The Chinese Communist Party’s sham legislature, the National People’s Congress (NPC), is reportedly preparing to bypass the Hong Kong legislature (which is looking more than a little shamtastic these days itself) and impose a set of national security laws that could crush the Hong Kong protest movement and hollow out what remains of the island’s limited autonomy.
The South China Morning Post (SCMP) on Thursday reported the widespread perception that the security bill signals Beijing has “run out of patience” with Hong Kong:
Sources earlier told the Post the new law would proscribe secessionist and subversive activity as well as foreign interference and terrorism in the city – all developments that had been troubling Beijing for some time, but most pressingly over the past year of increasingly violent anti-government protests.
The move is also significant in that the central government appears to have all but given up hope that Hong Kong’s administration will succeed at passing local legislation on such a law, amid a hostile political environment and deeply divided city.
At a press conference late on Thursday, NPC spokesman Zhang Yesui confirmed there was an item asking the legislature to review a resolution on “The NPC’s decision on establishing a sound legal system and enforcement mechanism for safeguarding national security in the Hong Kong special administrative region”.
A Beijing source told the Post the new law would ban all seditious activities aimed at toppling the central government, as well as external interference in Hong Kong. It would also target terrorist acts in the city.
According to a mainland source familiar with Hong Kong affairs, Beijing had come to the conclusion that it was impossible for the city’s Legislative Council to pass a national security law to enact Article 23 of the city’s Basic Law given the political climate. This was why it was turning to the NPC to take on the responsibility.
The SCMP’s source in China approvingly described the NPC move as a means of turning Hong Kong’s “Basic Law” against itself. An article of the Basic Law requires Hong Kong to provide legal protection for its security and punish acts of “treason, secession, sedition, or subversion.” Beijing reasons that since Hong Kong’s fractious legislature has not passed such laws to China’s satisfaction, it can invoke this article and force the laws into effect on its own, effectively ripping a loophole in the Basic Law open so wide that it nullifies the entire concept of autonomy.
“If the national security legislation is not done during the annual session of the NPC or shortly afterwards, is there any guarantee that it can be passed by the Legco in the next two years? We can no longer allow acts like desecrating national flags or defacing of the national emblem in Hong Kong,” the alleged Chinese source explained.
Other sources confirmed to the SCMP that Beijing ran out of patience with Hong Kong’s autonomy after demonstrations against a controversial extradition bill last year – itself denounced as a fatal wound to Hong Kong’s autonomy – grew into the massive protests that rocked the island until the coronavirus pandemic broke out.
Growing signs that the protesters intend to resume their activities as the pandemic recedes in Hong Kong, mounting resistance to Beijing’s agenda from LegCo, the Hong Kong legislature, and intensifying tensions with the free world due to the Wuhan coronavirus pandemic apparently inspired the Chinese government to create a legal framework for arresting every troublemaker they see.
According to one former NPC member, Hong Kong delegates were flatly informed by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) on Thursday that “violence last year” and “increasing foreign intervention” made it clear that expedited legislation from Beijing was needed after 20 years of LegCo failing to pass a satisfactory security bill.
The delegates were told their security is threatened because “some in Hong Kong are pursuing independence, waving foreign flags and even resorting to terrorist attacks.” When they pointed out that the protest movement would likely object to the new security law even more strenuously than they objected to last year’s extradition bill, they were told the CCP and some heavy hitters in the Hong Kong business community would rather “endure this battle in one go, to resolve Beijing’s worries that Hong Kong is unsafe.”
Ominously, the latest round of routine political statements from the CCP to Hong Kong stressed the need for the island to reaffirm its devotion to “one country, two systems,” but omitted the usual guarantees that Hong Kong will continue to enjoy limited self-government and a “high degree of autonomy,” which has been boilerplate language in Beijing’s statements about Hong Kong since 1997.
Pro-democracy legislators in Hong Kong were understandably outraged at the proposed national security law and its brute-force passage, with Tanya Chan of the Civic Party glumly portraying it as the beginning of “one country, one system.”
“The Chinese government can’t wait and they can’t really stand the freedoms and rights we have in Hong Kong, so they try to take them away as quickly as possible,” Chan said, urging Hong Kongers to come together and fight for their independence in every way they can.
“It is the end of ‘one country, two systems,’ completely destroying Hong Kong,” lawmaker Dennis Kwok told CNN on Thursday.
The BBC anticipated “strong opposition internationally” and quoted Hong Kong’s final British governor, Chris Patten, denouncing the security law as a “comprehensive assault on the city’s autonomy.” Guarantees to respect that autonomy were part of Communist China’s commitment to the United Kingdom when it reclaimed ownership of the island.
The exact details of the Beijing-imposed security law have not been revealed yet, but the BBC quoted pro-democracy activists who expected it will become easier for the government to designate protesters as traitors or threats to national security and silence them with “force and fear.”
President Donald Trump warned China on Thursday that the United States will respond “very strongly” if Beijing destroys Hong Kong’s autonomy and uses the security law to crack down on political expression.
“I don’t know what it is, because nobody knows yet,” Trump told reporters of the pending Chinese legislation.