China’s parliament overwhelmingly approves controversial Hong Kong security bill
Beijing, May 28: China’s parliament on Thursday overwhelmingly approved a new controversial security law for Hong Kong, a move that critics say threatens the fundamental political freedoms and civil liberties in the semi-autonomous territory, also a major global trading hub.
China’s annual political season, delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic ended on Thursday with its parliament, much on the expected lines endorsed the new security law for Hong Kong, a former British territory.
The country’s rubber-stamp parliament, the National People’s Congress (NPC), nearly unanimously approved the resolution to introduce the sweeping security legislation, which bans secession, subversion of state power, terrorism, foreign intervention and allows mainland China’s state security agencies to operate in the gleaming city.
Only one delegate voted against the proposal, while 2,878 voted for and six abstained, the official media reported.
The NPC’s standing committee will now draft the law and is expected to become a law by August. It will then be implemented upon promulgation by the Hong Kong government.
Critics say the law will drastically enhance Beijing’s grip over Hong Kong, which last year was roiled by anti-government protests calling for greater democracy and more autonomy from mainland China.
Addressing his annual press conference at the end of NPC session, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang defended the new law, saying that it was designed to implement the one country two systems formula and its stability prosperity.
The “one country two systems is China’s basic state policy. The central government has all along fully and faithfully implemented the one country two system, under which people of Hong Kong govern themselves high degree of autonomy and acted in strict accordance with the constitution and the basic law and supported the Chief Executive and Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, (HKSAR) government in exercising governance according to law,” Li said.
“The decision adopted at the NPC session is designed for the steady implementation of the one country two systems and Hong Kong long term prosperity and stability”, he added.
The pro-Beijing authorities in Hong Kong insist the law is essential to tackle growing violence and “terrorism”, and that the territory’s residents have nothing to fear from it.
Critics fear it could lead to Hong Kongers being prosecuted for criticising their or the leadership in Beijing, joining protests or exercising their current rights under local laws.
China’s move has already sparked a new wave of anti-mainland protest in Hong Kong, a former British colony, which was handed over to Beijing on July 1, 1997.
Clashes broke out again on Wednesday, as Hong Kong’s parliament debated a different proposed law, which would make it a crime to disrespect the Chinese national anthem.
The new security law has been denounced by the US, the UK and the EU as a blow to freedom and liberty of Hong Kongers and affect the city’s status as an international business hub.
Many Chinese and foreign firms use Hong Kong as an international or regional base, and members of elite families or executives with ties to the CPC do business and own property there. Many companies also raise capital by listing on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange.
US President Donald Trump is “displeased” with China’s new national security law for Hong Kong, the White House has said amid rising tensions between Washington and Beijing in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.
“He (Trump) is displeased with China’s efforts and that it’s hard to see how Hong Kong can remain a financial hub if China takes over,” White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany said on Tuesday.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Washington no longer considered Hong Kong to have significant autonomy under Chinese rule, a move that may end some or all of the US government’s special trade and economic relations with the territory in southern China.
Pompeo said the security law would be a “death knell” for Hong Kong, which has had liberties under a semiautonomous system of governance that do not exist in mainland China, including freedoms of speech, the press and assembly, as well as an independent judiciary.
Observers say the new law cast a shadow over the future of Hong Kong which was regarded as a centre of global capitalism and symbol of resistance to the ruling Communist Party of China.
On Tuesday, European Council President Charles Michel said the bloc was “not naive about Chinese behaviour at the international level, while a day earlier, the EU’s foreign policy chief Joseph Borell called for “a more robust strategy” to deal with a “more powerful and assertive” China.
Butikofer said that foreign ministers from the 27 EU states were set to discuss Hong Kong and other issues related to China at their regular meeting on Friday.
Beijing was “squarely ignoring” its international treaty obligations by proposing the law, he said.
Earlier the Hong Kong Bar Association said China has no legal authority to enact its national security law for the former British colony.
In a strongly worded statement, the association also expressed concern over suggestions that mainland security agencies would be set up to safeguard national security within the city, saying it was “entirely unclear” how that arrangement would comply with Article 22 of the Basic Law, which stipulates that Beijing departments not to interfere in local affairs.