Impact of the new law
Digital signpost through traffic
China’s parliament prescribes a security law for the autonomous Hong Kong that enables the central government to intervene directly
The Standing Committee of the Chinese Parliament passed a so-called National Security Act for Hong Kong this Tuesday (local time), reported the one appearing in Hong Kong South China Morning Post. The decision was made unanimously. Hong Kong’s only representative on the panel raised his hand for the new law.
In the autonomous city, cooperation with foreign powers, undermining state power, terrorism and the pursuit of state independence are now becoming a reality punished. The maximum sentence is life imprisonment. Ultimately, the interpretation of the law is not left to the local authorities. In addition, there is Hong Kong law in case of doubt.
China has a two-tier parliament called the National People’s Congress. The committee, which has around 3,000 members, meets only once a year and passes basic laws such as constitutional changes. It also elects the president, government, top judges and prosecutors. It had recently given its Standing Committee a mandate to draw up and pass legislation to this effect.
Attempts to have a similar law passed in 2003 by the Parliament of the Autonomous Special Administrative Region – that is the official name for the status of the metropolis at the mouth of the Pearl River – had failed at the time. Although the majority of the parliamentarians, who were mostly connected to business, had been willing, the plans had caused massive protests among the population. More than one half a million people went out into the street.
Hong Kong was a British colony until 1997. The colonial rulers had given the city, which had long been dictatorial, a semi-democratic constitution a few years before the treaty was returned to China, which gave the various economic chambers and professions considerable influence on the legislation. The system was taken over by the People’s Republic.
The city of seven million, the most important stock exchange in East Asia after Tokyo, has its own currency, its own economic policy and its own immigration policy. A customs and passport border still exists for the People’s Republic.
Immigrants from the People’s Republic often face considerable rejection, while part of the locals complain of gentrification pressures due to mainland Chinese capital flowing into the city and slow displacement of the local language.
Since summer 2019, Hong Kong has been shaken by protests against a proposed law that extradites people to the People’s Republic. At times over a million people took to the streets, later the protests became smaller and more militant.
Images of violent police and their cooperation with mafia thugs on the one hand and brutal attacks by youth demonstrators on passers-by who expressed support for government policies on the other hand shook the city. Opposition parties won a landslide victory in local elections in November and have since controlled 17 of the 18 counties.
The new law will certainly make it more difficult to resist the increasing influence of the Beijing leadership on the city. The opposition group Demosisto announced on Tuesday their dissolution known. Joshua Wong, one of the key Demosisto figures, had previously announced his retreat. Wong is best known in the West for his contacts with right-wing US politicians and the local knight press.
As the reason for his withdrawal, he stated that he was afraid of a prison sentence and extradition to the People’s Republic. Under the new law, the central government will be responsible for its interpretation and, in part, for monitoring compliance. In the future there will be a central government agency in the city that officially collects information deemed relevant to the law and can also hand over individual cases to courts in the People’s Republic for legal prosecution.
However, Wong’s association is only a small part of a diverse opposition in the city, which includes left-wing trade unionists and independent socialists as well as liberals or right-wing local patriots. The effects of the new law are therefore still completely open in November on the elections for Legco, the Hong Kong parliament.
So far, the opposition had had some hopes of winning a majority there for the first time in its history. However, it is now uncertain whether the new law may be used to hinder their candidates or even exclude them from the election, as some in the city fear.
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