China explains to India, others why it needs to handcuff Hong Kong under new law

The law, which will ban sedition, secession and subversion of the central government in Beijing, was submitted to China’s legislature, National People’s Congress (NPC), for deliberation as it began its annual session on Friday.
Demonstrators protesting the proposed extradition bill aim their flashlights towards riot police as they are chased through the streets of Hong Kong, China.(REUTERS)
Demonstrators protesting the proposed extradition bill aim their flashlights towards riot police as they are chased through the streets of Hong Kong, China.(REUTERS)
Updated on May 22, 2020 01:50 PM IST
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Hindustan Times, Beijing | BySutirtho Patranobis

China has sent out demarches to India and other countries to explain its decision to enact a new law for Hong Kong, a controversial move that is expected to trigger fresh pro-democracy protests in the specially administered region (SAR).

The law, which will ban sedition, secession and subversion of the central government in Beijing, was submitted to China’s legislature, National People’s Congress (NPC), for deliberation as it began its annual session on Friday.

It is expected to become a law at the end the week-long session of the largely rubber-stamp NPC.

Critics say that the new law will effectively end wide-ranging freedoms including the right to peaceful assembly and free speech that Hong Kong enjoys under the “one country, two systems” mechanism.

The system gives the city a high-degree of autonomy other than in defence and foreign affairs.

Aware of the of the criticism expected to follow the announcement, Beijing sent out urgent demarches to foreign embassies, including India, late on Thursday night, explaining the law and why it was needed.

And, essentially, the note explained, countries should support the law to protect their “own legitimate interests” in Hong Kong.

The notes were sent out to the embassies and consulates at the same time as an NPC spokesperson was making the announcement about it.

The demarche pointed out that Beijing will not tolerate any external interference in Hong Kong.

“Hong Kong is a Special Administrative Region of China. The legislation for upholding national security in the Hong Kong SAR is purely China’s internal affair. No foreign country may interfere in this matter,” it said.

In brusque language, the statement said: “Your country maintains close economic and trade cooperation as well as people-to-people exchanges with Hong Kong. Hong Kong’s prosperity and long-term stability is in line with the common interests of the whole international community, including your country, as well as protection of your country’s legitimate interests in Hong Kong. We hope that your government will understand and support China’s relevant practices”.

“Hong Kong has become a notable source of risk to China’s national security,” it said.

The government’s note blamed “external forces” for the protests, which have wracked Hong Kong since June last year; at first, the student-led agitation were over an extradition bill before morphing into wider pro-democracy protests.

“The opposition in Hong Kong have long colluded with external forces to carry out acts of secession, subversion, infiltration and destruction against the Chinese mainland. The turbulence over the amendment bill in Hong Kong last June has greatly undermined the SAR’s rule of law and stability and battered its economy and people’s livelihoods,” the note said.

“These activities have not only caused enormous damage to the security of the SAR authorities and public order, mounted a serious challenge to the principle of “one country, two systems”, but also posed a grave threat to China’s national security, sovereignty, unity and territorial integrity. Hong Kong has become a notable source of risk to China’s national security,” the demarche added.

For Beijing, the new law will be the way to finally override Article 23 of the Basic Law -- Hong Kong’s mini constitution – which calls on the local government to “enact laws on its own to prohibit any act of treason, secession, sedition, subversion against the Central People’s Government”.

However, nearly 23 years after the former British colony was handed back to China in 1997, the law has never been passed.

“‘Hong Kong independence’ elements, separatists and those organising and joining terrorist activities only form a tiny minority in Hong Kong. It is these people that must be published in accordance with law,” the note added.

“By doing so, we can protect the vast majority of the Hong Kong people who abide by law. This meets the fundamental interests of Hong Kong society,” the note said.

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