Bad News for Dissidents in Hong Kong

New law gives government sweeping powers to stifle dissent
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Mar 19, 2024 11:00 AM CDT
Bad News for Dissidents in Hong Kong
President of the Legislative Council Andrew Leung, center, and lawmakers attend a press conference following the passing of the Basic Law Article 23 legislation at the Legislative Council in Hong Kong, Tuesday, March 19, 2024.   (AP Photo/Louise Delmotte)

Hong Kong lawmakers unanimously approved a new national security law Tuesday that grants the government more power to quash dissent, reports the AP, widely seen as the latest step in a sweeping political crackdown triggered by pro-democracy protests in 2019. The Safeguarding National Security Bill will expand the authorities' ability to prosecute citizens for offenses including "colluding with external forces" to commit illegal acts, as well as charge them with treason, insurrection, espionage, and disclosing state secrets, among others. It comes on top of a similar security law Beijing imposed in 2020, which has already largely silenced opposition voices in the financial hub.

  • 'Historic': Hong Kong's Legislative Council, packed with Beijing loyalists following an electoral overhaul, rushed the law through. Hong Kong leader John Lee said that the law would take effect Saturday, calling it "a historic moment for Hong Kong." Legislative Council President Andrew Leung said he believed lawmakers were honored to take part in this "historic mission."
  • Penalties: The most severe crimes—including treason and insurrection—are punishable by life imprisonment. Lesser offenses, including the possession of seditious publications, could also lead to several years in jail. Some provisions allow criminal prosecutions for acts committed anywhere in the world.
  • From Beijing: Beijing's liaison office in Hong Kong said the legislation signaled a strong "firewall" has been built for the city's stability and prosperity, allowing it to focus on promoting economic development and improving livelihoods.
  • From the city: The city government said the law is needed to prevent a recurrence of the 2019 protests, and that it will only affect "an extremely small minority" of residents.
  • From the US: Rep. Michael McCaul, chair of the US House Foreign Affairs Committee, said that China's takeover of the city's "legal, economic, and political system makes clear that Hong Kong is no longer a place safe for anyone who believes in democracy nor a viable place to conduct global business."
(More Hong Kong stories.)

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