Commentary on Political Economy

Tuesday, 7 July 2020

Hong Kong’s National Security Law:

What you need to know

Updated on July 07, 2:35am EDT
Beijing has imposed a sweeping new national security law on the people of Hong Kong, raising concerns about declining freedoms in Asia's main financial hub and increasing tensions between the U.S. and China.
After unprecedented and sometimes-violent protests last year, Chinese officials said they had no choice but to bypass Hong Kong's legislature and implement new laws barring subversion, secession, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces. But democracy advocates, lawyers and human rights activists in the former British colony have said the new rules are designed to quell dissent, undermine the city's prized judicial independence and endanger its reputation as a global financial center.
The national security law has already had a chilling effect on speech in Hong Kong, which was guaranteed “freedom of speech, the press, assembly, association, procession and demonstration” before the former British colony’s return to Chinese rule in 1997. Western countries including the U.S. and U.K. have said the law seriously compromises the “one country, two systems” principle that was meant to guarantee Hong Kong's autonomy until 2047. China has dismissed such criticism as meddling in its “internal affairs,” saying it has a sovereign right to enact the legislation.

By The Numbers

  • 300+ Arrests by police on July 1, 2020, the first day of the law's implementation 
  • 35 Pages of legislation drafted behind closed doors in Beijing 
  • 2047 When China's 50-year pledge to guarantee the city's autonomy expires 

Why It Matters

Hong Kong, a city of 7.5 million people, has long been one of the world's top business cities alongside New York and London. Traditionally viewed as a gateway to China, it's home to some 1,300 foreign companies that have set up regional headquarters in part because of its civil liberties and professional courts.
The city has also become a key flash point in broader U.S.-China tensions that have prompted a global trade war and complicated the response to a devastating pandemic. Amid the pro-democracy protests last year, the U.S. passed legislation seeking to punish China over the crackdown in Hong Kong. President Donald Trump has already begun revoking some special trade privileges for Hong Kong, and faces calls from U.S. lawmakers to sanction Chinese officials. Leaders in Beijing have vowed to retaliate.

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