China passes law that strengthens its control over Hong Kong

China just made a move that is already being widely condemned by the western world – as it should be.

The New York Times reports that the Chinese Communist Party on Tuesday pushed a security measure through the country’s legislature that, in the words of the Times, give it “sweeping powers over Hong Kong.”

The importance of timing

A bit of background could help here for those of us who are not as familiar with the situation between Hong Kong and China.

Hong Kong was only handed over by the United Kingdom to China in 1997, a little over twenty years ago. Because of its connection to the United Kingdom, the people in Hong Kong are used to a different approach to life than what is found in mainland China, one with a bit more of the freedom that we take for granted here in the western world.

The anniversary of Hong Kong being handed over to China is actually July 1st, and each year on this day it is typical for there to be pro-democracy protests against the communist Chinese government.

None of this, of course, sits well with Chinese leaders – neither the yearly protests nor the way that Hong Kong has been trying, with the support of the western world, to maintain its inherited ways in the face of pressure from China.

This is where the new law, which was conveniently passed on the day before the July 1st anniversary, comes in.

What does it do?

As is typical with the Chinese government, the specifics of the law – which is said to have six articles and 66 clauses – are being kept secret.

But, according to the Washington Examiner, it would criminalize “acts of subversion, separatism, and collusion with foreign forces.” It is unclear what the penalty for breaking this law will be, but Bloomberg reports that the new law does not include the death penalty.

The Examiner further reports that “it would allow the Chinese Communist Party to override Hong Kong’s independent legal system and establish a national security office.”

Accordingly, it seems pretty obvious what is going on here. As Joshua Rosenzweig, the head of Amnesty International’s China team put it: “The fact that the Chinese authorities have now passed this law without the people of Hong Kong being able to see it tells you a lot about their intentions. Their aim is to govern Hong Kong through fear from this point forward.”

The law is expected to go into effect Tuesday night. We’ll have to watch for how western governments – including that of the United States – respond.

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