Police in Hong Kong trained water cannons and fired tear gas at protestors on May 24 after thousands of demonstrators took to the streets to protest a proposal announced by China’s National People’s Congress three days earlier, “establishing and improving the legal system and enforcement mechanisms” for Hong Kong in order to “safeguard national security.” Hong Kong police said they arrested at least 120 people, reported the Associated Press.
The proposal would allow China to circumvent the Hong Kong’s own legislative body to crack down on activity that Beijing considers subversive. It represented a major policy change on China’s part.
Hong Kong’s Chief Executive Carrie Lam, who is apparently no more than Bejing’s pawn and was in Beijing for the annual congress, told reporters on May 22 that she supported the bill, asserting that it would safeguard security and was in the interests of all Hong Kong residents.
“There is now another way of ensuring that Hong Kong will have the necessary legislation and the safeguards in place for national security,” Lam told reporters. “This is really the time for us not to waste any more time and to get on with these important legislative safeguards.”
“Pro-democracy” legislators in Hong Kong immediately hit back at the new national-security law.
“This is the end of Hong Kong and it’s like the end of our homeland,” Tanya Chan, a member of Hong Kong’s Legislative Council, said at the start of China’s annual National People’s Congress in Beijing, where the bill was discussed.
“I recall the time when I was young, and I believed in ‘one country, two systems,’ and I believed we were going to showcase to the world that Hong Kong people can rule Hong Kong,’ she added. “But now, I’m not yet 50 years old and suddenly all is gone.”
Her colleague and chairman of Hong Kong’s Democratic party, Wu Chi-wai, told NBC News: “The rule of law in Hong Kong is over, because of the implementation of the national security ordinance.”
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called the new Chinese ordinance “a death knell” for Hong Kong autonomy, and Chris Patten, the last British governor of the territory before the handover, said it would result in “a new Chinese dictatorship.”
“I think the Hong Kong people have been betrayed by China, which has proved once again that you can’t trust it further than you can throw it,” Patten told The Times of London.
Within two days, protestors took to the streets of Hong Kong to register their displeasure with Beijing’s plan to directly impose national security laws on what is officially called the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China. Though Hong Kong has supposedly been semi-sovereign since Britain returned it to China in 1997 — and maintains separate governing and economic systems from that of China under a principle of “one country, two systems”— it is effectively under the control of its communist overlord.