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China Approves Plan to Rein In Hong Kong, Defying Worldwide Outcry


Beijing ordered that a new law be written to extend many of mainland China’s security practices to Hong Kong, creating broad powers to quash unrest.
China officially has the broad power to quash unrest in Hong Kong, as the country’s legislature on Thursday nearly unanimously approved a plan to suppress subversion, secession, terrorism and seemingly any acts that might threaten national security in the semiautonomous city.
As Beijing hashes out the specifics of the national security legislation in the coming weeks, the final rules will help determine the fate of Hong Kong, including how much of the city’s autonomy will be preserved or how much Beijing will tighten its grip.
Early signals from Chinese authorities point to a crackdown once the law takes effect, which is expected by September.
Activist groups could be banned. Courts could impose long jail sentences for national security violations. China’s feared security agencies could operate openly in the city.
Even Hong Kong’s chief executive this week appeared to hint that certain civil liberties might not be an enduring feature of Hong Kong life. “We are a very free society, so for the time being, people have the freedom to say whatever they want to say,” said the chief executive, Carrie Lam, noting, “Rights and freedoms are not absolute.”
The prospect of a national security law has prompted an immediate pushback in Hong Kong, where protesters are once again taking to the streets. The international community, too, has warned against infringing on the city’s civil liberties.
The Trump administration signaled Wednesday that it was likely to end some or all of the U. S. government’s special trade and economic relations with Hong Kong because of China’s move. The State Department no longer considers Hong Kong to have significant autonomy, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said, a condition for maintaining the trade status.
Clues on the coming security law can be found in earlier templates: a 2003 bill in Hong Kong that was thwarted by protests, and a law in another semiautonomous Chinese city, Macau.
Both contained broadly worded bans on sedition, subversion, secession and treason, while also enhancing law enforcement powers. The Hong Kong legislation would have allowed raids without warrants if the police believed national security would be jeopardized by waiting for a judge — the prospect of which drew vast crowds of peaceful protesters.
Both bills also made it easier for the authorities to win national security cases in court. The Macau legislation, for example, bars judges with foreign citizenship from serving on panels hearing national security cases.

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