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  • Hong Kong Opposition Fears “One Country, One System” with New Security Law

  • Does New National Security Legislation Signal the End of Hong Kong?

  • Xi Lookalike Opera Singer Enlists Fans After “Appearance Violations”


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Hong Kong Opposition Fears “One Country, One System” with New Security Law

On Friday, the Chinese government released the full text of a draft resolution requiring the implementation of national security laws in Hong Kong. The resolution, which will bypass the normal legislative process in Hong Kong by being introduced in Annex III of the Basic Law—Hong Kong’s mini-constitution—requires the Hong Kong government to enact its own national security legislation. The last time the Legislative Council tried to do so in 2003, mass protests forced them to withdraw the motion. From a translation of the resolution by China Law Translate:

The state will unflinchingly and accurately implement the principles of “one country, two systems”, “Hong Kong people ruling Hong Kong” and a high degree of autonomy, and uphold the principle of governing Hong Kong according to law, to preserve the constitutional order of Hong Kong Special Administrative Region as determined by the Constitution and the Basic Law of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, and employ necessary measures to establish and complete the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region’s legal system and enforcement mechanisms for preserving national security, and lawfully preventing, stopping, and punishing, conduct and activities that endanger national security.

[…] The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region shall complete legislation for preserving national security as provided for in the Basic Law of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region as soon as possible. The administrative, legislative and judicial organs of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region shall, in accordance with relevant laws and regulations, effectively prevent, stop, and punish conduct endangering national security. [Source]

The resolution also allows the Chinese government to establish security and intelligence agencies in Hong Kong. Under the “One Country, Two Systems” framework, Hong Kong currently operates its own law enforcement and judicial systems, independent of China. Clare Jim and Jessie Pang of Reuters report:

The document said the laws will safeguard the central government’s “overall jurisdiction” as well as Hong Kong’s “high autonomy” given Hong Kong’s “increasingly notable national security risks”.

“When needed, relevant national security organs of the Central People’s Government will set up agencies” in Hong Kong to safeguard national security, the draft said.

Hong Kong’s judiciary, along with the government and legislature, must “effectively prevent, stop and punish acts endangering national security”, it states. The reference to Hong Kong’s staunchly independent legal system has rattled some Hong Kong lawyers.

[…] “It is essentially declaring directly that ‘one country, two systems’ is null and a failure,” said Eric Cheung, principal lecturer at Hong Kong University’s department of law, of the legislation. [Source]

However, there remained some uncertainty over whether Chinese law enforcement would be allowed to operate in Hong Kong under the Basic Law:

The National People’s Congress Observer Blog explained the legality of the new resolution on Twitter:

Legal scholar Jerome Cohen weighs in further on the impact of Beijing’s move on Hong Kong’s government and citizens:

In his analysis of Premier Li Keqiang’s Work Report presented at the opening of the National People’s Congress session, David Bandurski of China Media Project describes how Wang Chen, vice-chairman of the NPC Standing Committee, discussed the new legislation in a speech Friday:

The work report itself deals only very briefly with the question of Hong Kong in the final section (in the fourth to last paragraph, in fact), following general language about the CCP’s leadership of the armed forces and the determined protection of “national sovereignty, security and development interests.” Hong Kong and Macau follow together, without any particular emphasis, before the issue of Taiwan is addressed.

[…] The work report is intended as a broad overview of goals and a summary of supposed achievements, so we should not be surprised that it glosses right over this major development. The details were more forthcoming, and the language far more astringent, in the speech this afternoon (on video here) from Wang Chen, vice-chairman of the NPC Standing Committee, specifically addressing the question of new legislation for Hong Kong. Wang said, to a chilling chorus of pre-scripted applause (his voice even rose in anticipation at precisely this point) that “strong measures must be taken to stop and to punish” what he characterized as actions “seriously challenging the bottom line of the principle of ‘One Country Two Systems’, and seriously damaging national sovereignty, security, and development interests.” [Source]

Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Law has said she and her government will cooperate with Beijing to implement new national security legislation as quickly as possible. From Kelly Ho at Hong Kong Free Press:

Lam backed the NPC’s proposal to include national security laws in Annex lll of the Basic Law, saying that it was “undoubtedly within the purview of the Central Authorities.”

She added the decision would not amend the Basic Law, nor replace or repeal Article 23 in Hong Kong’s mini-constitution, which allows the city to make laws to ban actions that they see as endangering national security.

