Red flags fly in front of the Great Hall of the People as the third session of the 13th National People’s Congress (NPC) opens on May 22, 2020 in Beijing, China.
Du Yang | China News Service | Getty Images
China’s National People’s Congress, the country’s parliament, on Thursday approved the proposal to impose a new national security law for Hong Kong — paving the way for the legislation to be finalized and implemented in the city.
The NPC voted 2,878 to 1 in favor of the bill, which will pave the way for its Standing Committee — a smaller decision-making body — to proceed to working out details of the legislation to be implemented in Hong Kong. Six abstained from the vote.
Ahead of that decision, protests in Hong Kong reignited. Large crowds in the Chinese territory were out in force after the legislation was first proposed last Friday at the start of the annual parliamentary meeting. The U.S. has criticized Beijing’s move and said it undermines the freedoms and autonomy of Hong Kong, a former British colony that returned to Chinese rule in 1997.
Details of the law are still scarce — but it will target secession, subversion of state power, terrorism activities and foreign interference, the Chinese government has said. The process to enact the law bypasses Hong Kong’s legislature and could take a few months to complete.
The decision to press ahead with the new legislation — which was widely expected — followed a controversial week that saw protests surge again in Hong Kong after weeks of relative calm as the territory observed social distancing measures during the coronavirus outbreak. On Wednesday, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo declared that the city was no longer independent from China.
Hong Kong, a special administrative region of China, is ruled under a “one country, two systems” principle that allows the city some freedom that those on the mainland do not enjoy. That includes self-governing power, a largely separate legal and economic framework from mainland China, and limited election rights.
Last year, proposed changes to law that would have allowed extradition to China sparked widespread protests in Hong Kong. That later morphed into broader pro-democracy demonstrations that swamped the city for much of last year, sending its economy into a recession.
Those demonstrations came to a pause earlier this year because of the coronavirus outbreak. But protesters took to the streets over the weekend after Beijing announce its plans for a new national security law in Hong Kong, which once again heightened concerns that China is expanding its control over the city.