May 22, 2020

The end of Hong Kong as we know it?

Protesters outside the U.S. Consulate in Hong Kong, Nov. 2019. Photo: Vivek Prakash/AFP via Getty Images


It emerged today that China plans to implement a sweeping national security law for Hong Kong that could provoke a fierce backlash from pro-democracy activists there.

Why it matters: Beijing's encroachment on Hong Kong's independent legal system prompted massive protests last year that have resumed on a smaller scale as social-distancing measures lift.

  • The current proposal appears to be even more far-reaching, banning sedition, treason and secession, which Beijing tends to define very broadly.
  • The proposal would amend the Basic Law, which has governed relations with the mainland since Hong Kong was handed back to China from the U.K. in 1997.

By addressing this law in Beijing, China's leaders are bypassing Hong Kong's legislature and chief executive, Axios' Bethany Allen-Ebrahimian notes.

  • The law could mean the end of the relative political freedoms that Hong Kong's people have enjoyed under the Basic Law — and thus the effective end of the "one country, two systems" framework.

What they're saying: "This move affirms that Hong Kong as we knew it is gone and rule of law is now rule by law, with the CCP determining what the laws are and how they will be enforced," writes Bill Bishop in his Sinocism newsletter.

What to watch: Secretary of State Mike Pompeo recently said that if Hong Kong's political freedoms are not upheld, the U.S. will consider revoking the special status that allows the city to thrive as an international financial hub.

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