On June 20, the Chinese government released a blueprint for its new national security law. According to a CNN article dated June 21, the bill would allow Chinese officials to establish a national security office in Hong Kong. A Global Times article dated June 20 adds that Hong Kong’s chief executive would be responsible for appointing judges that would preside over cases on crimes that threaten national security. CNN notes that in “special circumstances,” China would be granted the power over Hong Kong to rule on a given case. According to a Washington Post article dated June 21, the bill will establish the Commission for Safeguarding National Security, which will be headed by Hong Kong’s chief executive, currently held by Carrie Lam. CNN noted that the bill has been met with criticism by Hong Kong opposition leaders, human rights groups, and politicians around the world.
In response to the draft, Lam stated that the Hong Kong government “fully supports legislative work for safeguarding national security” and is “undertaking the necessary preparatory work.” Hong Kong Chief Secretary Matthew Cheung defended the bill, stating, “99.99% of the Hong Kong population will not be affected, they’ll go about their lives, they continue their investment in Hong Kong.” The People’s Daily wrote, “If we want Hong Kong to have long-lasting peace and security, we should support the law without worrying. If we want ‘one country, two systems’ to be sustainable and stable, we should support rather than oppose it.” The Hong Kong Bar Association stated that it is “deeply concerned” by the details of the bill.
The bill has been met with opposition worldwide. According to the Guardian, the United Kingdom recently persuaded all G7 member states to sign a joint statement expressing deep concern over China’s proposed bill. The Guardian adds that United Kingdom foreign office ministers stated that they may sanction Chinese officials if China passes the bill. The Washington Post notes that Prime Minister Boris Johnson recently stated his government would open a pathway to citizenship for nearly three million people in Hong Kong eligible for British National passports. CNN adds that Taiwan established an office to help Hong Kong people fleeing the territory. The United States recently declared that it would no longer recognize Hong Kong as being autonomous from China and threatened to impose sanctions on Chinese officials, according to CNN.
The proposed bill comes in the wake of ongoing protests in Hong Kong over numerous issues. Protests began in early 2019 after Lam and Hong Kong’s Security Bureau proposed amendments to extradition laws that would allow Hong Kong criminals to be tried in China. In July 2019, Lam scrapped the bill and declared it dead, but protests continued. Reuters notes that protests often turned violent, with police throwing tear gas and shooting rubber bullets at protesters. CNN notes that in response to the protests, the proposed bill bans secession, subversion, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces to endanger national security.
The new national security bill could threaten Hong Kong people’s democratic freedoms. Speech against the state is likely to be suppressed, threatening freedom of the press in Hong Kong. As the bill has not yet been implemented, the world will wait to see how Hong Kong is affected by the legislation.