"This law would signal the end of Hong Kong as we know it"

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In Hong Kong, we are only talking about the security law that Beijing has tabled today in the Chinese Parliament. This law, which the Chinese Communist Party wants to impose on semi-autonomous territory, aims to prohibit "treason, secession, sedition and subversion". Last year already hundreds of thousands of Hong Kong people had demonstrated for months, they said, to protect themselves from Beijing's attempts to control them. They say that is exactly what Beijing is trying to do with this law. Interview with Hong Kong pro democracy MP Fernando Cheung.

RFI: What would this law change for Hong Kong?

Fernando Cheung : The change would be immense. It goes against the spirit of "one country, two systems". In fact, this is coming to an end, and that of Hong Kong as we know it. In 1997, when the United Kingdom returned to China its sovereignty over Hong Kong, this agreement was based on “one country two systems”, a way of working guaranteed by our Constitution. The heart of this system is the separation of governance: Hong Kong keeps its own way of life, its own social system, its legislative system, the capitalist system … everything that did not concern Foreign Affairs, Security national or military affairs. It’s written in our Constitution, it’s the promise that was made to the Hong Kong people. Article 23 of our Constitution even states that governance and the protection of national security must be the subject of a law, and that this law must be implemented by Hong Kong. There, Beijing arrives and refuses this option: they want to put in place a law written by Beijing and impose it in Hong Kong without going through our deputies. It would go against the promise that was made.

It’s a law to fight " betrayal, secession, sedition and subversion " How are Hong Kong people affected?

It should be understood that in China, it is enshrined in the Constitution that they are led by a single party, the Chinese Communist Party. In Hong Kong, when we try to talk about democracy, by definition we do not comply with this concept of single party. If we criticize the government or act in a way that promotes democracy, this is enough to be considered subversion. Because by doing this, we refuse the single party system, which represents the country, the state; which can therefore be considered as subversion. In mainland China, they are of course obliged to accept this operation. But in Hong Kong we are an open society, we belong to the free world, and we want these universal values ​​of democracy and social justice. But once this national law is introduced in Hong Kong, and its implementation (which also obviously means its interpretation) will be taken care of in Hong Kong by a central government agency, we will have become part of the China. And when we talk about democracy, we can say that we are violating this national law by making subversion. And that’s very dangerous for the Hong Kong people.

Why is Beijing doing this now? He could have done it years ago?

This is precisely the question we would like to ask in Beijing. We do not see any urgency requiring the imposition of such draconian law in Hong Kong. There is no immediate threat of any subversion or secession, nor is there terrorism. Beijing also spoke of " foreign powers Using their influence to affect China's national security. I don't see how it could happen. Hong Kong has always been an international city: we do have foreign investment and interests in Hong Kong, and it is for this reason that our economic, financial, legal and social systems must be separated from those of mainland China. And there, all of a sudden, they see a major threat to their national security, and feel that they should impose this law on Hong Kong. I have no idea how a threat to China's internal security could come from Hong Kong.

According to Hong Kong executive chief Carrie Lam, Beijing wants to pass this law because of last year's protests in Hong Kong?

Of course, they will blame it on last year's protests and the social unrest caused by the extradition bill. A law that would deprive the Hong Kong people of a good part of their protections, because we could be sent and extradited to mainland China, tried by their courts, put in their prisons. Hong Kong people cannot accept it. But this draconian national security law would be even worse: because not only would they import their concepts of subversion and secession, but in addition, to implement this law, they would install a central government agency in Hong Kong. There would be no more difference with mainland China … And it would create even more opposition on the part of the Hong Kongers. If they want to reassure Hong Kong people about their safety, they are doing the exact opposite of what should be done.

How does the people of Hong Kong react to this announcement?

The whole city is talking about it. Right now, because of the Covid-19 pandemic, there are restrictions on public gatherings – police have refused requests for protests in recent weeks. Fact, the candlelight vigil organized every June 4 (in memory of the victims of Tiananmen Square, editor's note) has been refused. So it's very complicated, and if this kind of activity is organized the police intervene, disperse people and do not hesitate to be very brutal. So we will have to wait, and see how it evolves. Local organizations are already talking about demonstrating this Sunday, but the large organization that usually gathers huge crowds, the Civil Front for Human Rights, has not called for a big rally – not yet. They still said they would call for action … I think they are thinking about the pandemic, and they must also assess the risks of calling a public meeting when the gatherings are reduced to a maximum of eight people.

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