Against China’s new se­cu­rity law move

Bei­jing’s move sparks fury in Hong Kong; Trump warns of strong US re­ac­tion

The Korea Times - - FRONT PAGE -

Po­lice in­ter­rupt a march by a group of pro-democ­racy pro­test­ers be­fore is­su­ing them with fines for break­ing govern­ment-im­posed so­cial dis­tanc­ing rules against COVID-19, dur­ing their route from out­side the West­ern Po­lice Sta­tion to the Chi­nese Li­ai­son Of­fice in Hong Kong, Fri­day. A pro­posal to en­act new Hong Kong se­cu­rity leg­is­la­tion was sub­mit­ted to China’s rub­ber-stamp leg­is­la­ture, a move ex­pected to spark fresh protests in the semi-au­ton­o­mous fi­nan­cial hub.

HONG KONG (AFP) — China has launched its fiercest as­sault on Hong Kong’s trea­sured au­ton­omy with its move to im­pose a se­cu­rity law, pro-democ­racy cam­paign­ers said Fri­day as they vowed to take to the streets in protest.

The pro­posal for the se­cu­rity law — ex­pected to ban trea­son, sub­ver­sion and sedi­tion — was in­tro­duced into China’s rub­ber-stamp par­lia­ment at the open­ing of its an­nual ses­sion on Fri­day morn­ing.

It fol­lowed re­peated warn­ings from China’s com­mu­nist lead­ers they would no longer tol­er­ate dis­sent in Hong Kong, a semi-au­ton­o­mous city that en­dured seven months of mas­sive pro-democ­racy protests last year.

“This is the largest nu­clear weapon the Chi­nese Com­mu­nist Party has used in its mu­tual de­struc­tion of Hong Kong,” Jimmy Sham, leader of the Civil Hu­man Rights Front, which or­ga­nized the mil­lion-per­son rally that kicked off last year’s un­rest.

Sham ap­pealed for mil­lions to again take to the streets, while other ac­tivists used in­ter­net threads and chat apps to call for protests on Sun­day.

Prom­i­nent democ­racy ac­tivist Joshua Wong said China’s mes­sage to pro­test­ers was clear.

“Bei­jing is at­tempt­ing to si­lence Hongkonger­s’ crit­i­cal voices with force and fear,” Wong said on Twit­ter, while also ex­press­ing de­fi­ance.

“HKers will not scare off in the face of wolf war­rior pol­icy.”

While China put for­ward its pro­posal as vi­tal to re­in­forc­ing sta­bil­ity in the global fi­nan­cial hub, Hong Kong’s share mar­ket plunged on Fri­day with a drop of nearly five per­cent in morn­ing trade.

Hong Kong has been al­lowed a lim­ited form of au­ton­omy since re­turn­ing from Bri­tish to Chi­nese rule in 1997, with those unique free­doms en­shrined un­der a “One Coun­try, Two Sys­tems” han­dover agree­ment.

How­ever, a huge pro-democ­racy move­ment has built in the face of fears China has been steadily erod­ing those free­doms.

The Com­mu­nist Party made clear Fri­day the planned law was aimed at quash­ing the democ­racy move­ment.

“We must take pow­er­ful mea­sures to law­fully prevent, stop and pun­ish them,” Wang said, re­fer­ring to “anti-China” forces.

Ar­ti­cle 23 of Hong Kong’s mini-con­sti­tu­tion, the Ba­sic Law, says the city must en­act a law to pro­hibit “trea­son, se­ces­sion, sedi­tion (and) sub­ver­sion” against the Chi­nese govern­ment.

But the clause has never been im­ple­mented due to op­po­si­tion from the Hong Kong peo­ple fear­ful it would de­stroy their cher­ished civil rights.

An at­tempt to have Ar­ti­cle 23 pass through Hong Kong’s leg­is­la­ture in 2003 was shelved af­ter half a mil­lion peo­ple took to the streets in protest against it.

China’s move would cir­cum­vent Hong Kong’s leg­is­la­ture by hav­ing it im­posed by the na­tional par­lia­ment.

Wang said Hong Kong’s de­lays in im­ple­ment­ing the se­cu­rity law had forced the Chi­nese lead­er­ship to take ac­tion.

“More than 20 years af­ter Hong Kong’s re­turn, how­ever, rel­e­vant laws are yet to ma­te­ri­al­ize due to the sab­o­tage and ob­struc­tion by those try­ing to sow trou­ble in Hong Kong and China at large, as well as ex­ter­nal hos­tile forces,” Wang said.

The United States re­acted swiftly to China’s an­nounce­ment, with State De­part­ment spokeswoma­n Mor­gan

Orta­gus warn­ing that im­pos­ing such a law would be “highly desta­bi­liz­ing, and would be met with strong con­dem­na­tion from the United States and the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity.”

Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump gave a vague ini­tial re­sponse that nev­er­the­less warned of a stronger re­ac­tion.

“I don’t know what it is, be­cause no­body knows yet. If it hap­pens, we’ll ad­dress that is­sue very strongly,” Trump said.

The U.S. Congress late last year an­gered China by pass­ing a law that would strip Hong Kong’s pref­er­en­tial trad­ing sta­tus if it is no longer con­sid­ered au­ton­o­mous from the main­land.

AFP-Yon­hap

Reuters-Yon­hap

Chi­nese Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping and other of­fi­cials ob­serve a mo­ment of si­lence for vic­tims of COVID-19 at the open­ing ses­sion of the Na­tional Peo­ple’s Congress at the Great Hall of the Peo­ple in Bei­jing, Fri­day.

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