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Beijing moves to impose new national security law on Hong Kong after anti-China unrest

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Beijing moves to impose new national security law on Hong Kong after anti-China unrest

By James Pomfret and Yew Lun Tian

 

2020-05-21T142138Z_2_LYNXMPEG4K175_RTROPTP_4_CHINA-PARLIAMENT-HONGKONG.JPG

FILE PHOTO: Demonstrators protesting the proposed extradition bill aim their flashlights towards riot police as they are chased through the streets of Hong Kong, China, August 25, 2019. Reuters has been awarded the 2020 Pulitzer Prize in Breaking News Photography for Hong Kong protests. REUTERS/Willy Kurniawan

 

HONG KONG/BEIJING (Reuters) - China is set to impose new national security legislation on Hong Kong after last year's often violent pro-democracy unrest that plunged the city into its deepest turmoil since it returned to Beijing rule in 1997, a Chinese official said on Thursday.

 

The statement confirmed what three people with direct knowledge of the matter told Reuters, potentially sparking fresh anti-China protests in the freewheeling former British colony, which enjoys many freedoms not allowed on the mainland.

 

Pro-democracy demonstrators have for years strongly opposed the idea of national security laws, arguing they could erode the city's high degree of autonomy, guaranteed under the "one country, two systems" formula put in place when it returned to Chinese rule.

 

"In light of the new circumstances and need, the National People's Congress (NPC) is exercising its constitutional power" to establish a new legal framework and enforcement mechanism to safeguard national security in Hong Kong, Zhang Yesui, the spokesman for the legislature, said.

 

He was speaking at a late night briefing on the eve of the start of China's annual parliamentary session. Further details would be given on Friday, he added.

 

Hong Kong media outlets reported that the legislation would ban secession, foreign interference, terrorism and all seditious activities aimed at toppling the central government and any external interference in the financial hub.

 

The legislation, which will be deliberated by the NPC, could be a turning point for its freest and most international city, potentially triggering a revision of its special status in Washington and likely to spark more unrest.

 

Online posts had already emerged urging people to gather to protest on Thursday night and dozens were seen shouting pro-democracy slogans in a shopping mall as riot police stood nearby.

 

Opposition democrats said the move would gravely wound Hong Kong's reputation as a financial centre and its high degree of autonomy.

 

"If this move takes place, 'one country, two systems' will be officially erased," said democratic lawmaker Dennis Kwok.

 

“This is the end of Hong Kong," added Kwok, flanked by other opposition democrats.

 

Hong Kong people took to the streets last year to protest a now-withdrawn bill that would have allowed extraditions of criminal suspects to mainland China. The movement broadened to include demands for broader democracy amid perceptions that Beijing was tightening its grip over the city.

 

"If Beijing passes the law ... how (far) will civil society resist repressive laws? How much impact will it unleash on to Hong Kong as an international financial centre?" said Ming Sing, political scientist at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology.

 

The Hong Kong dollar weakened on the news.

 

A senior Hong Kong government official said technical details of the move and how it would be implemented remained unclear.

 

The NPC begins its annual session on Friday after being delayed for months by the coronavirus.

 

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on May 6 he was delaying the report assessing whether Hong Kong was sufficiently autonomous to warrant Washington's special economic treatment that has helped it remain a world financial centre.

 

The delay was to account for any actions at the NPC, he said.

 

Tension between the two superpowers has heightened in recent weeks, as they exchanged accusations on the handling of the coronavirus pandemic, souring an already worsening relationship over trade.

 

BYPASS MECHANISM

A previous attempt by Hong Kong to introduce national security legislation, known as Article 23, in 2003 was met with mass peaceful protests and shelved.

 

Hong Kong has a constitutional obligation to enact Article 23 "on its own", but similar laws can be introduced by Beijing separately into an annex of the Basic Law, the city's mini-constitution.

 

That legal mechanism could bypass the city's legislature as the laws could be imposed by promulgation by Hong Kong's pro-Beijing government.

 

"Some people are destroying Hong Kong’s peace and stability. Beijing saw all that has happened," pro-establishment lawmaker Christopher Cheung, who is not part of discussions in Beijing, told Reuters.

 

"Legislation is necessary and the sooner the better."

 

Protesters denounce what they see as the creeping meddling in Hong Kong by China's Communist Party rulers. Beijing denies the charge and blames the West, especially the United States and Britain, for stirring up trouble.

 

(Additional reporting by Greg Torode, Clare Jim, Sarah Wu and Jessie Pang; writing by Marius Zaharia; Editing by Toby Chopra and Nick Macfie)

 

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-- © Copyright Reuters 2020-05-22
 
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Thatcher kow-towed to the Chinese in 1984 - the worst mistake of her premiership.

Should have agreed to a referendum then under UN resolution 1514 or granted passports to all of the colony.

This is the last stand for the democrats - China can keep pushing them down with extra laws and run out the clock

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20 minutes ago, cornishcarlos said:

Was only a matter of time... They were very quiet last year during all the riots, probably just drafting this and waiting for an opportune moment !!

Agree, and the populace there are on their own, nothing anybody else can do that would deter Beijing.

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Very sad. Again.

Trump is going to shout, the only thing he does, and since Europe/Asia doesn't give a sh*t, HK people are facing more trouble. 😢

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if it hadn't been for covid Hong Kong would have been independent by now

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5 hours ago, wombat said:

if it hadn't been for covid Hong Kong would have been independent by now

A nice thought but unlikely in the extreme; China is just gradually eroding the limited democracy of HK.  I fear for the democrats and only wish the best for them. Britain betrayed them and I am ashamed to be British.

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16 hours ago, Bkk Brian said:

Yep, perfect timing for this. Now they just play the waiting game to take back control of Taiwan. China is a new force that the west has to deal with seriously, they're not going to stop.

 

Come on man, China is our friends. They aren't out to eat anybodies lunch.

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4 hours ago, keithathome said:

A nice thought but unlikely in the extreme; China is just gradually eroding the limited democracy of HK.  I fear for the democrats and only wish the best for them. Britain betrayed them and I am ashamed to be British.

How? Bit mawkish. Britain leased the land around HK for 100 years with the promise of handing it back in 1997. No reneging on that. And then with the proviso that HK have a certain autonomy for next 50 years, but it would always go back to the fold. People whinge about Britain creating colonies, and then whinge more when they hand them back. What would you have UK do, nuke China? Perhaps they'll offer them passports if things kick off there. China is the baddie here.

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 Seditious activities those were the days 🤔

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22 hours ago, crobe said:

Thatcher kow-towed to the Chinese in 1984 - the worst mistake of her premiership.

Should have agreed to a referendum then under UN resolution 1514 or granted passports to all of the colony.

This is the last stand for the democrats - China can keep pushing them down with extra laws and run out the clock

Seems a few Argies were of less significance to her than China's millions. She failed when it came to the real test, IMO.

However her worst mistake IMO was the poll tax, an insanity that brought her down. Not for nothing did the people dance in the streets when she died. She represented, IMO the worst of capitalism.

 

Anyone that still claims China is a beneficent dictatorship has now lost any right to claim that. The mask has slipped because the dictators think they can do whatever they like now.

I hope the US keeps a very strong military, as they are, IMO, our last hope for freedom.

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