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POLITICAL TENSION BETWEEN HONG KONG AND CHINAJuly 8, 2020
What this bill is about?
“It is definitely the start of a new but sad chapter for Hong Kong. Hong Kong as we knew is finally dead.” These were the words of pro-democracy legislator Claudia Mo for the contentious Hong Kong Security Law which was passed by the Chinese Parliament by a vote of 2878 to 1 on May 28th, 2020. This law which is being described by the critics as the most sweeping step for curbing dissent by banning all the activities and acts that endanger China’s national security, including:
Subversion – undermining the power or authority of the Central Government;
Secession – breaking away from the country;
Terrorism – using violence and intimidation against people;
Foreign interference – activities by foreign forces that interfere in Hong Kong.
The Legislation which has been described as “A blow to the Economy” by the critics would also allow “national security agencies”, potentially Chinese security forces, to operate in the city.
Background of the Controversy
In the past, Hong Kong was ruled by many dynasties or countries. It has been inhabited since the Old Stone Age and was later ruled by the Qing-dynasty. In the year 1841, it was occupied by the British Empire after defeating the Qing-dynasty during the First Opium War. The island of Hong Kong was ceded by China to the British trough the Treaty on Nanjing in the year 1842. Then after ruling for around 156 years, the British handed down Hong Kong to the Chinese Rule in July 1997. But the provisions of this agreement was not that simple. Hong Kong became the Special Administrative Region of China and the agreement stipulated that Hong Kong would enjoy a high degree of autonomy in the matters of governmental system and economic, legal, and financial affairs. It also stipulated that the principle of one country, two systems will last for the next 50 years and under that Hong Kong would have the autonomy to govern its territory.
What’s wrong with this law?
The Basic-Constitution of Hong Kong and the principle of “One Country, Two Systems” which describes the governance of Hong Kong since it became Special Administrative Region of China in 1997 prohibits the potentate state to make provisions for the governance of second-fiddle state on the issues related to the governmental system, economic, legal and financial affairs, including the trade relations with foreign countries. So, this law is unconstitutional as it violates the Basic-Constitution of Hong Kong and also the principle of One Country, Two Systems. According to the pro-democracy supporters, this law is a “death knell” which will end the autonomy of the territory.
Critics point out that Honk Kong is one of the most important trading and financial centers of Asian region with a very sound GDP and that’s why Beijing is trying its best to end the autonomy of the city and establish its own rule for which citizens of the aggrieved city are not ready. According to a survey, around 71% of the population of Hong Kong is not comfortable with living under the rule of China which shows that majority of people of Hong Kong loves their autonomy and do not want to lose it even after the end of the term of 50 years which was set in the year 1997 when Hong Kong was handed over to China by Britain through “Sino-British Joint Declaration”.
But, according to critics, Beijing is trying to end the principle of “One Country, Two Systems” and want to capture Hong Kong by implementing its different Policies and Acts. According to them the introduction of Extradition Bill and Hong Kong China’s National Anthem Bill manifest the same intention.
The period of lockdown has provided an opportunity for China to push forward its iron-fisted policy for capturing Hong-Kong. China knows that all the nations are drastically impacted by this pandemic of COVID-19 and it will require some time for them to recover. The economy of the West has also been devastated and it provides China enough time to implement its iron-fisted policy and to fulfill its motive. In this period, every nation is thinking about the recovery of its own and around more than half of the world is still combating with this deadly virus and many nations do not have enough time and resources to cogitate about this issue as well, this provides a golden opportunity to China for introducing this law.
Other Way of introducing this Legislation
According to a report of the South China Morning Post, the Chinese Parliament can use the route of Annex-III by inserting the said legislation into that for making it applicable to Hong Kong. The provisions of Article 18 of the Basic Constitution of Hong Kong clearly says that the national laws can be applied in Hong Kong if they are placed under Annex-III, but it must be “confined to those relating to defense and foreign affairs as well as other matters outside the limits of the autonomy of the Region”. After listing national laws in Annex-III, they can be enforced in the city by legislating locally in the Special Administrative Region or by the way of Promulgation (automatically being put into effect).
The main hurdle
The main hurdle coming before this dream of China is the outrage in the heart of Hong Kong’s citizens against these policies, which resulted in a massive protest. Protestors used slogans like “Liberate Hong Kong”, “Revolution of our times” and “Hong Kong independence, the only way out” for showing their wrath against this step of the Chinese Parliament. Hong Kong is well known for its furious protests which the city has witnessed in the last year as well, so it will be a tough nut to crack for China to subdue this situation. One of the pre-eminent reasons for these protests against this law is the move to bypass the semi-autonomous city’s local Legislative Council which according to pro-democracy supporters will slaughter the autonomy of the city viciously.
Beijing is trying its best to misname this matter as its internal issue so that the matter cannot be used by world powers to put restrictions against the state, but this matter has received a high level of publicity in world news and many countries are denouncing this act of China to curtail the autonomy of the city. Critics point out that this is not at all an internal matter of China because Hong Kong has a status of SAR and it does not come under the ambit of China’s legislation completely. Moreover, it has its own Constitution and Parliament which are responsible for making necessary legislation related to matters mentioned under the “Sino-British Joint Declaration” for the territory, and because of this China has no right to interfere in the governance of the state till the year 2047.
This law has not been specified till now and no one knows what offenses will be mentioned under the headings of subversion, separatism, terrorism, and foreign interference. But, one thing is clear that this law will somehow affect the autonomy of the city. According to pro-democracy supporters, this legislation violates the Basic Constitution of Hong Kong and the principal of one country two systems, and it also violates the Sino-British Joint Declaration. So, whatever the objective of Beijing might be, but the introduction of this law will impact the legal world drastically and because of this, there arises a responsibility of the world organizations to give this matter a little more importance.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Kapil Devnani is a 1st-year law student at Hidayatullah National Law University, Raipur.
In Content Picture Credit: Forbes