New Law Condemned by Rights Groups and Multiple World Leaders

( – Hong Kong used to be known for its relative freedom. The city operated as an autonomous state for years. Then China decided it wanted to “unite” its country and force the city to live under the thumb of the Chinese Communist Party. Recently, Beijing passed a law that’s getting widespread condemnation.

Controversial Law

On Tuesday, March 19, lawmakers in Hong Kong bowed to the Chinese Communist Party and passed Article 23. The national security law cracks down on opposition to both the Hong Kong and Chinese governments.

The law will take effect on March 23, and defines new acts of espionage, treason, sedition, theft of state secrets, and foreign interference. It sets out new punishments like life imprisonment. Police can detain suspects for more than two weeks with no charges, and authorities can hold closed-door trials, keeping the proceedings out of the public’s view.

John Lee, Hong Kong’s leader, said the legislation was important because the government needs to fight against alleged Western spying and root out unrest. He had made it clear he wanted the law processed “at full speed,” The Guardian reported.

Chris Tang, the city’s secretary for security, celebrated the bill’s passage. He compared it to what it was like after his wife had multiple “miscarriages” and then finally gave birth to his son.

This wasn’t the first time Hong Kong tried to pass the law. In 2003, legislators introduced it, and hundreds of thousands of people protested. Twenty-one years later, many of the opposition leaders who objected to the legislation have either died, gone into exile, or been put in prison.

Responses to Law

Critics of the law said it was going to usher in a “new era of authoritarianism.” A group of 85 public figures, including lawmakers, from across the world issued a joint statement after the passage of the law. The coalition called for world leaders to unite against China’s “flagrant breach of the Basic Law of Hong Kong, the Sino-British Joint Declaration, and international human rights law.”

The group said the law will bring another “devastating blow to the city’s autonomy” and the residents’ basic freedoms. The signatories of the statement included officials from the US, UK, European Union, and others.

US Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) said the CCP “stops at nothing” to undermine the city’s “autonomy and democracy.” He called the law an “aggressive erosion” of people’s fundamental rights.

The United Nations criticized China as well. High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Turk issued a statement saying it was “alarming” to see the legislation rushed through and it was incompatible with human rights laws.

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