Another chapter in the ongoing struggle between Hong Kong and China unfolds today, as the Chinese government attempts to implement a controversial security law. The national security law that China has put in motion outlaws acts of “treason, secession, sedition and subversion,” but international critics and civilians in Hong Kong see the law as a subversion of the city’s freedoms.
Hong Kong has had a long and complicated history with the mainland Chinese government. For decades, Hong Kong was under the government of England, a remnant of an older era of British imperial expansion. However, in 1997, the city was transferred back to Chinese control. However, in the intervening years, China’s government had become more totalitarian.
Hong Kong’s populace, which had grown accustomed to laxer laws under British rule, wasn’t quick to embrace the strict new Chinese laws. This has led to several tense encounters between the two factions over the years. Recently, a series of riots over proposed curfew laws made international headlines and drew widespread condemnation of China’s government.
Hong Kong Tests Beijing’s Power
Many see the current political climate in Beijing regarding Hong Kong as antagonistic. When power over the city was transferred back to China, Beijing promised that the city would enjoy freedoms not seen in other parts of the country. However, over time, those freedoms have been tested again and again.
This new “national security” law has reignited the conversation. Many in Hong Kong feel that Beijing will not stop implementing newer and stricter laws until Hong Kong is indistinguishable from the mainland. China is arguing that the new law is to prevent further outbreaks of protest like what was seen last year. Many pro-democracy figures in Hong Kong see it as retaliation for bloodying China’s nose.
Immediate Effects of the Law
Hong Kong’s local authorities have stated they will cooperate with the law, and that it won’t erode their freedoms. The financial markets beg to differ, however. On Friday, Hang Seng Index dropped a stunning five percent, showing a lack of faith in the new law.
The part of the new law that is most concerning appears in Article 4 of the proposed legislation. “When needed, relevant national security organs of the Central People’s Government will set up agencies in Hong Kong to fulfill relevant duties to safeguard national security in accordance with the law.”
Hong Kong’s leader, Carrie Lam, stated that the law would only help crack down on illegal activity. She insists that it is nothing to worry about. Many pro-democracy advocates in Hong Kong, however, disagree. They see Lam as part of a pro-Beijing contingent in Hong Kong that favors authoritarian rule.