“In other words, the HKSAR still has the responsibility to complete legislation for Article 23 of the Basic Law as soon as possible,” she said.

[…] “After the passage of the Decision, the HKSAR Government will fully co-operate with the Standing Committee of the NPC to complete the legislation as soon as possible to discharge its responsibility of safeguarding national security to ensure the long-term prosperity and stability of Hong Kong under “One Country, Two Systems,” she said. [Source]

In an explainer of the new laws at Lausan, Vincent Wong outlines what activities the new laws will potentially cover:

This effectively bans a broad spectrum of political activity, which would include much of what we’ve seen from the Hong Kong movement thus far. The enforcement of sedition and subversion laws diminishes Hongkongers’ right to free speech and press freedom. Any relationships with foreign political organizations could be categorized as foreign interference. Clashing with the police, even if in self-defense against their unaccountable violence, could be labeled as terrorist activity.

However, national security clauses aren’t new to Hong Kong. Many of them are found in Article 23 of Hong Kong’s Basic Law, the city’s mini-constitution, but efforts to pass these laws were ultimately scrapped after half a million people protested its passage in 2003. So what’s different this time? Why has this news caused such an uproar? Why has the pro-democracy lawmaker Dennis Kwok called it “the most devastating thing to happen to Hong Kong since the handover”?

This is because after this past year of protests, Beijing has arrived at the conclusion that the Hong Kong government (and its Legislative Council) can no longer be trusted with the passing and enforcement of national security laws.

In other words, the Xi administration is fed up with Hong Kong and is no longer satisfied with letting Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam “manage” the Hong Kong protest movement. Instead of observing from afar, the Xi administration has decided to directly intervene in Hong Kong’s lawmaking processes and intends to beat Hongkongers into submission using “rule by law.” [Source]

Participants in the 2019 protest movement—which started in opposition to a planned extradition bill and later expanded to more generalized demands for democracyhave expressed their fears over this new legislation. Some are also concerned that it may lead to more extreme resistance measures. Natasha Khan writes for the Wall Street Journal:

“I don’t know which is worse: the law itself, or the process of allowing the standing committee to pass the law for Hong Kong,” [veteran pro-democracy activist and legislator Martin Lee] said, referring to Beijing’s plan to use its highest political body to introduce laws for Hong Kong and override the city’s lawmakers. “It’s a dangerous precedent set at a critical stage, and in the future they can repeat the same thing again and again.”

[…] While many dissidents vowed on Thursday to continue their fight, they said protest tactics may change from mass rallies to underground resistance, with some resorting to lone-wolf attacks to highlight their cause. Police in recent months have warned of rising threats of bombs and other violent acts.

Ivan Choy, a senior lecturer at Chinese University of Hong Kong’s school of government and public administration, said Beijing’s tougher stance may lead to more extreme protests.

“This will provoke further reaction from younger generations,” he said. “It will be very difficult for more moderate voices in society to tell them to stay calm and see a political solution now.” [Source]

For The New York Times, Vivian Wang and Austin Ramzy report on how members of the protest movement are figuring out how to shift course from confronting their local leaders to directly taking on Beijing. Some are appealing to the international community for support:

Stunned and saddened, many protesters on Friday seemed demoralized and uncertain of their next move. While some on social media called for rallies or singalongs, several organizers said they would focus on events already planned for the coming days. Those demonstrations include a rally scheduled for Sunday to oppose a separate drive by Hong Kong officials to criminalize disrespect of the Chinese national anthem.

[…] Hong Kong’s reaction to the Chinese government’s plan likely won’t stay muted for long. Many in the anti-Beijing camp said they believed the protests would mushroom as social distancing measures eased. The Hong Kong government recently extended the restrictions through at least June 4.

The city’s democracy activists also emphasized that the details of Beijing’s plan remain unclear and that any law would likely not go into effect for several months, giving them time to mobilize.

“Next week, the main thing might be the national anthem law, but in the coming months, the main thing will be the national security law,” said Agnes Chow, a prominent student activist. “I believe there will be a lot of mass protests in the coming weeks and months.” [Source]

Zen Soo at AP reports additional responses from pro-democracy activists in Hong Kong:

A former pro-democracy lawmaker, Lee Cheuk-yan, said at a news briefing by opposition parties and activists that Chinese leader Xi Jinping “has torn away the whole pretense of ‘one country, two systems’” and that Beijing is “directly taking control.”

“They’re trying to ban every organization in Hong Kong who dares to speak out against the Communist Party,” he said, describing it as a challenge to global values such as freedom and liberty.

