The National People's Congress is set to send a resolution to its standing committee to draft legislation to ban secession, subversion, foreign interference, terrorism, and treason. This might mark the end of Hong Kong’s high level of autonomy. Beijing is afraid of pro-democracy parties.
Rome (AsiaNews) – China’s parliament, the National People's Congress (NPC), opens tomorrow. One of the items on its agenda is a national security legislation in Hong Kong.
For almost a year, the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region has been the scene of pro-democracy protests and violent clashes between law enforcement and protesters.
Many Chinese state media have described pro-democracy protests and demands as "terrorism,” accusing "foreign forces" of manipulating the local population.
This afternoon, NPC spokesperson Zhang Yesui unveiled the NPC’s agenda. The national security resolution is item 5, and should be addressed on 28 or 29 May.
Usually, the PNC simply rubberstamps what the Politburo has previously decided. In the case of the national security resolution, the NPC will forward it to its Standing Committee to hammer out the actual details of the legislation, to cover secession, subversion, foreign interference, terrorism, and treason.
Under article 23 of its Basic Law, Hong Kong is already required to adopt a security law. However, in 2003, when then Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa tried to get it through, he was forced to withdraw it because of grassroots opposition to legislation that would have curbed rights and freedoms and given excessive powers to law enforcement.
Since then, a rally is held on 1 July each year to commemorate the event. For many prominent pro-democracy Hong Kongers, any law by mainland China represents a threat to the civil liberties of the people of Hong Kong.
If the central government does impose such a law on Hong Kong, it will end the principle of ‘one country, two systems’ on which Hong Kong's return to China was based. Under that notion, Hong Kong was allowed to maintain its freer way of life.
This afternoon, the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) also opened (pictured). This advisory body runs in parallel with the NPC and draws delegates from the worlds of culture, religion, and business.
Earlier on Thursday, CPPCC Chairman Wang Yang said that China would support Hong Kong in “improving” mechanisms related to its Basic Law. However, he did not mention the city’s high level of autonomy, the first time that a high-ranking Chinese official fails to do so.
Hong Kong’s loss of autonomy would not only affect civil liberties, but also its economy. Months ago, the US Congress passed a law that would subordinate Hong Kong’s favourable trade status to the maintenance of its system distinct from the dictatorship that rules mainland China.
Many observers believe that China is afraid that pro-democracy parties might win a majority in the upcoming election for Hong Kong’s Legislative Council (LegCo). A national security law could be useful to frighten the city’s population.