Hong Kong is bracing for a new wave of demonstrations this weekend after China said it's preparing to impose national security legislation on the financial hub, a move that shows Beijing's legal force and will likely reignite tensions between pro-democracy protesters and the government.
Sources told the Financial Times that China's parliament would draft the new legislation and submit it immediately into Hong Kong's constitution. China's National People's Congress released an agenda Thursday saying it wants to "improve" national security protections in Hong Kong by curbing acts of treason, secession, sedition, and subversion. The measure would also allow for counter-terrorism operations against foreign interference in the city.
The legislation, slated for passage in the National People's Congress in Beijing next week, drew angry crowds in Hong Kong on Friday, and President Trump warned Thursday that the US would react "very strongly" to the planned legislation.
Chief Executive Carrie Lam said Hong Kong would work with China to pass the new legislation. Pro-democracy protests are expected over the weekend as new concerns the "one country, two systems" framework, agreed when China took control of the city in 1997, gives residents certain freedoms unseen on the mainland. However, that could soon all disappear.
If passed next week, the legislation could serve as a turning point and suggest a further breakdown in Sino-American relations through summer as already tense moments have been seen in trade disputes and accusations over the virus pandemic.
A summer of discontent and deepening geopolitical tensions between both countries would weigh on the global recovery and could trigger the next selloff in world stocks.
Pro-democracy lawmakers marched around the Chinese government's Liaison Office in Hong Kong on Friday. Some lawmakers shouted, "National security law ruins Hong Kong! Hong Kong people, resist!" Apple Daily reported the group was broken up by police because the city still has a restriction of gatherings due to the virus.
Pro-democracy activists say a new law from Beijing threatens to bring about "the end of Hong Kong". Riot police are already being deployed in preparation for more protests. pic.twitter.com/G1B64cuoPp— Zaldy Tor (@zaldytor) May 22, 2020
Bloomberg notes key developments heading into the weekend:
- Protesters call for Friday, Sunday rallies
- Lam offers full cooperation on security law
- China says no country has right to interfere in Hong Kong
- Opposition lawmakers march to Chinese Liaison Office
Although Lam withdrew the extradition bill, which resulted in pro-democracy protests in 2H19, only subsiding because of the global pandemic in early 2020. Beijing's latest move to impose national security legislation on Hong Kong could ignite a powderkeg of unrest.
Jimmy Sham, the organizer of pro-democracy protests, told local media Friday that he hopes the next round of demonstrations will have a large turnout.