Despite massive criticism, China has passed the controversial Hong Kong national security law. The Beijing People’s Congress Standing Committee unanimously passed the law.
It targets activities that Beijing sees as subversive, separatist, or terrorist. It is also said to punish “secret agreements” between activists and forces abroad. Critics see a “weapon of oppression”. Human rights leaders call for sanctions against Beijing.
The leaders of the European Union and NATO expressed concern. “This new legislation is not in line with Hong Kong’s basic law or China’s international obligations,” said EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen. China must face “very negative consequences”, it said.
Security law undermines Hong Kong’s autonomy
The security law undermines autonomy and will adversely affect the independence of the judiciary and the rule of law, said von der Leyen. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said: “It is obvious that China does not share our values.” That applies to democracy, freedom and the rule of law.
The 162 members of the Beijing Standing Committee also voted to bypass the Hong Kong Parliament as an annex to the Basic Law of the Chinese Special Administrative Region. Head of state and party leader Xi Jinping subsequently signed the decree, which came into effect by decree, according to the Xinhua news agency.
Hong Kong Prime Minister Carrie Lam said in a video message to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva that the law would not apply retrospectively, as feared. The legal text was initially kept secret. Lam said the law would not undermine Hong Kong’s “high degree of autonomy.”
An end to the principle of “one country, two systems”?
However, the critics see it differently, since it is the most extensive encroachment on the autonomy of the Chinese special administrative region. It is also a reaction to the demonstrations against Beijing’s growing influence that have been going on for a year. The democratic forces now fear an end to the “one country, two systems” principle that the former British crown colony has been managed autonomously and with its own liberties since it was returned to China in 1997.
The passing of the law was characterized by great secrecy, which further increased mistrust. The only Hong Kong MP on the committee, Tam Yiu-Chung, later confirmed fears that “in rare situations” it would be possible to extradite suspects to China in the future. Critics point to the lack of independence of the Chinese courts, which have a 99 percent conviction rate.
Fear of persecution, well-known activist Joshua Wong and his fellow campaigners Agnes Chow and Nathan Law announced the withdrawal from their Demosisto party, which was dissolved. With the new law, supporters of the democracy movement must fear for their security, Wong justified the step. But he wanted to stay in Hong Kong “until they silence and wipe me out,” he said.
Pelosi threatens visa restrictions
The United States stopped arms exports to Hong Kong because of the security law. The export of technologies that could be useful to the military will in future be subject to the same restrictions as exports to China. “We can no longer differentiate between exporting controlled goods to Hong Kong or mainland China,” said Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. The US government had already announced at the end of May that it wanted to remove the advantageous legal status of the special administrative region due to Beijing’s interference.
Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi said the US Congress has always tried to defend “the oppressed by Beijing.” “We need to take into account all available tools, including visa restrictions and economic punitive measures,” she said.
There is also sharp criticism of Beijing’s plan to set up a security office in the metropolis to “monitor” the implementation of the law. The new law also provides for a separate national security trial court, the judges of which are to be selected by Prime Minister Lam.
For a year now there have been repeated demonstrations in Hong Kong protesting Beijing’s influence and police brutality. The protesters are also calling for free elections, as was promised when they were returned to China in 1997.
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