• Sharon Chau

Does Beijing's New Security Law Signal Hong Kong's Demise?

Questions answered:

  1. What happened?

  2. What is the new law?

  3. Why is Beijing doing this?

  4. Is this action by Beijing legal?

  5. Why is this law bad for Hong Kong?


  • Legislative Council (LegCo)- Hong Kong's main lawmaking body, akin to the UK Parliament

  • One Country Two Systems - a system of governance for Hong Kong agreed with Beijing during the Handover in 1997 - the idea that Hong Kong would be part of China, but possess a "high degree of autonomy" over social, legal and political issues

  • The Basic Law - Hong Kong's legal code and constitution

  • Article 23 - Hong Kong's national security law as stipulated in the Basic Law. There were attempts to pass Article 23 but there was strong backlash from the people

  • District Councils - local councils for the 18 districts of Hong Kong that deal with smaller, district-wide problems as opposed to LegCo's city-wide legislation

  • Promulgation - enacting a new law which takes effect automatically without input from Hong Kong's legislators

  • Localism - a political movement centred on the preservation of the city's autonomy and local culture

What happened?

  • Beijing bypassed the Legislative Council (LegCo) and crafted a new national security law for Hong Kong

  • Many argue this signals the demise of One Country Two Systems

What is the new law?

  • The new law intends to prevent, stop and punish acts in Hong Kong that threaten national security. Such actions include secessionist and subversive activity, together with foreign interference and terrorism

  • The Hong Kong government would also have a part to play by launching promotional and education programmes on national security, prohibiting acts that threaten national security, and submitting reports to Beijing regularly

Why is Beijing doing this?

  • Hong Kong hasn't passed its own national security laws, which Beijing had been hoping for. In 2003, LegCo attempted to pass Article 23 in the Basic Law, which requires the Hong Kong government to enact its own national security legislation. However, after a massive protest with half a million people, LegCo has since given up on passing Article 23

  • The past year has seen unprecedented social unrest with protests numbering around 2 million protesters (Hong Kong's population is 7 million). Beijing hopes to quell these protests

  • There has been international support for these protests, which Beijing sees as foreign interference endangering national security

  • The Nov 2019 District Council Elections saw a landslide victory for the pro-democracy bloc, which Beijing fears will be replicated in the upcoming Sep 2020 LegCo election. They wish to preemptively push for this law before a strong anti-Beijing LegCo emerges

Is this action by Beijing legal?

  • It is legal if "national security" is defined as part of defence, foreign affairs or things outside Hong Kong's autonomy

  • Under Article 18 of the Basic Law, national laws can only be applied in Hong Kong if they are a) listed in Annex III of the mini-constitution and b) related to defence, foreign affairs or "other matters outside the limits" of the city’s autonomy

  • The national laws enacted by Beijing top-down would either be a) promulgated, meaning they take effect automatically, or b) adopted through local legislation

  • Beijing will promulgate the law, which bypasses Hong Kong's LegCo and is a legal action

Why is this law bad for Hong Kong?

  • The promulgation means that there is no scope for negotiation or discussion within Hong Kong's lawmaking body

  • These new laws allow Beijing to implement a new and unregulated legal system in Hong Kong which could erode our legal system

  • Crimes such as subversion could be used in a blanket manner for Beijing to purge dissenters. Beijing has previously used similar national security laws to purge mainland dissidents

  • This will harm Hong Kong's reputation as a liberal financial metropolis. Businesses may believe this quashes the rule of law in Hong Kong and hence be reluctant to continue doing business here

  • There may be risks in supporting human rights activists in China who are jailed for subversion

  • The law could be used to bar opposition activists from running in elections on the grounds of sedition, especially for localist or pro-independence candidates


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