Beijing ordered that a new law be written to expand many of mainland China’s security practices into Hong Kong, creating broader powers to spread unrest.
BEIJING – China officially has broad power to end the unrest in Hong Kong, as the country’s legislature unanimously approved plans to suppress subversion, secularism, terrorism on Thursday and undertake any such act. Permitted which may threaten national security in the paramilitary city.
As Beijing lays out the nuances of national security legislation in the coming weeks, the final rules will help determine Hong Kong’s fate, including how much the city’s autonomy will be protected or how much Beijing will strengthen its grip.
Initial indications from Chinese officials point to the status of the law once it comes into effect, which is expected by September.
Active groups may be banned. The courts can serve lengthy prison sentences for national security violations. China’s feared security agencies may operate openly in the city.
This week also the Chief Executive of Hong Kong indicated that some civil liberties may not be a permanent feature of Hong Kong life. “We are a very independent society, so over time, people have the freedom to say whatever they want to say,” said Chief Executive Officer Carrie Lam, “Rights and freedoms are not absolute.”
The prospect of a national security law has fueled immediate impact in Hong Kong, where protesters are once again taking to the streets. The international community has also warned against violations of the city’s civil liberties.
The Trump administration indicated Wednesday that China’s move was likely to end some or all of the US government’s special trade and economic ties with Hong Kong. The State Department no longer considers Hong Kong to have significant autonomy, said Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, a prerequisite for maintaining business conditions.
Clues on upcoming security legislation can be found in earlier templates: a 2003 bill in Hong Kong that was shaken by protests, and a law in another semi-autonomous Chinese city of Macau.
Treason, sabotage, segregation and treason were widely imposed in both, along with increasing law enforcement powers. Hong Kong law would have allowed raids without warrants if police believed national security would be jeopardized waiting for a judge – the prospect of which drew huge crowds of peaceful protesters.
Both bills made it easier for officials to win national security cases in court. Macau laws, for example, bar judges with foreign citizenship serving on panels hearing national security matters. Courts in Hong Kong have long relied on judges who immigrated to the city from the British Commonwealth, but retain passports from their home countries.
Legislation in Macau, a former Portuguese colony, has been essentially unused for the past 11 years. The authorities there prefer to take measures against occasional opposition under less attention-getting legislation. But unlike Hong Kong, Macau’s government has not faced a broad-based democracy movement that has attracted international sympathy.
Hong Kong’s political structure does not provide much relief from the new law. The city’s basic law and framework outlined in the Bill of Rights provide comprehensive protection for civil liberties. But a big exemption exists, like the National Security Act that Beijing is now drafting.
The United Nations International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights has both pieces of language structure. If national security is in danger, the covenant has six separate clauses, which allow rights to be restricted.