Updated March 19th, 2024 at 16:37 IST

Hong Kong Passes Controversial National Security Law to Expand Government's Power to Crush Dissent

Hong Kong leader John Lee urged legislators to push the Safeguarding National Security Bill through “at full speed."

Reported by: Digital Desk
Hong Kong leader John Lee. | Image:AP
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Hong Kong has passed a new national security law that expands the government's power to crush dissent. Hong Kong unveiled a proposed law that threatens life imprisonment for residents who “endanger national security” on Friday, deepening worries about the erosion of the city’s freedoms four years after Beijing imposed a similar law that all but wiped out public dissent.

It’s widely seen as the latest step in a crackdown on political opposition that began after the semi-autonomous Chinese city was rocked by violent pro-democracy protests in 2019. Since then, the authorities have crushed the city’s once-vibrant political culture. Many of the city’s leading pro-democracy activists have been arrested and others fled abroad. Dozens of civil society groups have been disbanded, and outspoken media outlets like Apple Daily and Stand News have been shut down.

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Hong Kong leader John Lee has urged legislators to push the Safeguarding National Security Bill through “at full speed,” and lawmakers began debate hours after the bill was released publicly. It’s expected to pass easily, possibly in weeks, in a legislature packed with Beijing loyalists following an electoral overhaul

The proposed law will expand the government’s power to stamp challenges to its rule, targeting espionage, disclosing state secrets, and “colluding with external forces” to commit illegal acts among others. It includes tougher penalties for people convicted of working with foreign governments or organizations to break some of its provisions. The law would jail people who damage public infrastructure with the intent to endanger national security for 20 years — or life, if they collude with an external force to do so. In 2019, protesters occupied the airport and vandalized railway stations.

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Similarly, those who commit sedition face a jail term of seven years, but colluding with an external force to carry out such acts increase that penalty to 10 years. On Thursday, an appeals court upheld a conviction for sedition against a pro-democracy activist for chanting slogans and criticizing the Beijing-imposed 2020 National Security Law during a political campaign.


 (The Associated Press)

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Published March 19th, 2024 at 16:37 IST