China’s national security law for Hong Kong
BREAKTHROUGH - Elfren S. Cruz (The Philippine Star) - July 5, 2020 - 12:00am

China has just passed a new “security law” for Hong Kong which makes it easier to punish protesters and drastically reduce the city’s autonomy. Hongkongers call this the end of Hong Kong. Critics said it will curtail protest and freedom of speech. China’s says it will restore stability.

The BBC News has released the new law’s key provisions. It includes the following:

• Crimes of secession, subversion, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces are punishable by a maximum sentence of life in prison.

• Damaging public transportation can be considered terrorism.

• Those found guilty will not be allowed to stand for public office.

• Companies can be fined if convicted under the law.

• Beijing will establish a new security office in Hong Kong with its law enforcement personnel – neither of which would come under the local authority’s jurisdiction.

• This office can send some cases to be tried in Mainland China – but Beijing has said it will only have that power over a “tiny number” of cases.

• In addition, Hong Kong will have to establish a new security  commission to enforce its laws, with a Beijing appointed “adviser.”

• Hong Kong’s chief executive will have the power to appoint judges to hear national security cases, raising fears about judicial autonomy.

• Importantly, Beijing will have the power over how the law should be interpreted, not any Hong Kong judicial or policy body.  If the law conflicts with any Hong Kong law, the Beijing law takes priority.

• Some trials will be heard behind closed doors.

• People suspected of breaking the law can be wire tapped and put under surveillance.

• Management of foreign non-government organizations and news agencies will be strengthened.

• The law will also apply to non-permanent residents and people from outside Hong Kong...who are not permanent residents of Hong Kong.

Through this new law, Professor Johannes Chan, a legal scholar of the University of Hong Kong, said: “Effectively they are imposing the People’s Republic of China’s criminal system onto the Hong Kong common law system, leaving them with complete discretion to decide who should fall into which system.”

The introduction of this basic security law ends the “one country, two systems” principle which now exists in Hong Kong.

When Hong Kong was handed back to China, there was an agreement which was supposed to protect certain freedoms for Hong Kong. These included freedom of assembly and speech, an independent judiciary, and some democratic rights. These are freedoms that are not enjoyed by other parts of China.

People are now also worried that this new law could affect its attractiveness as a leading financial and an economic hub. Many multinational companies have located their headquarters in Hong Kong. Part of its attraction has been the fact that the rule of law and basic human rights were part of Hong Kong’s judicial system. That is now gone.

Another risk for China is that could lead to Beijing losing access to foreign capital and technology through Hong Kong. Some observers say that economic well-being and prosperity is the main goal of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). The world should now be aware that the overriding goal of the CCP is to stay in power by any means. Once the pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong was perceived to be a threat to the CCP’s continued rule in China, it was clear that Beijing would do all in its power to crush the movement.

The new law also covers not just Hong Kong residents but also anyone living abroad. These include foreign nationals, the Hongkongers living abroad and those studying or working abroad. Canada has already warned its nationals of an increased risk of detention and possible extradition to China. The warning has gone out that if you have ever said anything that might offend the Chinese Communist, Chinese and Hong Kong authorities best to “stay out of Hong Kong.”

According to Rodger Baker, a geopolitical analyst: “China... is a nation strengthened, but also held hostage, by its long supply chains, compelled to ever greater economic and political intercourse to preserve its interests and increasingly drawn into the security sphere as well. It uses its economic, political and military leverage to expand its own direct sphere of operations, from the South China Sea to India and across Central Asia into Europe. The more engaged it is internationally, the more dependent it is on maintaining and strengthening its connections, which are critical for Chinese economic growth and, by extension, domestic management of its massive, diverse and economically unequal population.”

The Chinese Communist Party has obviously decided that it will no longer follow the advice of Deng Xiaoping and will instead begin to act with haste and intensity to become the global power. It now has territorial disputes with 18 of its neighbors. Again gone is the “good” neighbor policy of Deng. Perhaps it is also taking advantage of the fact that the other forces in the world are fractured without any leadership. Under Trump, the USA has deliberately caused division in the Western Alliance; and the previous Asian alliance of India-Australia-Japan and the United States has not fully materialized. However, if Trump loses and Biden becomes president, all these could change. Perhaps China is rushing to gain as much ground before Biden and the USA could resurrect the old alliances which will definitely stop Chinese expansion.

This combination of bringing Hong Kong under its full control and the increased aggressiveness of its territorial claims are both risky points in China’s ambition to become a global power.

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Email: elfrencruz@gmail.com

HONG KONG
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