The Toronto Star on China’s “national security” plan against protesters in Hong Kong

The lights are going out in Hong Kong. As the world remains focused on fighting COVID-19, China’s rulers are steadily pursuing their own agenda, and a key part of that is bringing the restive city-state to heel.

They took another big step this week when China’s tame national legislature adopted a “national security” plan that will give it sweeping powers to crack down on dissent in Hong Kong under the pretext of tackling subversion, terrorism and foreign interference.

No one should be fooled by this. The people of Hong Kong have demonstrated in the streets and at the ballot box over the past year that they oppose Beijing’s efforts to stamp out their basic political and legal rights, and they deserve the world’s support as China further undermines its promises to respect their autonomy.

Those promises are essential to the principle of “one country, two systems” contained in the treaty that transferred sovereignty over Hong Kong from Britain in China back in 1997.

It guaranteed political freedoms, a basically democratic governing system, and a robust legal system in Hong Kong until 2047, rights that Hong Kong’s people have exercised fully over the years — much to the chagrin of Beijing’s increasingly touchy rulers. China has chipping away at the concept for years, and the new security law may well be the fatal blow.

Canada, along with Britain, Australia and the United States, is rightly concerned. The four countries warned this week that the new policy will “drastically erode Hong Kong’s autonomy and the system that made it so prosperous.” It raises the prospect, they say, that people in Hong Kong will face prosecution and long jail sentences for so-called political crimes — i.e. criticizing policies favoured by the Chinese Communist Party.

Canada has a special interest here, since some 300,000 Canadian citizens live in Hong Kong. They may soon be as vulnerable to arrest and prosecution for opposing Beijing’s policies as someone living in any other Chinese city. There, the government routinely uses national security laws to punish anyone who steps out of line. ...

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