Controversial National Security Law Passed in Hong Kong

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In a move that has worried democracy advocates, China has passed a national security law for governing Hong Kong. The previously autonomous city has been gradually seeing their rights stripped away by the mainland. Democracy advocates in Hong Kong fear they will soon live under an authoritarian regime.

Pro-democracy advocates in Hong Kong hold up signs during protest
Anthony WALLACE | AFP

The passage of the national security law comes after months of civil unrest in Hong Kong over a proposed extradition bill. Ever since the 1997 hand-over of Hong Kong from English control to Chinese control, the city has been at the center of numerous controversies involving the mainland’s government.

A Growing Clash

Beijing has sought to exert more control over the coastal city in recent years. However, when the transfer was made official in the late 90s, Beijing promised the city it would continue to enjoy more freedoms than the mainland. For instance, the region has been allowed to hold yearly vigils for the Tiananmen Square incident.

Unlike in Disney animated movies, however, there is no clear-cut path for the “good guys”. Hong Kong is a major economic center for the region. It’s unsurprising that the control-obsessed mainland government wants to exert more power in the region. Truthfully, there is little Hong Kong can do about Beijing passing laws that will strip individual freedoms.

What the Law Does

The newest law, which went into effect on June 30, will criminalize things like “subversion of government” and discussion of secession. In truth, Hong Kong would be hard-pressed to secede from China in any event. The city relies on the mainland for supplies, clean water, power and the like. The law has many pro-democracy advocates worried, as it essentially criminalizes speaking out against the mainland’s government.

City government leader Carrie Lam noted that it was “inappropriate for [her] to comment” on the law. Her city’s administration seems to have been completely bypassed when the mainland forced the law through, despite Beijing promising to never do such a thing in 1997. Lam has defended the law by alleging it will bring “stability and prosperity” to the city.

Squashing Discontent

China’s government is not tolerant of discussions of independence. Political parties in Hong Kong that have pushed for independence have disbanded in advance of the law’s passage. Politicians in the city fear that they could be subject to legal persecution if they continue campaigning. This leaves Lam’s government unchallenged in the city.

Residents, however, have no illusions about who is really in control.