Beijing flexing its muscle in Hong Kong

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks during a press briefing at the State Department on Wednesday

China has betrayed the people of Hong Kong and the United Kingdom has a moral, economic and legal duty to stand up for them, Chris Patten, the last governor of the former British colony, has said.

Hong Kong police warned protesters against unauthorised marches against China's plans to impose a sweeping national security law, as the measure drew condemnation from the U.S., the United Kingdom and other Western governments. The Basic Law envisions an autonomous Hong Kong with independent, Western-style democracy based on the rule of law.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo branded the "disastrous proposal" a "death knell for the high degree of autonomy that Beijing promised for Hong Kong".

In addition, pro-Beijing sources say the law would enable the Hong Kong government to ban "foreign groups or organizations" designated by Beijing as being involved in "color revolutions" - another vague term that could apply to any groups critical of China's government.

Hong Kong is what is known as a "special administrative region" of China.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian, meanwhile, said national security in Hong Kong was "purely" an internal affair and "no country has the right to interfere".

"We saw an incredible surge of user growth in Hong Kong directly after the official statement was made public".

It comes as the city's pro-democracy demonstrations were temporarily halted during the coronavirus crisis. Many Hong Kong citizens consider the move as the end of one country, two systems.

President Trump has also weighed in, saying the USA would react strongly if it went through - without giving details.

The national security legislation neither hinders foreign investors from investing in Hong Kong, nor prevents local residents from enjoying the freedoms accorded to them by law, he said. To promulgate the law, the Hong Kong chief executive issues a legal notice in the Government Gazette, and the Chinese national laws concerned are applied verbatim.

What is Hong Kong's legal situation?

Pompeo has called the proposal a "decision to bypass Hong Kong's well-established legislative processes and ignore the will of the people of Hong Kong".

"The existing laws are not enough in maintaining national security", he said.

China's move would authorise its lawmakers to circumvent Hong Kong's legislature and directly enact the legislation at a future date. But now, the new national security law, which is certain to be passed by China's rubber-stamp National People's Congress in coming days, will only rekindle the fighting spirit of protesters in last year's wave of anti-extradition law protests. While article 18 of the Basic Law gives the NPC's Standing Committee powers to add laws to Annex III, the laws must undergo either legislation or promulgation. "It was never clear what exactly the allegations and the evidence are, and the term national security is so vague that it could cover nearly anything", Professor Johannes Chan, a legal scholar at the University of Hong Kong, says. We hope Beijing can understand that the way to restore order and peace in the society is not to brutally force an unpopular law on us, but to respect the will of Hong Kong's people.

"They (Beijing) are now completely walking back on their obligation owed to the Hong Kong people".

"What we are seeing is a new Chinese dictatorship", said Patten, a former chair of the Conservative party and cabinet member under Thatcher and her successor, John Major.

The Chinese Communist Party is claiming the law is about "safeguarding national security", and so not fit for the LegCo but for the mainland National People's Congress, whose annual meeting starts Friday.

The practice of "one country, two systems" has achieved unprecedented success in Hong Kong, according to an explanatory document delivered by Wang, state-run Xinhua news agency reported.



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