The National People’s Congress, China’s rubber-stamp legislative body, has approved a national security law that asserts Beijing’s authority over Hong Kong. The law is expected to take effect by September will authorize the Chinese government to prevent “secession, subversion, terrorism and foreign interference” in the semi-autonomous city. In simpler terms, the security practices in effect on mainland China will be coming to Hong Kong.
In Hong Kong itself there is growing fear the new law signals the death of the ‘one country, two systems’ agreement reached between China and Great Britain in 1997 when control was handed over to China. The law will give the city government, with the oversight and participation of mainland authorities, broad powers to quell unrest. A heavy-handed crackdown is expected as soon as the law is enacted.
In the coming weeks, as the Chinese government works out the details of the legislation more will become known about the fate of Hong Kong. Specifically, how much autonomy remains, and how tightly mainland China intends to tighten its grip. The United States is already moving forward under the premise Hong Kong is no longer autonomous from the mainland. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo informed Congress of this yesterday, a move seen as progress towards ending the city’s unique trade status. Hong Kong is currently exempt from the trade restrictions in place against Beijing. This may not be the case for long.
Hong Kong’s independence is what made it a global financial center. The new law throws the city’s future as a financial capital into limbo. Singapore is a likely candidate to fill its shoes in a worst-case scenario, but China will resist. If Hong Kong is to lose its status as the financial hub of mainland Asia, Beijing will want the next hub to be Shanghai.