The Chinese government will review new "national security" legislation in Hong Kong after two years of pro-democracy protests in an effort to employ control over the semi-autonomous city, a spokesperson for China’s parliament said Thursday.
Zhang Yesui said that the National People’s Congress (NPC) is considering a bill on “establishing and improving the legal system and enforcement mechanisms for the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region to safeguard national security.”
The bill would allow the Chinese government to suppress anti-government movements, like the most recent yearslong protests.
“Any effort to impose national security legislation that does not reflect the will of the people of Hong Kong would be highly destabilizing, and would be met with strong condemnation from the United States and the international community,” U.S. State Department spokesperson Morgan Ortagus said.
Hong Kong was a former British colony handed over to the Chinese government in 1997. Under the Sino-British Declaration, Hong Kong maintained a certain amount of autonomy from mainland China.
Article 23 of the Basic Law says that Hong Kong will “enact laws on its own to prohibit any act of treason, secession, sedition [or] subversion against the Central People's Government.”
But this law has never been passed. The last attempt by the Chinese government to exert a law that would enforce this rule was in 2003, which resulted in the city’s largest-ever protests, and the legislation was dropped.
The State Department has said the most recent attempts to pass legislation under Article 23 “undermine the PRC’s [People’s Republic of China's] commitments and obligations in the Sino-British Joint Declaration.”
According to the South China Morning Post, a draft of the bill will be reviewed by the NPC Friday and voted on at the end of the session on May 28.
President Trump told reporters at the White House that "nobody knows yet” what the legislation will look like but added: “If it happens, we’ll address that issue very strongly.”
“In light of the new circumstances and need, the National People’s Congress [NPC] is exercising its constitutional power,” Zhang said, according to Reuters.
“We urge Beijing to honor its commitments and obligations in the Sino-British Joint Declaration – including that Hong Kong will 'enjoy a high degree of autonomy' and that people of Hong Kong will enjoy human rights and fundamental freedoms,” Ortagus said in a statement.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.