New security law for Hong KongApprox Read Time: 6 minutes
- China has unveiled new details of its draft security law for Hong Kong.
- After the 2019 anti-government and anti-Beijing protests, China moved to impose the law directly on Hong Kong, bypassing the city’s legislature.
- In May, China passed a new security legislation for Hong Kong that makes any show of dissidence against the mainland a crime.
- The law, for the first time, paved way for China to install its own security agencies in the protest-wracked city.
- China has now unveiled new details of its controversial new law for Hong Kong.
- Under the new law, no institutions, organisations and individuals in Hong Kong should engage in activity endangering national security.
- The legislation will target Secession (breaking away from the country), Subversion (undermining the power or authority of the central government), Terrorism (using violence or intimidation against people) and colluding with foreign forces.
- Such categories have been used to jail political activists on the mainland.
- In a major move, some specific cases would not be tried under Hong Kong’s separate legal system, but under mainland laws.
- When needed, the national security organs of the mainland government will set up agencies in Hong Kong to fulfill relevant duties to safeguard national security. That means China could have its own law enforcement agencies in Hong Kong, alongside the city’s own.
- Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam, in power with mainland China’s backing, will have the power to appoint judges to hear cases related to national security.
- Currently, senior judges allocate judicial rosters up through Hong Kong’s independent judicial system.
- The law will end the promised political freedoms enshrined in the “one country, two systems” deal.
- Group of Seven leading economies, including Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the UK and the US, called on China to reconsider its plans.
- They said the national security law lies in direct conflict with China’s international obligations under the principles of the legally binding, U.N.-registered Sino-British Joint Declaration.
- The US said that the new law meant that Hong Kong no longer merited being treated differently from the mainland under US law. This could have major implications for Hong Kong’s trade hub status.
Background on Hong Kong and China:
Hong Kong Formation:
- After the Opium Wars between Great Britain and China (1839–1860), China was forced to cede Hong Kong Island to Great Britain in perpetuity.
- In 1898, Britain negotiated a major land expansion of the Hong Kong colony and signed a 99-year lease with China.
- The lease ended in 1997, at which time Britain returned Hong Kong to China as a Special Administrative Region (SAR) called the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China (HKSAR).
- China agreed to govern Hong Kong under the principle of “one country, two systems“.
Relation between China and Hong Kong:
- Hong Kong is semi-autonomous under the principle of “one country, two systems” after it returned to Chinese rule in 1997.
- Under the doctrine of “one country, two systems,” China allowed Hong Kong to continue to govern itself and maintain many independent systems for a period of 50 years.
- Since 1997, Hong Kong has been governed by the Basic Law, which allows the territory “to enjoy executive, legislative and independent judicial power, including that of final adjudication”, barring matters of defence and foreign affairs.
Hong Kong’s Basic law:
- Hong Kong is governed by a mini-constitution called the Basic Law, which affirms the principle of “one country, two systems”.
- The Basic Law allows the territory “to enjoy executive, legislative and independent judicial power, including that of final adjudication”, barring matters of defence and foreign affairs.
- Thus, Hong Kong has its own laws and legal system and its residents enjoy civil liberties and autonomy unavailable to their mainland counterparts.
- The constitutional document is a product of the 1984 Sino-British Joint Declaration, under which China promised to honour Hong Kong’s liberal policies, system of governance, independent judiciary, and individual freedoms for a period of 50 years from 1997.
- Thus, until 2047, while Hong Kong is under Chinese sovereignty, it is supposed to be able to retain its own political and legal systems.
Hong Kong residents’ continued fight for freedoms as before:
- Since the handover, Hong Kong residents have time and again taken to the streets to protect their Basic Law freedoms, with the first major pro-democracy protest taking place in 2003.
- In 2014, over one lakh city residents took part in the ‘Umbrella Revolution’ to protest against China’s denial of democratic reforms.
2019 protests and impact:
- In 2019, after the extradition law was proposed for Hong Kong, that could have seen criminal suspects sent to the mainland for trials in China’s highly opaque legal system, along with possible torture and abuse.
- It resulted in the largest protests ever in the city, when for months tens of thousands of Hong Kongers agitated against the proposed law, and continued with pro-democracy marches even after the legislation was withdrawn.
- The large-scale protests were seen as an insult by mainland China.