China has sought the support and understanding of India and other countries for its controversial decision to impose a new national security law on Hong Kong, saying the new legislation is aimed at containing the "secessionist" forces in the former British colony who have posed a "grave threat" to the country's national security and sovereignty.
In an apparent move to blunt any international backlash, China has sent demarches to India and several other countries explaining the reason for the new draft legislation with a reminder that "upholding national security" in Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) is "purely China's internal affair and no foreign country may interfere in this matter".
China on Friday introduced the draft of a controversial national security law in Hong Kong in its parliament to tighten Beijing's control over the former British colony, in what could be the biggest blow to the territory's autonomy and personal freedoms since 1997 when it came under Chinese rule.
Hong Kong is a Special Administrative Region (SAR) of China. It has observed a "one country, two systems" policy since Britain returned sovereignty to China on July 1, 1997, which has allowed it certain freedoms the rest of China does not have.
"Your country maintains close economic and trade cooperation as well as people-to-people exchanges with Hong Kong. Hong Kong's prosperity and long-term stability is in line with the common interests of the whole international community, including your country, as well as protection of your country's legitimate interests in Hong Kong. We hope that your government will understand and support China's relevant practices," it said.
The demarche said since the return of Hong Kong to China 23 years ago, the Hong Kong SAR has not acted out its constitutional duty for national security in line with China's Constitution and the basic law.
What does the legislation entail?
The new law would proscribe secessionist and subversive activity as well as foreign interference and terrorism in the city—all developments that had been troubling Beijing for some time, but most pressingly over the past year of increasingly violent anti-government protests, Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post reported.
The move is also significant in that China's central government appears to have all but given up hope that Hong Kong's administration will succeed at passing local legislation on such a law, amid a hostile political environment and deeply divided city, the report said. Pro-democracy activists had said they feared "the end of Hong Kong" if China brought the new security law.
The bill which is set to be approved by the NPC, regarded as the rubber-stamp parliament for its routine approval of proposals by the ruling Communist Party of China (CPC), comes in the backdrop of relentless agitation by the local Hong Kong people demanding political and administrative autonomy agreed by China when it took possession of the former British colony.
While the seven-month-long agitation last year in which millions took part subsided during the coronavirus crisis from January to April, protestors returned to streets this month, with the pro-autonomy and pro-freedom legislators grappling with the security officials in local legislature protesting against the curbs.
A number of pro-democracy figures in Hong Kong, including Democratic Party leader Wu Chi-wai, said the announcement was the death of "one country, two systems". Civic Party lawmaker Dennis Kwok said, "if this move takes place, 'one country, two systems' will be officially erased. This is the end of Hong Kong." His colleague Tanya Chan added that this was the "saddest day in Hong Kong history". Student activist and politician Joshua Wong tweeted that the move was an attempt by Beijing to "silence Hong Kongers' critical voices with force and fear". What makes the situation so incendiary is that Beijing can simply bypass Hong Kong's elected legislators and impose the changes, a BBC report said.
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US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Friday condemned China's effort to take over national security legislation in Hong Kong, calling it a death knell for the high degree of autonomy" that Beijing had promised the territory.
"Hong Kong has flourished as a bastion of liberty. The United States strongly urges Beijing to reconsider its disastrous proposal, abide by its international obligations, and respect Hong Kong's high degree of autonomy, democratic institutions, and civil liberties, which are key to preserving its special status under US law," Pompeo said in a statement.