China Enacts Security Law Aims to Crack Dissidence in Hong Kong | International

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The leadership of the National People's Congress (the Chinese Parliament) has promulgated the new National Security law for Hong Kong on Tuesday, after a process at full speed. The dreaded measure, signed by Chinese President Xi Jinping, is already in force after being published in the official Hong Kong gazette. The rule, which provides for life imprisonment for those who plan "terrorist", "seditious" or "subversive" activities, introduces the biggest changes to the legal framework and way of life of the international financial center since the former British colony returned to sovereignty. China in 1997. Its critics consider that it deals a mortal blow to the regime of freedoms that China promised to guarantee until 2047 in the autonomous territory.

Carrie Lam, during a press conference held on June 30. On video, his statements on Hong Kong's security law.VINCENT YU / AP (VIDEO: REUTERS)

The measure also punishes "conspiring with foreign forces" to cause damage to China or the territory. It authorizes, for the first time since the return of the enclave to Chinese sovereignty in 1997, the operation on its soil of the security services of mainland China. According to the rule, "the central government shall establish establish an office for the protection of national security" in Hong Kong. This office, and not the Hong Kong government, will have jurisdiction in cases in which foreign countries are involved, "there is a serious and imminent threat that affects national security" or the autonomous government cannot apply the law itself for some reason. serious circumstance. A National Security committee is created, which will be headed by the head of the autonomous Executive, Carrie Lam, and whose decisions will not be subject to judicial review. Among the committee members will be an adviser appointed by Beijing.

Any attempt to separate Hong Kong or any part of the People's Republic of China, or to "return it to the foreign mandate" shall be considered secession. Planning this type of activity will carry life imprisonment; participate in them, between three and ten years in prison. Similar punishment will be given for activities considered “subversion of the powers of the State”, which include the use of force to change or overthrow the system of government of China or the Hong Kong autonomous government, as well as interference to prevent the normal functioning of the institutions.

The crime of terrorism can carry more than ten years in prison, or life imprisonment. The latter will be awarded to those who organize or lead terrorist organizations. Terrorist activities will be considered not only violence against people, but also damage to transport networks, communications, or gas and electricity lines. Those who help them will face sentences of five to ten years in prison.

Collusion with foreign powers includes carrying out or planning certain activities for foreign organizations against Hong Kong, including those that impede the implementation of central or autonomous government policies. Interactions with foreign institutions whose purpose is to control local elections, or to encourage hatred against Beijing or the autonomous Executive, will also have this consideration.

All the processing has been carried out in just 40 days, an unusual speed in the bureaucratic Chinese parliamentary system, and in the greatest of opacities. It wasn't until an hour before midnight that the text was finally published and the measure went into effect. There has been no public consultation process, to the point that not even members of the Hong Kong self-government have been able to see the draft. It also authorizes, for the first time since the enclave returned to Chinese sovereignty in 1997, the operation of mainland Chinese security services in the former British colony.

Its approval pits China against the United States, the European Union and the United Kingdom, very critical of the measure. Washington had warned that it would withdraw the special commercial status it granted to Hong Kong, considering that the new law eliminates the high degree of autonomy of the enclave agreed between Beijing and London in the negotiations for the transfer of sovereignty. Immediately after the approval was known, it has announced that it will stop exporting defense or dual-use material – with possible civil or military use – to the enclave. "We cannot risk that these assets fall into the hands of the Chinese Army, whose aim is to maintain the dictatorship of the Communist Party of China in any way," tweeted State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus. Hours later, the Chinese Foreign Ministry promised to respond with retaliatory measures.

International protest reactions multiplied throughout the day. The president of the European Council, Charles Michel, described the decision as "deplorable" and the president of the Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, affirmed that the bloc is studying response measures with international partners. British Foreign Minister Dominic Raab has reiterated the offer of passports for Hong Kongers born before the transfer of sovereignty and their families. In Tokyo, the Japanese government has described the passage of the law as "extremely regrettable".

The rule could be put to the test for the first time this Wednesday, July 1, when it marks the 23rd anniversary of the transfer of sovereignty. The police have vetoed, for public health reasons due to the pandemic, the protest demonstration that takes place every year. It is expected, however, that some kind of citizen rally will take place.

"In light of the increasingly pronounced national security risks facing the autonomous territory, the implementation of a national security law by the state is necessary and urgent," said the head of the Hong Kong autonomous government, Carrie Lam . "The legislation is an important step to improve the One Country, Two Systems institutional system (which guarantees the regime of freedoms in the enclave) and to restore stability to Hong Kong society as soon as possible."

Not unexpectedly, the announcement of the enactment stopped falling like a monumental jug of cold water among the sympathizers of the pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong. Throughout the day, many proceeded to systematically delete the accounts they had created on social networks in defense of last year's protests, although the vast majority were anonymous. They disappeared from nicks popularizers of slogans to accounts specialized in publicizing the art of protests.

Entire political parties also disappeared. The activist and former student leader Joshua Wong, who had assured that he would be a "preferred target" of the new law, announced his departure from the formation he founded, Demosisto, along with the rest of its young leaders. A little later, the party declared its dissolution through social networks. Two other formations, the National Front of Hong Kong and Studentlocalism, with pro-independence sympathies, have announced that they will cease their activities in the autonomous territory and will only operate from abroad.

“Even under the bad winds of China's direct and authoritarian rule, Hong Kongers will continue to fight for our freedoms and democracy for generations to come. When justice fails, our fight continues, ”Wong tweeted.

With this law, Beijing seeks to prevent a repetition of the protests, sometimes violent, that last year paralyzed the enclave and that were only stopped due to the health alert against the coronavirus pandemic. The measure may also have an impact on the Hong Kong legislative elections next September, in which for the first time the Democratic opposition had signs of winning a majority in the local parliament. The new rule may make it easier to disqualify some opposition representatives as candidates.

The Basic Law, the Hong Kong mini-constitution, provides for the autonomous territory to develop its own national security legislation. But protests against a first attempt in 2003 forced that bill to be shelved.

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