China Proposes New Law That Could Ban Treason and Sedition in Hong Kong in Wake of Massive Protests

A new security law that could ban treason, sedition and secession in Hong Kong is being considered in China.

The law was proposed during the preparatory meeting for the third session of the 13th National People's Congress (NPC). Titled Establishing and Improving the Legal System and Enforcement Mechanism of Hong Kong, the measure will be debated when the session begins on Friday, after a postponement because of coronavirus lockdowns.

According to the South China Morning Post, the NPC is expected to vote on the law by the end of the annual sessions, which is expected to take place May 28. Following the vote, the law will be forwarded to the NPC's Standing Committee to plan out further details.

During a Thursday press conference, NPC spokesman Zhang Yesui said, "Because of new circumstances and need, the NPC is exercising the power enshrined in the constitution to establish and improve a legal framework and mechanism for safeguarding national security and upholding the institutional framework for 'one country, two systems.'"

He continued, "Hong Kong is an inseparable part of the People's Republic of China. The National People's Congress is the country's highest organ of state power. National security is the bedrock underpinning the stability of the country. Safeguarding national security serves the fundamental interest of all Chinese, and Hong Kong patriots included."

China's National People's Congress (NPC) Holds Press Conference
In Beijing's Great Hall of the People, National People's Congress spokesman Zhang Yesui answers the questions during a video press conference on May 21. Andrea Verdelli/Getty

In 2003, the Hong Kong tried to pass a similar sedition law, but mass protests from its residents led to the measure being dropped. By proposing the law during the NPC sessions, China could bypass local legislation in Hong Kong and force the measure into the territory's Basic Law, which covers national laws that must be observed in Hong Kong, according to the BBC.

The proposed law comes after Hong Kong residents took part in massive protests against a similar bill. Demonstrators came out last October against a proposed extradition bill that would have allowed authorities to detain and extradite criminals wanted in territories such as Taiwan and Hong Kong.

Protests in Hong Kong decreased after the bill was dropped and territories across China were forced into lockdowns because of the novel coronavirus.

The new proposal is likely to spark more protests. Some began on Monday as pro-democracy lawmakers in Hong Kong were escorted out of a legislative council after an argument broke out over a bill that would criminalize any display of disrespect toward the Chinese national anthem.

"If Hong Kong was a democracy, we would not need to start scuffles like this," Eddie Chu, one of the lawmakers carried out, told the BBC. "Unfortunately, we are forced into this situation. I can foresee more fights within the chamber and outside the chamber."

Prior to departing from the White House on Thursday, U.S. President Donald Trump responded to the proposed law in China, and stated that if it is passed, the U.S. will "address that issue very strongly."

4/21/20, 1:26 p.m.: This story has been updated to include comments from President Donald Trump on the matter.