Outrage in Hong Kong as China pushes security law

Hong Kong pro-democracy lawmakers holding up placards are blocked by security as they protest China's planned national security legislation during a House Committee meeting

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Friday condemned China's effort to take over national security legislation in Hong Kong, calling it "a death knell for the high degree of autonomy" that Beijing had promised the territory.

Trump and Pompeo have accused Beijing of being responsible for the coronavirus pandemic by not acting more quickly - an argument that critics say is meant to deflect from Trump's own handling of the crisis.

The new law would proscribe secessionist and subversive activity as well as foreign interference and terrorism in the city - all developments that had been troubling Beijing for some time, but most pressingly over the past year of increasingly violent anti-government protests, Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post reported.

The Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong - the largest pro-establishment group in Hong Kong - said it welcomes and fully supports the proposal. The conflict was clear to anyone following this gambit: Either China had to become more like Hong Kong, or Hong Kong had to become more like China.

On Friday, campaigners urged mass protests over the weekend against the law, which they see as an erosion of Hong Kong's autonomy. With the world preoccupied with the virus, Beijing is now set to pass legislation that would ban "treason, secession, sedition and subversion" in Hong Kong.

"Hong Kong is an extremely important partner for our country, with close economic ties and exchange of people", Japanese Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi said Friday afternoon.

"Any decision impinging on Hong Kong's autonomy and freedoms as guaranteed under the Sino British Joint Declaration and the Basic Law would inevitably impact our assessment of One Country, Two Systems and the status of the territory", Pompeo said.

Laws that harm democracy, human rights and Hong Kong's freedom under the guise of national security will increase societal instability and heighten risks for worldwide citizens in the city, Taiwan's Mainland Affairs Council said in an emailed statement. Hong Kong's value to China would drop considerably if its entrepreneurial people left and the city itself would no longer attract US investment. Beijing believes nearly a year of mass protests and, at times, paralysing confrontations on the streets shows that now it is needed more than ever.

Riot police stand guard near a group of pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong who are stopped for breaking restrictions on social distancing during the coronavirus pandemic

President Trump has also weighed in, saying the U.S. would react strongly if it went through - without giving details. For months, hundreds of thousands of Kong Kongers risked their lives and their livelihoods by protesting efforts by the city's pro-Beijing leaders to extend China's direct power over their citizens.

That article says Hong Kong "must improve" national security, before adding: "When needed, relevant national security organs of the Central People's Government will set up agencies in Hong Kong to fulfil relevant duties to safeguard national security in accordance with the law".

Opposition legislator Dennis Kwok also warned reporters yesterday that the law would be the "end of one country, two systems".

But the clause has never been implemented due to fears it would destroy Hong Kong's cherished civil rights.

While the seven-month-long agitation previous year in which millions took part subsided during the coronavirus crisis from January to April, protestors returned to streets this month, with the pro-autonomy and pro-freedom legislators grappling with the security officials in local legislature protesting against the curbs.

The United States reacted swiftly to China's announcement, with State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus warning that imposing such a law on Hong Kong would be "highly destabilising, and would be met with strong condemnation from the United States and the global community".

DW correspondent Phoebe Kong tweeted that the security law was "listed under annex 3 of basic law, bypassing scrutiny of the local legislature". Wang Chen, vice chairman of the Standing Committee of the NPC, said since the return of Hong Kong, China has been firmly implementing the principles of "one country, two systems", "the people of Hong Kong governing Hong Kong", and a high degree of autonomy.

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