China pushes forward controversial security law in Hong Kong after unrest

WION Web Team Beijing, China May 22, 2020, 07.32 AM(IST)

China President Xi Jinping Photograph:( Reuters )

Story highlights

The law, which is expected to ban sedition, secession and subversion of the central government in Beijing, will be introduced through a rarely used constitutional method that could effectively bypass Hong Kong's legislature.

A proposal to enact the highly controversial Hong Kong security legislation was submitted to China's rubber-stamp on Friday, according to the state media.

The proposal, which has been condemned by the United States and Hong Kong pro-democracy figures as an assault on the city's freedoms, was tabled on the opening day of the National People's Congress.

US had warned that the bill would be "highly destabilising" for the financial hub.

However, Chinese officials and state media defended the law as vital to protecting national security in the wake of last year's protests and a 17-year failure by the Hong Kong government to pass similar legislation, since the last effort was met with mass protests in 2003.

Also read: Trump says US will 'react strongly' if China imposes new Hong Kong security law

The announcement late Thursday was quickly decried by pro-democracy lawmakers and activists as "the end of Hong Kong", with fears it will stoke unrest and tighten Beijing's grip on the semi-autonomous city.

The law, which is expected to ban sedition, secession and subversion of the central government in Beijing, will be introduced through a rarely used constitutional method that could effectively bypass Hong Kong's legislature.

It could be the biggest blow to the city's autonomy and civil liberties since its handover to Chinese rule in 1997.

China has made clear it wants new security legislation passed after Hong Kong was rocked by seven months of massive and sometimes violent pro-democracy protests last year.

The proposal, planned for the first day of the National People's Congress, would strengthen "enforcement mechanisms" in the financial hub, the parliament's spokesman Zhang Yesui said.

"National security is the bedrock underpinning a country's stability. Safeguarding national security serves the fundamental interests of all Chinese people, including our HK compatriots."

China's parliament considers it "necessary to improve and uphold the 'One Country, Two Systems' policy," Zhang said, referring to the arrangement that has underpinned the city's liberties and free market economy.

Article 23 of Hong Kong's mini-constitution, the Basic Law, says the city must enact such laws to prohibit "treason, secession, sedition (and) subversion" against the Chinese government.

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

The controversial bill has been put back on the table in recent years in response to the rise of the Hong Kong's pro-democracy movement.