Office worker Tiffany Chung called it ridiculous. “They promised ‘one-country, two-systems, but the content of the security law is basically implementing ‘one country, one system,’” she said. [Source]

Secretary of State Pompeo issued a strongly worded statement on Hong Kong, and two senators have introduced a bill to sanction Chinese officials and entities responsible for implementing the new laws. At the Washington Post, Shibani Mahtani looks at what other options the U.S. has for censuring China over this move, as the two countries are in the midst of a downward spiral in relations due to ongoing trade disputes and mutual accusations over responsibility for the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.

China’s provisions against “foreign interference” appear to put diplomats at risk of harassment; already, China last year leaked personal information of an American official in Hong Kong, accusing her of fomenting unrest, and detained an employee of the British consulate, who said he was blindfolded and shackled.

“If agents of China’s national security apparatus can operate in Hong Kong, they can use the same methods that they use in China,” said Leung Kwok-hung, a political activist in Hong Kong. “That is the end for us.”

Beijing’s gambit — imposing its will by decree, bypassing legislative procedures it promised Hong Kong under the terms of the 1997 handover — prompted warnings and indignation from Washington. And it marked a decisive blow in China’s efforts to undermine Hong Kong’s constitution, the Basic Law, and the “one country, two systems” formula that is supposed to preserve the city’s political rights and autonomy until 2047.

Armed with new tools, namely the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act, the question now is how far the Trump administration will go in its response. Attention is falling on whether the United States will end Hong Kong’s trade privileges by certifying that the territory should no longer be treated separately from China — a step many regard as a nuclear option because of the implications for business — or sanction key officials. [Source]

The U.K., Australian, and Canadian governments issued a joint statement against the laws. International human rights organizations including Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and Chinese Human Rights Defenders also condemned the move.

At the Guardian, Ilaria Maria Sala and Louisa Lim write that the new legislation “threatens to undermine all the cherished institutions and rights that distinguish this international city from mainland China”:

In Hong Kong, the news was met with numb disbelief. It was “the saddest day in Hong Kong’s history” according to the pro-democratic Civic party politician Tanya Chan. The very vagueness of mainland Chinese definitions of sedition, subversion and secession could criminalise groups such as religious believers, political parties advocating greater autonomy and even those who organised Hong Kong’s massive protests, some of which saw more than 1 million participants.

Given that Hong Kong’s future autonomy is now uncertain, the move also brings into question the city’s future as an international business centre. The news was met by protests in the legislative council and calls for more street action in spite of the ongoing restrictions on gatherings of more than eight people due to the pandemic.

Hong Kong’s defenders have often hoped the city would be protected by its role as a world city, thanks in no small part to the institutions that distinguish it from mainland China. Some warned that this would not be enough to protect Hong Kong from the Communist party. Before the handover, tycoon Vincent Lo Hong-shui, then chairman of the General Chamber of Commerce, issued a stark warning: “It’s really a myth to think that they will not kill the goose that lays the golden egg.” Through the enactment of this legislation, two decades later, those fears have now come true. [Source]

For Global Voices, Lokman Tsui, professor at the City University of Hong Kong’s School of Journalism and Communication, writes:

So what now? What can we in Hong Kong do? What can anyone do?

[…] Maybe it’s time to remind ourselves that Hong Kong has been really good at protesting, at acting, at being creative and surprising.

We surprised the government when half a million of us came out to stop the original national security bill in 2003.

Last summer, we surprised the world with a one million-person march. And then we surprised the world again, this time with a cool two million-strong march. We got the extradition bill killed.

[…] We refuse to be domesticated. Freedom is never free. But we earn our souls. [Source]

Further responses from Twitter:

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Does New National Security Legislation Signal the End of Hong Kong?

As the annual Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference and National People’s Congress meetings begin Thursday in Beijing, Chinese officials announced they would impose sweeping national security legislation in Hong Kong, bypassing the territory’s Legislative Council to criminalize “foreign interference,” secessionist activities, and subversion of state power. The move would mark the most direct takeover of Hong Kong’s political and legal systems by Beijing yet and would largely destroy the “One Country, Two Systems” administration that has granted Hong Kong some autonomy since returning to Chinese rule in 1997. The law would also be a direct blow to the protest movement which took to the streets almost a year ago in opposition to a proposed extradition law, later expanding their demands to call for full democracy and an end to Beijing’s encroaching power over the territory. In the Washington Post, pro-democracy lawmaker Dennis Kwok called the new law “the most devastating thing to happen to Hong Kong since the handover.” Shibani Mahtani, Anna Fifield, and Tiffany Liang report further for the Post:

The move is the boldest yet from Beijing to undercut Hong Kong’s autonomy and bring the global financial hub under its full control, as it works to rewrite the “one country, two systems” framework that has allowed the territory to enjoy a level of autonomy for the past 23 years.

