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China proposes controversial Hong Kong security law

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Image copyright AFP Image caption Clashes in Hong Kong’s legislature on Monday showed the continuing political unrest China is proposing to introduce a new security law in Hong Kong that could ban sedition, secession and treason.The move is likely to provoke strong opposition internationally and in Hong Kong, which last year saw months of pro-democracy…

Clashes in Hong Kong's legislature on Monday showed the continuing political unrest

Image copyright
AFP

Image caption

Clashes in Hong Kong’s legislature on Monday showed the continuing political unrest

China is proposing to introduce a new security law in Hong Kong that could ban sedition, secession and treason.

The move is likely to provoke strong opposition internationally and in Hong Kong, which last year saw months of pro-democracy protests.

China’s delayed National People’s Congress, its legislature, will debate the issue when it opens on Friday.

Hong Kong’s mini-constitution requires it to bring in such a law but it failed to do so amid widespread opposition.

The so-called Basic Law was introduced when the UK handed back Hong Kong’s sovereignty to China in 1997 and provides certain freedoms not available on the mainland.

The Hong Kong dollar dropped sharply on Thursday in anticipation of the announcement.

What will the NPC do?

The issue has been introduced on the NPC agenda, under the title of Establishing and Improving the Legal System and Enforcement Mechanism of Hong Kong. The opening of the NPC had been delayed because of the coronavirus outbreak.

A spokesman for the NPC said on Thursday that China was planning to improve on the “one country, two systems” policy that Hong Kong has observed.

Zhang Yesui said: “National security is the bedrock underpinning the stability of the country. Safeguarding national security serves the fundamental interest of all Chinese, our Hong Kong compatriots included.”

Beijing has always had the power to enact the national security law into Hong Kong’s Basic Law but has so far refrained from doing so.

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Media captionThe BBC’s Helier Cheung on Hong Kong’s 2019 protests

But Hong Kong is heading for elections to its own legislature in September and if last year’s success for pro-democracy parties in district elections is repeated, government bills could be blocked.

A mainland source told the South China Morning Post that Beijing had decided Hong Kong would not be able to pass its own security law and the NPC would have to take the responsibility.

Hong Kong’s government had tried to enact the so-called “sedition law” in 2003 but more than 500,000 people took to the streets and it was dropped.

China has the option to impose it into Annex III of the Basic Law, which covers national laws that must be observed in Hong Kong.

Will the law draw protests?

It is almost certain to do so, both in Hong Kong and abroad.

On Monday, a number of pro-democracy lawmakers in Hong Kong were dragged out of the chamber during a row about a Chinese national anthem bill that would criminalise disrespect of the anthem.

The incident showed that political tensions that had cooled amid the coronavirus outbreak were resurfacing.

Pro-democracy activists believe Beijing is eroding Hong Kong’s freedoms.

Millions took to the streets for seven months last year in rallies that began peacefully but later spiralled into violent clashes.

Those protests were initially about another controversial bill allowing extraditions to the mainland. It was later dropped.

China’s move also comes as the US is considering whether to extend Hong Kong’s preferential trading and investment privileges. It must decide by the end of the month. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Wednesday expressed concern over Hong Kong’s autonomy.

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Media captionWhy were Hong Kong fans booing their anthem? (2015 video)

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