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Hong Kong’s New Security Legislation Took Decades to Pass. Here’s What to Know.

Hong Kong’s New Security Legislation Took Decades to Pass. Here’s What to Know.


Hong Kong handed nationwide safety laws on Tuesday, giving officers within the Chinese territory extra energy to curb dissent, 21 years after mass protests pressured the federal government to backtrack on a plan to introduce such legal guidelines.

The laws targets political offenses like treason and revolt with penalties as harsh as life imprisonment and expands the scope of what might be thought of legal conduct. Local officers have mentioned it would shut gaps in a safety regulation that China’s authorities imposed on the territory in 2020 after months of giant antigovernment protests.

The safety laws is one other vital erosion of freedoms in a former British colony as soon as identified for its freewheeling politics and relative autonomy from China. It additionally highlights how weak Hong Kong’s once-boisterous civil society and political opposition have turn into over the previous 4 years.

Here’s how Hong Kong bought right here and what’s within the regulation.

When Britain handed Hong Kong again to China in 1997, the monetary hub’s mini-constitution promised residents freedoms not accessible within the mainland, together with a free press and an unbiased judiciary. But it additionally referred to as for the eventual passage of nationwide safety legal guidelines to interchange colonial ones the British had been abandoning.

The legal guidelines, identified collectively as Article 23 for the part of the mini-constitution that mandates them, would have allowed for warrantless searches and the closure of newspapers deemed to be seditious. After a whole lot of hundreds of individuals protested within the streets that summer season, some high officers resigned and the territory’s high chief withdrew the laws, saying it will not be reintroduced till it had extra public assist.

The assist by no means materialized, and different efforts to chip away at Hong Kong’s excessive diploma of autonomy additionally bumped into steep resistance.

In 2014, protesters demanding that Hong Kong’s folks have extra say within the election of its high political chief, the chief govt, camped out for months amid the high-rises of town’s downtown. They didn’t get what they demanded, however their effort impressed an excellent larger wave of resistance 5 years later.

In 2019, mass protests broke out over draft laws that might have allowed extraditions to the Chinese mainland. They dragged on for months, usually turned violent and posed the largest problem to the central authorities’s authority in a long time. The unrest ended with the imposition of Beijing’s 2020 nationwide safety regulation and the mass arrests of protesters and opposition lawmakers.

Hong Kong’s new safety laws, which native lawmakers handed in a rush below stress from their bosses in Beijing, picks up the place the central authorities’s model left off.

It targets treason, revolt, sabotage, espionage, exterior interference and the theft of state secrets and techniques. Hong Kong officers have mentioned it would complement the 2020 regulation and defend town from “overseas forces” — one thing China’s highly effective chief, Xi Jinping, has additionally warned about through the years.

The laws’s results on every day life and private safety weren’t instantly clear on Tuesday. The native authorities has mentioned that it will not ban Facebook or different social media platforms.

But it’s clear that the laws will make public criticism of presidency insurance policies even riskier than it has been below the 2020 regulation.

That the regulation handed in any respect exhibits how a lot has modified since public resistance pressured the Hong Kong authorities to backtrack in 2003. This time, there have been no main protests, solely criticism from overseas diplomats, rights teams and enterprise officers.

The Hong Kong authorities has mentioned the laws is well-liked, however the ease with which it handed is hardly proof of that. It sailed by means of an overwhelmingly pro-Beijing legislature after a four-year crackdown on dissent.

It has turn into tougher to know what the Hong Kong public thinks, partly as a result of the federal government has pressured unbiased information retailers to close down and restricted unbiased polling.

Days after Beijing’s 2020 safety laws turned regulation, the police raided the workplace of an unbiased polling institute. It had simply launched the outcomes of a ballot asking whether or not Hong Kong was “nonetheless a free metropolis.”

Sixty-one p.c of respondents answered no.

Tiffany May contributed reporting.

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