China pledges to remove Hong Kong’s “cancer” from pro-independence thinking with new security legislation


File photo of protesters protesting an extradition bill targeting their flashlights to riot police as they are chased on the streets of Hong Kong on August 25, 2019.

Willy Kurniawan / Reuters

The Chinese government is preparing to impose new national security legislation in Hong Kong, raising fears of further restrictions on the city’s freedoms while Beijing state media has promised complete eradication of what it called a “cancer” of independence sentiment.

Although it is not yet clear what the new rules will impose, Beijing’s assertion of its Hong Kong law is almost certain to change the complexion of the Asian financial center, which enjoys freedom of speech and assembly that don’t exist in mainland China.

Democrats in Hong Kong have long warned that mainland China is eroding the freedoms that have made the city unique. China’s security apparatus regularly jails people for demanding their rights under the country’s own constitution, and the specter of the city falling under Beijing’s security law has alarmed Hong Kong. Activists said it was China’s biggest foray into Hong Kong since the city’s transfer from Britain in 1997.

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“It will make Hong Kong like mainland China,” said Emily Lau, a pro-democracy politician from the city. She warned that this threatened to “deprive us of our freedoms, the rule of law and our personal security.”

Concern that Beijing is preparing to enforce security by monitoring the speech has become so acute that NordVPN, a software provider that can circumvent Internet censorship, saw Hong Kong’s inquiries increase 120 times Kong.

Since Hong Kong’s transfer from Britain to China, the city has seen regular protests against Beijing’s encroachment. Over the past year, violent protests and a brutal police response have spilled blood on the streets, sparking a tradition of peaceful protests that has lasted for decades.

But China under President Xi Jinping has overseen a tightening of Party control over the continent, and a less lenient approach to critics inside and outside the mainland. “Safeguarding national security serves the fundamental interests of all Chinese, including our compatriots in Hong Kong,” said Zhang Yesui, spokesman for the National People’s Congress, who described the bill on Thursday. He did not directly refer to the recent violence in Hong Kong, but said, “It is extremely necessary. “

In a shrill comment released on Thursday, the central Chinese news agency Xinhua cited the “unrest” in Hong Kong, and what it called collusion with outside forces and a pro-independence movement, as the reason for Beijing to act.

“We must have a zero tolerance attitude to this cancer on the body of the country and the nation and be determined to eradicate it completely,” Xinhua wrote. Hong Kong’s surrender to China in 1997 “restored to Hong Kong the dignity and glory of being Chinese,” writes Xinhua, saying that the city’s prosperity and stability depend on the eradication of the secessionist forces.

“What is clear is that the central government will establish law in Hong Kong,” said Chen Duanhong, a professor of law at Beijing University. Such a decision indicates that Beijing considers it necessary to act, that it has the power to do so and “that such a law would be able to solve certain problems that it has seen, in Hong Kong and in the management of the government from Hong Kong. ”

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Very few protesters in Hong Kong have openly called for independence. Most asked Beijing to give the city more freedom to manage its own affairs, including electing its director general, the city’s main political figure. In recent years, the number of people in Hong Kong who identify as Chinese has declined, with city residents claiming a stronger “Hong Kong” identity.

Yet the likelihood that Beijing will act unilaterally towards Hong Kong has been ruled out even recently by legal experts, who saw it as a risky strategy for China, with potentially catastrophic results, in part because Chinese law does not match well to the common law tradition of Hong Kong. .

“There is hardly anything that would endanger national security that is not already prohibited under current Hong Kong law,” said Johannes Chan, constitutional expert, former dean of the Faculty of Law, in April. the University of Hong Kong.

The basic law, the city’s constitutional document, obliges Hong Kong to promulgate “laws prohibiting any act of treason, secession, sedition, subversion against the central people’s government”.

“The phrase” alone “has been added to ensure that continental law is not directly enforced” in Hong Kong, said Professor Chan.

A 2003 effort to pass such a law in Hong Kong failed after provoking a major public outcry. This law, if passed, would have prohibited the unapproved publication of certain official information, allowed the police to search without a warrant in cases of treason or subversion, and given the authorities the power to ban groups for reasons of national security. It defines sedition, in part, as “a violent public disturbance that would seriously endanger the stability of the People’s Republic of China”, although it includes specific protections for certain political speeches.

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This time, Beijing intends to act by amending a schedule to the basic law that contains Chinese law applicable to Hong Kong, the South China Morning Post reported.

Such a decision “will destroy, under the guise of national security, the human rights protections and protected freedoms that exist in Hong Kong,” said Wu Qiang, a former Tsinghua scholar and expert on Chinese social movements. “What is certain is that this law will certainly bring huge psychological changes to the people of Hong Kong – it will be reflected right away. This could possibly bring the people of Hong Kong closer to the state of despair, “he said. “Beijing is still desperate to achieve total control. “

Joshua Wong, one of Hong Kong’s most prominent young protesters, warned on Twitter that “the involvement of all foreign organizations and investors is deadly dangerous. “

“Hong Kong as we know it has gone,” observer and analyst Bill Bishop wrote on Twitter.

The imposition of such a law by Beijing also appears to worsen the conflict between China and the United States. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Wednesday that the United States “is closely monitoring” what is going on in Hong Kong as it decides to continue to give the city special treatment under law American, which is based on maintaining a high degree of autonomy.

Hong Kong “is used by Beijing as a battleground to provoke the United States,” said Eddie Chu, pro-democracy member of the Legislative Council of Hong Kong.

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A security framework drafted by China will necessarily undermine Hong Kong’s distinction with China. He cited the example of Mr. Wong, the young activist. Chu expects the new rules will give Beijing the power to arrest someone like Mr. Wong “and give him years in prison. Maybe in a continental prison. ”

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