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China is set to introduce a new security law for Hong Kong, raising concerns about more unrest

A protester talks with security forces following their intervention in a vigil to commemorate a protestor who died 11 months ago during a rally against the controversial extradition law proposal in Hong Kong, China on May 15, 2020.

Miguel Candela Poblacion | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

China is poised to impose a new national security law on Hong Kong after months of anti-government protests in the territory. The move has sparked concerns there will be more protests and arrests in Hong Kong, amid criticism that Beijing is violating the “One Country, Two Systems” principle.

Details of the draft legislation were announced Friday when China’s National People’s Congress (NPC) — the country’s parliament — holds its annual session, which was delayed this year due to the coronavirus outbreak.

The legislation is expected to strengthen Beijing’s hold over Hong Kong, a special administrative region of China.

“In light of the new circumstances and need, the NPC is exercising the power (of) the constitution to establish and improve at the state level a legal framework and an enforcement mechanism for safeguarding national security in Hong Kong SAR and to uphold and improve the institutional framework of one country, two systems,” said Zhang Yesui, spokesperson for the third session of the 13th National People’s Congress, via official English translation at press conference on Thursday evening. “This is highly necessary.”

This is the end of ‘One Country Two Systems,’ make no mistake about it.

Dennis Kwok

democratic lawmaker in Hong Kong

A previous attempt to introduce a national security legislation in Hong Kong in 2003 was shelved after mass protests.

“This is the end of ‘One Country Two Systems,’ make no mistake about it,” said Dennis Kwok, a democratic lawmaker in Hong Kong.

“Beijing, the Chinese central government has completely breached its promise to the Hong Kong people, a promise that was enshrined in the Sino-Chinese joint declaration and the Basic Law. They are now completely walking back on their obligations owed to the Hong Kong people,” he told reporters.

U.S. President Donald Trump told reporters on Thursday “nobody knows yet” the details of China’s plan, Reuters reported. “If it happens we’ll address that issue very strongly,” he said.

The “Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act” approved by Trump in 2019 requires the State Department to certify at least once a year that Hong Kong maintains enough autonomy to justify favorable U.S. trading terms. If this status is revoked, it would impact Hong Kong’s status as a trade and financial hub and hit many international firms operating there.

The South China Morning Post reports the legislation this time would ban an all seditious activities aimed at toppling the central government.

Now is an “auspicious time” for Beijing to introduce the national security legislation “as all the rest of the world is preoccupied,” said Orville Schell, Arthur Ross director at the Center on U.S.-China Relations at the Asia Society.

“If the National People’s Congress passes legislation setting the terms of the game of Hong Kong, it is a very serious violation of the whole nation ‘One Country, Two Systems’ because in fact, it should be the Legislative Council of Hong Kong that does this but they refuse to do that and every time they try, they’ve been protests, so Xi Jinping is fed up and he moves in,” Schell told CNBC’s “Squawk Box” on Friday.

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