Sunday, May 31, 2020

National Security Law for Hong Kong

Hong Kong protests against Extradition bill. Courtesy - Wikipedia

Amid all confusion, what exactly Chinese National People Congress (NPC) did?

Last week NPC voted in favor of introducing new security legislation for Hong Kong - a former crown colony of the British Empire. Rumor is that law may be passed in NPC as early as August. In their words, it is to “prevent, stop and punish” threats to national security by outlawing acts and activities of secession, subversion, terrorism, and foreign activities in Hong Kong's affairs. Beijing will most probably bypass the Hong Kong legislature and add the bill to Annex III of Basic Law (Hong Kong's constitution).

After the passage of this Law in NPC, Hong Kong administration need to set up new security institutions to safeguard National Security. This also allows mainland intelligence and other agencies to operate in the city whenever needed.

Three main pillars of the new law

1. Secession and Subversion

What will be defined as secession and subversion is a very important question. For China, anything which challenges the supreme authority of the party and its functionaries can come under that wide umbrella. In addition to that, in an authoritarian society challenging even the local arm of the party can be considered as the same. Who will try, people booked under these acts? Existing Hong Kong courts or special courts? Will the spider web of firewall of China and omnipresent security system will come into Hong Kong? Will the relatively free (compared to mainland China) Hong Kong end up as any other territory of China? Possible answers to these questions do not instill much confidence among the international community.

2. Terrorism

Just like China has its own version of everything, Terrorism with Chinese characteristics will be very different from what generally accepted as terrorism.

3. Foreign interference in Hong Kong’s affairs

I do not think any country in the world dare to interfere in Chinese affairs. Even those criticizing China for human rights violations do not dare to interfere in Chinese internal matters. Otherwise, you will hear something about millions of Muslims locked up in China’s eastern provinces. Even Islamic countries do not utter a word. Forget about Chinese internal matters, countries do not even dare to stand up to China during the South China Sea crisis.

This law might affect organizations which have democracy or human rights anywhere in their name or articles and (or) receiving donations from foreign institutions.

It is not the first time Hong Kong is facing this situation. Long back in 2003, then Hong Kong administration tried to introduce National Security bill to implement Article 23 of Basic Law. However, they were forced to withdraw the bill after severe protests by the people of Hong Kong. Even in last year, China did not take any drastic steps during the long protests in Hong Kong.

Police and Protesters in Hong Kong Streets - During anti-Extradiction bill protests. Photo courtesy: Wikipedia

But this time things are different. Why? 

1. Hong Kong elections – opposition had a landslide victory in last November for district council elections. This election was conducted after long anti-extradition bill protests. Now new elections are coming up in September for Hong Kong legislative council, in which most probably pro-democracy candidates will win.

2. China is on the back foot due to the wild spread of SARS-COV-2. Hiding the seriousness and mishandling the same early in the cycle was criticized heavily across the globe.

3. This is an election year in US. China might be waiting for US election results; to see whether Trump will go or not. As per their calculation, a new democratic administration in Washington may be more amenable to Chinese suggestions and threats.

4. Hong Kong is not the engine of growth for China anymore. Hong Kong is important, very important but its relative power viz-a-viz other Chinese cities reduced drastically over the decades.

5. For Xi this is very important; after the reverses in law introduced in last year in Hong Kong as well as setbacks in Belt and Road initiatives, he wants to show that he can still get the things done.

6. When the entire world is trying to fight COVID with tooth and nail, many countries are not in a position to fight China. I do not think most countries will do anything other than issuing some statements with carefully chosen words.

7. Chinese power viz-a-viz US is on the rise in the South China Sea region, South Asia, Africa etc, and in numerous multi-lateral agencies. With US isolationist policies under Trump administration, not many countries want to cross the line with China.

8. China is not a party to the International Courts of UN, so there is no point in someone challenging China there. By the way, China already defied another international court order on the South China sea and hardly faced by the backlash.

9. I think most countries already accepted the fact that if not today then tomorrow Hong Kong will be part of China - just like any other Chinese provinces. It is just a matter of time.

10. China thinks that setbacks due to the loss of special trading status and other relations of Hong Kong with the US, UK, and EU are affordable.

11. China may also be testing the waters on how the world will react to the eventual integration of Hong Kong with mainland China and abolishing ‘One country two systems’ policy.



1. What safeguards are needed for Hong Kong’s new national security law? Who could get caught by it? Legal eagles flag concerns - SCMP

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