China’s new draft law to crack down Hong Kong’s fire of pro-democracy protests raises international concerns amidst a fury of criticism against Beijing’s intention to strike off the historic “one country, two systems” framework.
The semi-autonomous Hong Kong, recently dubbed as the ‘City of Protests’ went silent for a few months due to the stringent lockdowns imposed due to the coronavirus outbreak, only to return back with their demands as firm as before.
The previous month, as reported by EurAsian Times, China’s Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office (HKMAO) had issued a statement that asserted that China’s central government led by President Xi Jinping will not sit idle “with this recklessly demented force” that aims to attain independence from Beijing.
Beijing’s Final Blow To Hong Kong
Against the backdrop of over 6 months of pro-democracy protests, China’s Parliament, the National People’s Congress (NPC) has now proposed a new national security law that aims to ban “treason, secession, sedition and subversion” that overrides Hong Kong’s constitution.
The Chinese lawmakers put forward a law that would effectively “prevent, stop and punish any act to split the country, subvert state power, organise and carry out terrorist activities and other behaviours that seriously endanger national security”.
The law attempts to also obstruct “activities of foreign and external forces” interfering in Hong Kong’s affairs. The document says that “when needed, relevant national security organs of the central people’s the government will set up agencies in to fulfil relevant duties to safeguard national security.”
The Communist Party’s efforts to bring upon this national security law is widely interpreted by critics as a bid to finally remove all traces of the “one country, two systems” framework.
The state-run tabloid the Global Times called Hong Kong “it was like a city in an undeveloped country engulfed in turmoil,” and applauded the decision that aimed to“prevent internal and external forces from using the region as a tool for creating situations that threaten national security”.
Hong Kong Crisis
With an independent judiciary and civil liberties that extend far more than mainland China, Hong Kong’s semi-autonomous political structure had allowed it to enjoy a sense of autonomy since decades. Unlike China, Hong Kong is also a part of many international treaties that effectively guarantee multiple civil liberties.
The previous year, the city erupted with mass protests as plans to allow extradition to mainland China were uncovered, that could actually endanger the non-supporters of Chinese policies and threaten their judicial independence.
With the new anti-sedition law that is soon to be passed, Hong Kong’s pro-democracy leaders find their civil and judicial liberties in question. The punishments such as secret detention and blatant political prosecution rendered quite often in the mainland seem outrageously unacceptable to the residents of Hong Kong.
Some pro-Beijing leaders like Carrie Lam have supported the ‘draft law’ and told Hong Kongers “to understand why at this point in time Hong Kong needs this piece of legislation.” The police commissioner of Hong Kong had also told media that the new law will “help combat the force of ‘Hong Kong independence’ and restore social order.”
While the others like Nathan Law, a former pro-democracy lawmaker, told Hong Kongers not to be disheartened and told them to realise that they had achieved “miracles” in the past.
The pro-democracy supporters began a peaceful protest in the city on Sunday, where just in the first 25 minutes, police fired the first round of tear gas. Later, baton charges and water cannons were also used against unarmed protesters.
The inhumane crackdown on the protests by Beijing had led to global outrage. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had criticized China’s plans for the new law and called it a “death knell” for Hong Kong’s freedom.
China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi had replied “some political forces in the US” were pushing the two countries “to the brink of a new Cold War”. He continued that the legislation should be brought in “without the slightest delay”.
Washington and China have already frozen relations due to the trade war and the more recent issues like the pandemic and the Taiwan’s invitation to WHA.
An editorial in the state-backed Global Times said that “China’s latest announcement showed its strategic contempt for Washington’s tactics of pressuring Beijing. As long as the US dares to play its cards, China will play the game without hesitation.”
Other countries like the UK which ruled over Hong Kong till 1997, Australia and Canada have also expressed their “deep concern” for Hong Kong.
The former Hong Kong Governor Christopher Patten and former British Foreign Secretary Malcolm Rifkind drafted a statement which said that China was breaching the Sino-British Joint Declaration of 1977, according to which Hong Kong was returned to China.
The statement details that “if the international community cannot trust Beijing to keep its word when it comes to Hong Kong, people will be reluctant to take its word on other matters.”
Calling the bill a “comprehensive assault on the city’s autonomy, rule of law, and fundamental freedoms,” the statement is signed by 186 policymakers and politicians from 23 countries. However, critics suggest that historically, China is not known to succumb to international pressure on internal matters.
Other international experts have lamented the Chinese move and said that it was ‘Tibet then, Hong Kong now and Taiwan tomorrow’. If the world especially the US and the EU do not vociferously oppose the Chinese actions, everyone should be prepared for Beijing’s hegemony.
OpED By: Vipasha Kaushal. Views Personel