China is about to clamp down on Hong Kong with a controversial new law, a move expected to trigger more pro-democracy protests and possible retaliation from the US. Critics fear it could end or drastically curtail the unique political freedoms the city enjoys. Coverage:
- The law: When China's parliament convenes Friday, it will pass a national security law to ban sedition, secession, and treason, reports the BBC. But the law is "tailor-made for Hong Kong," per the South China Morning Post. It would give authorities broad power to stop the type of anti-government protests that took place in Hong Kong last year.
- Big moment: This could be "a turning point for (China's) freest and most international city, potentially triggering a revision of its special status in Washington and likely to spark more unrest," per Reuters. Beijing is essentially bypassing Hong Kong's own legislature on the issue.
- Background: Since the UK handed back Hong Kong in 1997, relations between the city and Beijing have been laid out in the "Basic Law," notes Axios. China is now amending that law. This "could mean the end of the relative political freedoms that Hong Kong's people have enjoyed under the Basic Law—and thus the effective end of the 'one country, two systems' framework," according to Axios.
- From the US: On Wednesday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo warned that the US is keeping a close eye on Hong Kong's autonomy as China brings leaders of last year's pro-democracy protests to court, reports Time. He suggested the US might end the special economic treatment Hong Kong enjoys if China fails to honor the city's political freedom.
- Trouble: Online posts already were encouraging protests, reports Reuters, which adds that dozens of pro-democracy protesters were seen shouting slogans at a shopping mall Thursday with riot police looking on. And this week, pro-democracy legislators in Hong Kong's legislature were dragged from the chamber. They've been clashing with pro-Beijing legislators for a while now over control of a crucial committee.
- Xi's move: All this comes amid the backdrop of strained US-China relations because of the coronavirus. The New York Times reports that Chinese leader Xi Jinping is using international criticism of China over the pandemic to rally the country around him and strengthen his position.
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