Protests, alarm greet China plan for Hong Kong security law

China’s decide to impose new national security laws on Hong Kong drew angry condemnation on Friday as activists within the city involved protests and President Donald Trump warned that the us would react “very strongly” to the planned legislation.

Critics say the safety law would destroy the “one country, two systems” framework that was agreed when China took back control of the self-governing Chinese territory in 1997 promising citizens rights and freedoms found nowhere else within the country.

While it had been unclear whether a proposed march to China’s Liaison Office would materialise, it had been a reminder of the renewed risk of unrest in Hong Kong as protests begin to resume because the coronavirus recedes.

The legislation could also prove a turning point for the territory, intensifying geopolitical tensions between Beijing and Washington, whose relationship is already weakened by trade disputes and reciprocal accusations over the coronavirus pandemic.

“It is beginning to appear as if a US-China summer of discontent within the making,” Stephen Innes, chief global strategist at AxiCorp told Reuters press agency .

Speaking on Friday in his annual report back to the Chinese parliament, Premier Li Keqiang said China would establish a “sound” system and enforcement mechanisms to make sure national security in Hong Kong and Macau, its other semi-autonomous city.

Li again promised that China would “honour and implement” the “one country, two systems” framework, but Al Jazeera’s Adrian Brown said many ponder whether that’s really the case.

“We saw pictures of the good Hall of the People during Li’s speech and that i think that’s a reminder of where the important power now rests in Hong Kong; not in Hong Kong’s legislature but within the hall of the People in Beijing,” Brown said. 

“It is actually declaring directly that ‘one country, two systems’ is null and a failure,” Eric Cheung, principal lecturer at Hong Kong University’s department of law, told Reuters. 

The Hong Kong government’s previous plan to adopt national security legislation in 2003 was met with a protest that drew quite half 1,000,000 people onto the streets and was eventually shelved.

China’s latest move to impose the legislation comes after large-scale demonstrations in 2019 that became increasingly violent because the months wore on, creating the most important crisis within the former British colony since the 1997 handover.

A draft of the legislation obtained by Reuters indicated that the proposed legislation requires the territory to quickly finish enacting national security regulations under its mini-constitution, the essential law.

According to the legislation, China’s parliament empowers itself to line up the legal framework and implementation mechanism to stop and punish subversion, terrorism, separatism and foreign interference, “or any acts that severely endanger national security.”

China’s parliamentary president Wang Chen is scheduled to offer a speech explaining the new law afterward Friday.

Hong Kong-based writer Antony Dapiran said the regard to endangering national security was significant.

“Framing Hong Kong’s democracy as a national security threat and invoking the spectre of “foreign forces” enables Beijing to justify their intervention as associated with “foreign affairs” and “defence”, the sole two areas (where) Beijing can technically interfere in Hong Kong ,” Dapiran wrote on Twitter. 

Pro-democracy activists and politicians have long opposed the thought of national security laws, and on Thursday night denounced the plans as “the end of Hong Kong”.

“Beijing is attempting to silence Hong Kongers’ critical voices with force and fear,” pro-democracy activist Joshua Wong tweeted. “Deep down protesters know, we insist not because we are strong, but because we’ve no other choice.”

The introduction of Hong Kong security laws on the agenda of the Chinese parliament before the annual session which began on Friday morning, drew a warning from US President Donald Trump that Washington would react “very strongly”.

The US State Department also warned China, saying a high-degree of autonomy and respect for human rights were key to preserving the territory’s special status in US law, which has helped it maintain its position as a worldwide financial centre. The city’s stock exchange had plunged quite 3.5 percent by lunchtime on Friday

The territory’s last colonial governor, Chris Patten, also weighed in, telling the BBC that the united kingdom should tell China the legislation is “outrageous”.

Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council urged Beijing on Friday to not lead Hong Kong into “bigger turmoil” with the move. China claims the self-ruled democratic island as its own, proposing “one country, two systems” as a blueprint for its reunification.

Before the plans for the law were announced, Hong Kong’s democracy movement was already struggling with 15 people, including a number of the territory’s most prominent politicians charged within the week for organising and participating in the protests.

Meanwhile, an Independent Police Complaints Council (IPCC) report into the police handling of the demonstrations absolved the organisation of blame saying force was necessary due to the “illegal action by protesters” and warning them to not use allegations of police brutality as a “political weapon”.

There have also been scuffles within the city’s legislature between pro-Beijing and pro-democracy members before a debate next week on a controversial bill associated with China’s anthem .

Speaking to Al Jazeera before plans for the national security legislation were announced on Thursday, Steve Tsang, director at the China Institute at SOAS in London, said the prospects for Hong Kong were increasingly bleak.

“It’s ‘one country, Xi system’,” he said. “It’s worse than ‘one country, one system’ under Jiang Zemin (China’s president at the time of the handover). It’s about Xi Jinping, not just the Chinese system because it was in 1997.”

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