After steadily eroding Hong Kong’s political freedoms, Beijing signaled that the national security law will be a new tool that allows it to directly tackle the political dissent that erupted on Hong Kong’s streets last year. The months-long and sometimes violent protests began last June and fizzled out only over public health concerns related to the coronavirus outbreak.

[…] Similar laws were proposed in 2003 and would have allowed authorities to conduct searches without warrants. But they were abandoned after mass protests and never picked up locally again.

“The social unrest last year showed that the Hong Kong government was unable to handle passing [national security legislation] on its own,” said Ng, a Beijing loyalist who has for years pushed for a similar law. “Hong Kong’s status will be sacrificed with or without this law if society is unstable due to the protesters’ violence.” [Source]

The BBC offers an explanation of the new law and what it would cover:

The issue has been introduced on the NPC agenda, under the title of Establishing and Improving the Legal System and Enforcement Mechanism of Hong Kong.

Hong Kong’s mini-constitution, the Basic Law, which provides the territory certain freedoms not available on the mainland, does require its government to bring in a security law. It had tried to enact the so-called “sedition law” in 2003 but more than 500,000 people took to the streets and it was dropped.

[…] Sources say the law will target terrorist activity in Hong Kong and prohibit acts of sedition, subversion and secession, as well as foreign interference in Hong Kong’s affairs.

Pro-democracy activists fear it will be used to muzzle protests in defiance of the freedoms enshrined in the Basic Law. [Source]

At the Hong Kong Free Press, Tom Grundy explains that the law would be introduced under Annex III of the Basic Law:

It is expected that the law will be added to Annex III of the Basic Law and promulgated by the Hong Kong government before September, bypassing the legislature, according to the source.

Article 18 of the Basic Law stipulates that no Chinese national laws shall be applied in Hong Kong save for those listed in Annex III of the mini-constitution. The NPCSC may add to the list after consulting its Basic Law Committee. The Annex III laws must then be effected through promulgation or by way of local legislation. Promulgation is done by the chief executive issuing a legal notice in the Government Gazette, allowing the national laws to be applied verbatim.

“Safeguarding national security serves the fundamental interests of all Chinese, our Hong Kong compatriots included,” said NPC spokesperson Zhang Yesui at a press conference, adding that such laws were “highly necessary” and the agenda details would be announced on Friday. [Source]

This graphic circulating online shows the characters for “One Country, Two Systems,” with the “Two” shrunken down to “One.”

Both the Washington Post and The New York Times have useful FAQs answering basic questions about the law and its significance for the future of Hong Kong.

The U.S. government, which is already at odds with Beijing over a number of issues including trade, the origins of the coronavirus pandemic, and the status of Taiwan, spoke out sharply against the new law. Gary Cheung of the South China Morning Post reports:

Beijing’s move also comes against the backdrop of rapidly escalating tensions between the United States and China. The US has until the end of this month to certify Hong Kong’s autonomy under the Human Rights and Democracy Act of 2019.

It will make an assessment on whether Hong Kong remains suitably autonomous from China, a prerequisite for extending the city’s preferential US trading and investment privileges.

Warning earlier that it would be a tough report, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Wednesday launched a verbal salvo against China and expressed Washington’s concerns over Hong Kong. Pompeo, a former CIA director, called out the recent arrests of leading Hong Kong activists such as Democratic Party founder Martin Lee, and entrepreneur and media owner Jimmy Lai, describing how they had been “hauled into court”.

“Actions like these make it more difficult to assess that Hong Kong remains highly autonomous from mainland China,” Pompeo said. “We’re closely watching what is going on there.” [Source]

On Thursday, two U.S. Senators introduced a bill to “sanction Chinese officials and entities who enforce the new national-security laws in Hong Kong, and penalize banks that do business with the entities,” according to the Wall Street Journal.

At The New York Times, Keith Bradsher, Austin Ramzy, and Tiffany May report on the response to the announcement among pro-democracy lawmakers and activists in Hong Kong:

On internet forums and chat groups frequently used to organize protests, some people expressed concerns about whether their past conversations could implicate them should the new laws be passed. Others urged users to download virtual private networking services to cloak their identities, while some debated whether to delete their chat histories and disband the discussion groups.

