to uphold the ‘one country, two systems’ model, “he added.
The Chinese Foreign Ministry denounced foreign interference in response to the remarks and warned that China would retaliate if the United States attempted to oppose its right to guarantee national security against the “separatists”.
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