Chinese parliament passes national security bill amid raging Hong Kong protests

The Chinese parliament on Thursday passed a national security bill that ramps up security in Hong Kong. Anti-Beijing protests in the autonomous city were reignited by the draft’s introduction.

The bill was approved by the National People’s Congress (NPC) in Beijing and will now go to the country’s leadership to be enacted into law. The parliament session was attended by President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang.

The details of the new legislation, which is expected to come into force by August, have not been made public yet. The bill is widely believed to introduce harsher punishments for things like insulting China’s national symbols, attempting to break away from the country, and using violence to intimidate people in order to further a political cause.

Incidentally, radical elements of the Hong Kong protest movement have been involved in acts that fall under the description. During the months of anti-government protests, some activists have defaced the Chinese flag, called on foreign powers to send troops into Hong Kong, and waged a campaign of vandalism against businesses they see as being loyal to Beijing.

The introduction of the bill reignited protest in the Chinese city. Demonstrators say the central government is further encroaching on Hong Kong’s special status under the ‘one country, two systems’ arrangement. The former British colony was returned under Chinese sovereignty in 1997 in an agreement that it would retain much of its legislative and executive autonomy.

The protests in Hong Kong initially started in March 2019 over an extradition bill introduced by the city’s government which would allow suspected criminals to be handed over to Beijing’s jurisdiction. It has since grown into a wider anti-government movement, which was widely described as ‘pro-democratic’ in the sympathetic Western media.

Beijing accused foreign states that expressed support for the protests of interfering in its domestic affairs and inflaming violence by radical activists.