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China passes controversial Hong Kong national security law

The National People's Congress passed the controversial security law unanimously, bypassing Hong Kong's legislature. 

Jun 30, 2020 15:03 IST
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The Chinese Parliament on June 30, 2020 passed the controversial national security law for Hong Kong. The law will carry a maximum penalty of life in jail. It is expected to come into effect from July 1, 2020, on the occasion of the 23rd anniversary of Hong Kong’s handover to China by the British. 

The controversial security law was passed after it received unanimous approval from China’s top lawmaking body, the 162-member National People's Congress Standing Committee. As per reports, only few Hong Kong delegates to the national legislature have seen the draft of the law before its passage. 

The move comes amid extensive criticism of the law from the international community and massive protests from the people of the semi-autonomous city of Hong Kong. 

Key Highlights 

 The National People's Congress passed the controversial security law unanimously, bypassing Hong Kong's legislature. 

 The new law will criminalize offenses such as secession, subversion against the central Chinese government, terrorism and colluding with foreign forces.

 The draft of the legislation was not made public ahead of its passage, which means that a majority of people in Hong Kong have not seen details of the law that will now govern them. 

 Under the law, the maximum sentencing for crimes will be lifetime imprisonment, much higher than the earlier proposed 10 years of imprisonment.

China’s new national security law

 China’s new national security law for Hong Kong will allow mainland Chinese officials to operate in Hong Kong for the first time and give China the power to override local laws. 

 The law will pave way for authorities in mainland China to exercise their jurisdiction over cases in Hong Kong under special circumstances. 

 This means that certain crimes in Hong Kong could result in trials in mainland China. 

 The crimes would include secession, subversion against mainland Chinese government, terrorist activities and collusion with foreign forces to endanger national security. 

 China would be establishing a special police bureau in Hong Kong under the law to oversee its implementation along with secret policing in the former British colony.

One Country, One System?

The law’s passing contradicts China’s "one country, two systems" model for Hong Kong, which is a semi-autonomous special administrative region of the People's Republic of China.

Hong Kong, which was earlier a British territory, was handed back to China in 1997 under "one country, two systems" governance model.  Under the model, Hong Kong was allowed to have its currency, judicial system, culture, identity and freedom of speech, press, right to assembly and freedom from censorship, as against the authoritarian rule in mainland China. 

However, China’s new security law for Hong Kong essentially curbs most of the freedom that Hong Kongers enjoyed earlier. According to critics, the law marks the end of “one country, two systems” and marks the beginning of “one country, one system”.

US ends defence exports to Hong Kong

After China passed the controversial law, the United States announced termination of the US-origin defense equipment exports to Hong Kong. 

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo tweeted saying that the US is ending exports of US State Department controlled US origin defense equipment and sensitive dual-use technologies to Hong Kong. Pompeo stated that if China treats Hong Kong as "One Country, One System," so must we.

Pompeo said that the decision was taken to protect US national security as they can no lonnger distinguish between the export of controlled items to Hong Kong or to mainland China. He stated that they cannot risk these items falling into the hands of the People's Liberation Army.

Background 

Hong Kong has been witnessing massive anti-government protests since June 2019 in opposition against China’s increasing efforts to implement the new national security law to increase its influence on the special administrative region.  Both China and Hong Kong’s leadership have maintained that the new law will not affect legitimate rights of Hong Kong’s residents. China has reportedly vowed to respect the "one country, two systems" principle.
 
Several countries including the US, UK and Australia have opposed the new law. The European Parliament had on June 23 voted to bring China before the International Court of Justice over its decision to adopt a new national security law for semi-autonomous Hong Kong. The foreign ministers of the Group of Seven (G7) countries had also issued a joint statement on June 18 strongly urging China to reconsider its decision to impose national security legislation on Hong Kong.

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