The Times of India
Date: May 23, 2020
By: Rudroneel Ghosh in Talking Turkey
In a significant move in relation to Hong Kong, the ongoing session of China’s National People’s Congress is considering national security laws specific to the special administrative region. The law, when it is passed, will proscribe secessionist and subversive activities, external interference in Hong Kong and terrorism. But coming against the backdrop of the massive Hong Kong protests last year, the move is being seen as diluting the ‘One Country, Two Systems’ formula that governs the special administrative region. After all, Hong Kong’s mini-constitution or Basic Law entails Article 23 which says that the city must enact national security laws. But this has never been implemented due to fears that the autonomy Hong Kong enjoys will be eroded. Now, Beijing is taking matters into its own hands and bypassing Hong Kong’s legislature to enact the national security law itself.
So can Beijing do this? Of course, it can. After all, Hong Kong is part of China. There is no dispute on this. Therefore, a law can be enacted by the central government that pertains to a particular region of China. This principle holds true in all countries. Just like Kashmir and Arunachal Pradesh are India’s states and the Indian parliament can enact special laws with respect to them, China can do the same for Hong Kong. But on the point of democracy, it is now clear that Beijing believes Hong Kong has too much freedom. The massive protests last year that resulted in much chaos have strengthened this belief. Plus, Hong Kong had been for long China’s economic dynamo. However, with other cities in China like Shanghai and Shenzhen witnessing meteoric growth over the last decade-and-a-half, the importance of Hong Kong in China’s economic calculations has reduced.
What is really interesting is the timing of Beijing’s move. The Hong Kong protest movement had temporarily halted due to the Covid-19 pandemic and Beijing clearly saw an opening here. But it is also possible that Xi Jinping and the top Chinese leadership is under pressure due to its handling of the pandemic. Questions are being raised, even within China, if the government there did not move quickly enough to contain the pandemic. Clearly, authorities in Wuhan had tried to downplay the threat of the disease and the central leadership had taken some time to decisively act — as I have mentioned in a previous article, Beijing had taken this time to figure out a strategy to insulate Xi against any Covid-related criticism. Yet, the spread of Covid in China and the heavy social and economic costs it has inflicted have been subjects of criticism. [FULL STORY]