“Hong Kong independence is the only way out,” chanted a group of protesters gathered in a luxury shopping mall on Thursday.

Users flocked to LIHKG, a Reddit-like forum popular with protesters, to trade jokes about how the impending legislation would change life in the city. Some users said they would swear allegiance to China with oaths laced with references to the protests, while others bid farewell to the city as they knew it.

Nathan Law, a pro-democracy advocate, urged protesters not to give up. “At this time last year, didn’t we believe that the extradition law was sure to pass? Hong Kongers have always created miracles,” he wrote on Facebook. [Source]

Since last year’s street protests largely ended with the outbreak of the coronavirus, the Hong Kong government has taken a series of steps aimed at quieting pro-democracy dissent and further strengthening Beijing’s sway over the territory. As protesters have recently begun to regroup ahead of several important dates–including the annual commemoration of the June 4th crackdown in 1989, and the July 1 anniversary of Hong Kong’s handover to Beijing–authorities extended social distancing measures put in place for COVID-19, effectively banning any mass gatherings. In recent weeks, more than 230 protesters have been detained in Hong Kong, including veteran activist and legislator Martin Lee and 14 other prominent pro-democracy activists. The Hong Kong government also announced it would introduce legislation criminalizing insults to China’s national anthem, which is often booed at Hong Kong soccer games and other events. Shibani Mahtani at the Washington Post reports on the government’s moves to preempt any upcoming protests:

With pro-democracy protests reemerging as fears of the novel coronavirus ease, the coming weeks will probably reveal whether China’s approach can work, or if shutting off peaceful means of resistance will drive more people to the streets and to more-extreme tactics.

Authorities in recent days have tightened their grip on Hong Kong’s legislature, curtailed the city’s constitutional right to freedom of assembly and a free media, and cracked down on high-profile activists who have campaigned for full democracy for the former British colony.

In the quest to neutralize opposition, Beijing’s allies in Hong Kong’s legislature forcibly seized control Monday of a committee that determines what bills are brought before lawmakers. That move clears their path to push through laws sought by Beijing, starting with a bill that would make it a criminal offense to disrespect China’s national anthem.

[…] On Tuesday, Hong Kong authorities extended pandemic-related rules limiting public gatherings to effectively ban, for the first time, a June 4 vigil marking the anniversary of China’s massacre of student demonstrators in Tiananmen Square in 1989. [Source]

Responses to to proposed national security legislation were swift and sharp on Twitter:

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Xi Lookalike Opera Singer Enlists Fans After “Appearance Violations”

Since late last year, internationally famous Chinese baritone Liu Keqing–who is known for having a “striking resemblance to Xi Jinping”–has several times had his account banned on short video sharing platform Douyin, the domestic Chinese version of TikTok, with the official explanation “appearance violation.”  The opera singer has repeatedly needed to undergo audits to prove his identity, and has enrolled his followers’ help on the task.

According to Liu, his account has been banned three times since last September in relation to either other people’s likes and comments that triggered sensitive word filters, or to his personal profile being reported:

Friends, my Douyin account was blocked yesterday. Nobody can see it, all because my “appearance” has stirred up problems. Five days ago at the Beijing Laiyin Opera House I registered with Douyin to post a video on how to sing bel canto. Within two days it had passed 370,000 likes–not in support of my good singing, but because I look like a national leader. And, a lot of people wrote the name of the leader. It’s now almost the [October 1 anniversary of the PRC’s establishment] National Holiday, so many people are simultaneously liking the name of that “leader” that it’s turned into a “sensitive” topic. In order to keep “trouble” from stirring, they’ve blocked my Douyin video so nobody can see it. Arg, what can be done? Friends, please add one of my Douyin ID numbers, check it from time to time, and let me know when the ban is lifted. The number is 2183979775 Thanks!

Friends, my Douyin account was again blocked after my avatar was reported for a “violation.” I am again being audited, I have once again submitted proof of identification, and I’m waiting to be cleared. This is already my third time my account has been banned for “appearance violation.” Thank you all for your recent support on the “keqingliu” Douyin. Apologies, you won’t be able to view my explanation on how to sing bel canto on Douyin until after the review is over.

As of the time of this post, Liu’s Douyin account has been restored, but he has modified his avatar to look less like that of the high leader:

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