National Security Law Rekindles Protests And Fuels Anger In Hong Kong

Recent decisions made by the National People’s Congress of China have severely restricted the freedom of Hong Kong. Up until now, Hong Kong’s relationship regarding its autonomy from China has been strained. While Britain controlled Hong Kong starting in 1842, relative power over it was returned to China in 1997 under the agreement that China and Hong Kong would exist as “one country, two systems” until 2047. However, since mainland China has restricted this concept by encroaching on Hong Kong’s autonomy, which awards its citizens freedoms not granted to mainland citizens, protests in Hong Kong have escalated in recent months. Many protests originally stemmed from the attempt by the Hong Kong government of an extradition bill allowing those accused of crimes to be sent to mainland China for punishment.

Despite the protests, on May 28th, the National People’s Congress in China made a plan to pass a new National Security Law affecting Hong Kong. The new law would be designed to combat acts of secession, subversion of state power, participating in activities characterized as “terrorist activities” and behavior that threatens national security, and participating in actions that interrupt internal affairs of the organization, the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, and which necessitate involvement from outside powers. News of the plan behind this new law has rekindled the protests that have been occurring in Hong Kong for months. The decision to enact this new law as a response to the protests raises concerns about mainland China’s attitude towards citizens of Hong Kong who feel that their freedoms have been violated.

While protests are a necessary part of a democracy, especially a situation in which citizens feel as if their freedoms are threatened, citizens should not have to protest for months on end in order to get their voices heard. The unrest and the violence and destruction that has resulted has undoubtedly taken a toll on the citizens of Hong Kong. This law blatantly targets attempts by citizens to speak or act out against the government because of injustices they feel have been committed against them. However, this ability of citizens to speak out against their government is necessary. Government originates when people exchange some of their liberties for protection and security from a larger entity. However, if citizens feel as if their freedoms and rights are not being adequately protected, if they feel like their end of the bargain is not being held up, they have the right to raise their voices in order to make that known. They have the right to speak up about the ways in which government could improve its approaches and provide a better system of protection to all citizens.

In terms of the response from mainland China, a law protecting national security should be based around legitimate threats to national security, not protesters who are raising their voices to try and make the country a better place. As the protests are considered the problem that must be eradicated in the situation with Hong Kong, the new law would greatly prevent this perception of the problem. While this would be an effective way to put an end to these protests, the protests are not the problem. The act of not honoring an agreement that was supposed to last for fifty years and completing acts that restrict freedoms of citizens is the problem. The solution to this problem is not suppressing protests through an act that aims to protect national security when in reality it aims to prevent speaking out against the government. The solution should be one that acknowledges what issues citizens have with the current decisions being made that compromise freedoms along with making an effort to understand those issues from the perspective of citizens.

The fact that the protests have increased again in the time after the plan for the law was announced is evidence that such a law is the wrong way to try and stop them. A valid response from the government would hopefully lead to a reduction in the need for citizens to spend their time speaking out against the government. While protests are a positive force and tool which can help to create a more democratic environment, they indicate that there is a problem that needs to be solved in a system. Such a response should be acknowledged, and efforts should be made to try and resolve the conflicts being talked about.

On the subject of protests, the demonstrations themselves are not the problem. Citizens should be allowed and even encouraged to protest peacefully in order to raise up a collective voice from the people describing any issues. Although some protests lead to destruction of property and unrest, while this isn’t advisable, the rights and freedoms of citizens matter more than property. Destruction of property should inspire less punishment and should inspire more attention to possible solutions to protesters’ qualms. While destruction is not inherently positive, it is another indication that there are flaws in a system preventing citizens from enjoying the rights and freedoms they should have.

In addition, the agreement made between Britain and China was intended to assure a certain amount of autonomy and certain freedoms for the people of Hong Kong. This agreement was made in 1997 and was meant to last for fifty years. Such an agreement should not be infringed upon by decision makers in mainland China or by new laws that restrict freedoms but claim to be for other purposes in name alone. The autonomy of the people of Hong Kong should be honored and respected, not gradually chipped away. If any decisions are to be made about the freedoms of Hong Kong citizens, those citizens should have a say in those decisions and at the very least, should be part of the conversation.

In addition, citizens having more freedoms is not a negative concept. The idea that the territory should have some autonomy from mainland China should not serve as a threat to decision makers in Beijing. A government that perceives citizens with more freedoms as dangerous is not perceiving citizens in a healthy way. Citizens should be as free as possible under a government system and should be free to protest when they feel like it is necessary. If mainland China is threatened by the idea that Hong Kong citizens have too many freedoms and that this inconsistency in freedom as compared to that of mainland citizens might inspire anti-government feelings among more protesters, freedom is not the problem.

In order to form a better response than the National Security Law aimed at limiting protests and speaking out against the government, discussions should be organized between representatives from Hong Kong and representatives from mainland China in order to try and talk through the differences that are creating tension. Protesters have expressed that there is a need to address and prevent actions by mainland China that limit the current freedoms of Hong Kong citizens. Therefore, the government in Beijing should respond by acknowledging that there are discussions to be had and reparations to be made.

Finally, Hong Kong protesters should not have to go up against the possibility of this new law alone, especially since it threatens to prevent intervention from outside entities and external forces. Other countries who have a large amount of global influence should express support for Hong Kong and discourage the passing of the new law. If enough external actors show support for the protesters and call attention to the intentions of the new legislation, the government in mainland China can hopefully be discouraged from infringing on the freedoms of Hong Kong citizens further.











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