Written by: Michelle Young, Staff Writer
China has approved a new bill to criminalize secession, subversion, terrorism, and foreign interference in Hong Kong. The law has yet to be drafted, as the process is expected to take a few months. Carrie Lam, the Chief Executive of Hong Kong, stated that the new bill will “ensure prosperity and stability to Hong Kong.”
The new law was met with harsh criticism upon its proposal earlier in May. Critics of the new law worry that it will effectively end the “one country, two systems” framework that guaranteed Hong Kong’s autonomy after the handover to China in 1997.
Days after the drafted bill was announced, thousands of pro-democracy protestors took to the streets to protest the proposed security law. According to the Hong Kong Police Force, protesters were violent towards officers. The protests resulted in the use of tear gas and water cannons by Hong Kong’s Police Force, who also stated via Twitter that they “express the strongest condemnation against the riotous acts.”
Lam also noted that the new law “will not affect one country, two systems” and will “protect the rights” of Hong Kong citizens. However, some expressed concern under the belief that their freedoms will be limited. Pro-democracy activists, such as Joshua Wong, have condemned the bill, publicly stating that it is “just the prelude to more oppressive controls.”
The national security bill comes after a year of political unrest in Hong Kong, and Lam stated that it would only affect those involved in terrorism or subversion. While she stressed that Hong Kong’s freedoms will remain, she also stated that “rights and freedoms are not absolute.”
Back in 2003, Article 23 of Hong Kong’s mini-constitution held a similar sentiment, however, it was never put into place due to an extremely unpopular response — half a million protested against it.
There was also public dissent against the drafted bill in Vancouver, as hundreds went to the Chinese Consulate to protest. Regarding the proposal, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has stated that it is “important for the Chinese government to engage in constructive conversations with citizens of Hong Kong.” Canada, the US, the UK, and Australia signed a joint statement condemning the law of breaching the Sino-British Joint Declaration — an agreement between Britain and China that allowed China to take back Hong Kong, under the condition that it would remain “unchanged,” including Hong Kong’s high degree of autonomy. However, these concerns have been dismissed by China as mere “meddling.”
A number of Canadian universities, including the University of British Columbia (UBC) and the University of Toronto (UofT), have faced backlash for posting job listings for the Hong Kong Police Force. The advertisements posted positions inviting those who have the ability to “take command of a situation” to apply. In a joint statement, activists wrote that the listings are “complicit in human rights violations in Hong Kong by aiding and abetting perpetrators of state violence,” and called for the postings to be removed. In response to the critique of these listings, some universities, such as UBC and UofT stated that it is the choice of the student on whether or not they wish to apply. Others, such as McMaster University have removed the advertisements.
Lam has stressed that Hong Kong’s freedoms will remain intact and that those who are concerned about the new proposal should wait until the details are released.