The text will now pass to the Standing Committee of the Communist Party and could be transformed into law within three months. For pro-democracy activists, the new law is an attempt by the Chinese government to end protests and violate the rights recognized by the Hong Kong Basic Law, such as freedom of speech.
The detailed contents of this new law are not yet known, but will aim to block terrorist activities in Hong Kong, to prohibit acts of “sedition, subversion and secession” and “foreign interference in local affairs”. They will therefore repress any act that can be considered as a threat to national security. Activist groups could be severely affected, courts could establish long prison terms for violations and “the feared Chinese security agencies could operate openly in the city,” the New York Times.
Several experts believe that the new law will give Chinese intelligence the opportunity to work rather freely in Hong Kong, and therefore target the leaders of pro-democracy protests. The law could then apply not only to individuals but also to organizations, which could endanger the defense of human rights in the region, as well as other groups critical of China.
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It is not clear whether the Chinese government has the authority to do so: Hong Kong is in fact a semi-autonomous territory whose statute guarantees local authorities the competence over public order. The interpretation of pro-Chinese politicians is that the central government still has the authority to impose these rules, in exceptional situations, while democracy activists and the Hong Kong lawyers’ association believe that it cannot do so under any circumstances.
Similar laws have already been made in China to silence the opposition to the Communist Party from the Committee that will draw up the rules that will then be valid in Hong Kong, with very broad prohibitions. An amendment passed on Tuesday, for example, broadened the definition from “acts” to punishable “activities”, wrote the South China Morning Post, effectively making the law even more restrictive.
The Communist Party Standing Committee is working on the text independently, without consulting Hong Kong experts, and once the legislation is written, the Hong Kong government appointed by Beijing will be required to make it immediately effective. Only then will it be known concretely to what extent Hong Kong’s autonomy will be preserved and how much China will strengthen its hold. The bill, announced a few days ago, has already provoked strong protests in Hong Kong and hundreds of new arrests.
This situation is creating many fears and concerns also on an international level. Yesterday, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that, given the latest developments, “Hong Kong is no longer autonomous from China”, with the consequence of potential economic repercussions and the possible end of the privileged relationship of the United States with the former colony. . This would have consequences not only for Hong Kong, but also for China and for many American companies that operate primarily financially in Hong Kong. The United Nations has in turn predicted that the bill will “undermine Hong Kong’s high degree of autonomy and freedom, as guaranteed by the 1984 Sino-British Joint Declaration, which was registered with the United Nations as a legally treaty. binding”.