China is moving to tighten the noose on Hong Kong as payback for the months of disruptive protests that began last summer in response to a now-suspended extradition bill.
The protest, now suspended by COVID-19, demands democratic reform and an investigation into police brutality.
Beijing has described the unrest as “the worst crisis in Hong Kong” since the territory was returned to China from Britain in 1997 and has largely blamed the event on secessionist forces and foreign influence.
As reported Thursday, the National People’s Congress (NPC) is preparing to rubber-stamp a sweeping national security law in Hong Kong without consulting the territory’s legislature.
This is technically legal thanks to a provision in Hong Kong’s “mini constitution” that allows China to apply national laws to the territory in certain circumstances and through an announcement by the city’s leader; however, the move is a clear violation of China’s 1997 promise to maintain Hong Kong’s “capitalist system and way of life” for the next 50 years under the “one country, two systems” principle.
“This is a complete and total surprise and I think it means the end of one country, two systems,” laments pro-Democracy lawmaker Dennis Kwok. “When the world is not watching, they are killing Hong Kong…and using social distancing rules to keep people from coming out to protest.”
According to Beijing, the new law is necessary in order to curb social unrest that has become a threat to national security. The law, which bans secession, subversion of state power, foreign interference, and terrorism, could be approved as early as next week.
“The social unrest last year showed that the Hong Kong government was unable to handle passing [national security legislation] on its own,” argues Stanley Ng, an NPC aide. “Hong Kong’s status will be sacrificed with or without this law if society is unstable due to the protesters’ violence.”
What we’re really seeing here is another move to chip away at Hong Kong’s autonomy, particularly its rights to assembly and free speech.
It is no coincidence that this proposal comes while the US and Europe are preoccupied with COVID-19, though some members of Congress have already threatened to strike back if China passes the law.
“We would impose penalties on individuals who are complicit in China’s illegal crackdown in Hong Kong,” says Senator Chris Van Hollen (D-MD).
Presumably, such penalties could be imposed through a 2019 measure (signed by Trump) that requires annual reviews of Hong Kong’s autonomy and authorizes sanctions against those involved in human-rights violations.
Author’s Note: Hong Kong has been a thorn in China’s side for years, and President Xi is sick and tired of the protests. As we have written many times before, China will eventually send its military to conquer Hong Kong. Unfortunately the city is powerless to resist the mainland and nobody is going to stand up to China to save Hong Kong.