Chinese lawmakers signaled they're likely to soon vote on — and pass — a new national security law for Hong Kong, details of which were unveiled Saturday.
Beijing maintains the law is widely supported, but it has caused concern among Hong Kong's pro-democracy movement, as well as foreign powers like the United States, who believe it could effectively lead to the Chinese Communist Party's domination of the autonomous city, throwing its status as a global financial hub in doubt. Chinese state media reported the legislation includes a national security office for Hong Kong to collect intelligence and investigate crimes against national security and gives Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam the ability to appoint specific judges to hear national security cases.
The draft reportedly aims to curb separatist activity, terrorism, and collusion with foreign forces while protecting freedom of speech and assembly. But skeptics anticipate the vaguely-defined measures will be used to broadly suppress dissent and arrest residents who work with foreign governments and groups. "This will hollow out Hong Kong, as far as I could see," said Claudia Mo, a pro-democracy lawmaker. "This new law can simply mean anything Beijing wants it to mean."
Many experts and politicians believe the legislation will come into force before September's elections, as it could potentially disqualify some opposition candidates from running. Read more at Reuters and The New York Times. Tim O'Donnell
China's National People's Congress approved a controversial bill Thursday that, once enacted, will allow Beijing to exert its power more overtly in semi-autonomous Hong Kong. The 2,878-to-1 vote was expected and it moves the legislation, handed down from China's central government, back to the Standing Committee of the Communist Party. Once the committee finishes writing the law, it could be in force by August or September.
The legislation criminalizes secession, subversion, terrorism, and foreign interference in Hong Kong, and it says that "when needed, relevant national security organs of the Central People's Government will set up agencies in Hong Kong to fulfill relevant duties to safeguard national security in accordance with the law." That has been interpreted as allowing Beijing to set up its own security agencies in Hong Kong, adding a parallel police force. Hong Kong pro-democracy protests have resumed in response.
The new law, and another proposed bill that would outlaw disrespect for China's national anthem in Hong Kong, have fueled concerns about the future of the city as an international financial hub. U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Wednesday that the Trump administration no long considers Hong Kong autonomous and may revoke its special trade status. Peter Weber
Tens of thousands of anti-government protesters marched through Hong Kong streets on Wednesday in their largest demonstration in weeks.
The New Year's Day protest was authorized by the government, but police withdrew the permission after claiming that some "thugs" had thrown bricks and petrol bombs, damaging banks and shops. Officers tried to disperse the crowds using tear gas and pepper spray. Police arrested five males, of which the youngest was 13 years old.
Organizers of the march denounced police for "forcing" them to halt the demonstration, accusing authorities of lying about protesters' actions "to separate Hong Kongers." Leaders of the pro-democracy movement said the New Year's Day protest was "quite peaceful." Harold Maass