China will bypass the city’s own legislators to clamp down on activists in Hong Kong

Thursday, May 21, 2020 4:07 PM

Beijing has today announced that it will impose new national security legislation on Hong Kong.

It is said that the Chinese National People’s Congress plans to chart legislation for a new national security law tailor-made for Hong Kong; the new law is to be introduced to the city through promulgation. This signals Beijing’s abandonment of previous plans to instruct the Hong Kong Legislative Council to enact Article 23 of the city's Basic Law, which allows the criminalisation of acts of “treason, secession, sedition, or subversion” against China.

The act to bypass the city’s own legislators is a significant shift, as it demonstrates that Beijing is now unafraid and willing to renounce the very principle of “One Country, Two Systems”, the foundation for the transfer of sovereignty agreed in the Joint Declaration, thus marking an end to the city’s autonomy.

A previous attempt to enact Article 23 in 2003, which coincided with the SARS epidemic, was successfully stalled after 500,000 people bravely took to the streets in protest. Widespread resistance forced the administration to announce that further attempts to introduce the legislation would have to first undergo public consultation. Yet the Chinese government is now ramming through its planned legislation without giving Hongkongers any say.

The Beijing-controlled administration in Hong Kong has already arrested peaceful pro-democracy campaigners and used COVID-19 related social distancing laws to stifle protests. This startling new development sounds a death knell for the city’s autonomy under One Country, Two Systems, signalling unprecedented and fundamental threats to Hongkongers’ rights, freedoms, and way of life.

A spokesperson from grassroots campaign group “Stand with Hong Kong” commented:

“Hong Kong is being frog-marched towards a police state. What is left of our legal and political system is being shredded up before our eyes. Any pretence at autonomy is being rapidly undermined. Hongkongers oppose any introduction of laws to criminalise free speech and expression. As Hongkongers, we will keep fighting to defend our rights and freedoms.

We call upon the British Foreign Secretary and the British government to denounce these actions and to hold China to account for this latest fundamental breach of the Sino-British Joint Declaration, before it is too late.”