New security law will tighten Beijing’s grip on Hong Kong

Pro-democracy activist Joshua Wong, left, speaking to the media against the legislation in Hong Kong on Friday.  

A draft legislation on national security tabled before China’s Parliament on Friday will for the first time allow Beijing to draft national security laws for Hong Kong and also operate its national security organs in the Special Administrative Region (SAR).

Also read: U.S. lawmakers condemn China’s authoritarian grip on Hong Kong

The draft law, expected to be passed next week by the National People’s Congress in Beijing, has been criticised by democratic parties in Hong Kong as undermining the “one country, two systems” model that gives the SAR a high degree of autonomy.

Article 23

Since the return to China in 1997, Hong Kong has been governed by the Basic Law, which allows the territory “to enjoy executive, legislative and independent judicial power, including that of final adjudication”, barring matters of defence and foreign affairs.

Article 23 of the Basic Law requires Hong Kong to pass national security legislation, but past attempts to do so were shelved when the moves triggered wide protests. The new legislation will require Hong Kong’s Legislative Council (LegCo) to pass legislation “as soon as possible”, although it does not specify a time-frame.

Also read: China seeks India’s support for its new draconian law to crack down on Hong Kong protesters

More importantly, it will likely allow Beijing to bypass LegCo if it chooses to, declaring that the NPC’s Standing Committee “is authorised to draft laws related to the establishment and completion of... the legal system and enforcement mechanisms for the preservation of national security”.

Necessary measures

The new legislation said the move is aimed at “preserving national security” and called on Hong Kong “to employ necessary measures to counter, lawfully prevent, stop and punish foreign and overseas forces’ use of Hong Kong to carry out separatist, subversive, infiltrative, or destructive activities.”

The law will also for the first time allow China’s national security organs to formally operate in Hong Kong. Paragraph four states that organs “relevant for the protection of national security are to set up institutions” in Hong Kong.

Martin Lee, a leading pro-democracy politician and barrister who helped draft the Basic Law in the 1980s, said the legislation was a contravention of the “one country, two systems” model as envisioned by Deng Xiaoping.

“The Basic Law makes it quite clear that only LegCo can make and repeal laws. Beijing is afraid that the Hong Kong legislature may be controlled by democrats after elections in September, so they want to set a dangerous precedent of allowing Beijing to legislate for Hong Kong,” he said at a Heritage Foundation webinar.

“When they lose control of the legislature, they can still pass laws. This is against the Basic Law, no doubt about it. Under Xi Jinping’s ‘one country, two systems’, the Communist Party will have complete administrative power over Hong Kong. This is the exact opposite of what was promised.”

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Printable version | May 6, 2021 4:28:01 PM |

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