Hong Kong National Security Law


Benh LIEU SONG (Flickr), CC BY-SA 4.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

Elisha Verbes

The months of Hong Kong anti-government protests in 2019 were quickly brought to a halt when COVID-19 spread from China to Hong Kong in January 2020. It was uncertain as to how and when the ongoing protests (which sometimes turned into riots) would end, and if the protesters would ever achieve what they wanted – Hong Kong to remain autonomous from mainland China.


Although Hong Kong never had a full lockdown, the protests ceased, and the public quickly adopted wearing face masks in public, despite the government ordered ban on masks just a few months earlier due to the anonymity that masks provided to the protesters against facial recognition technology. 


In May, schools were reopening and life was returning back to normal because Hong Kong had successfully beaten the virus, with a death toll of only 4. There was hope that the protests could start up again. However, on May 21st, the Chinese government proposed a new National Security law that if enacted, could “prevent and punish subversion, terrorism, separatism and foreign interference.” That’s a mouthful and difficult to understand to the everyday person, but an article by the BBC put this into simpler words:


“secession/separatism – breaking away from the country

subversion – undermining the power or authority of the central government

terrorism – using violence or intimidation against people

Foreign interference – activities by foreign forces that interfere in Hong Kong”


Although hundreds of protesters have already been arrested due to the violence of last year, this law essentially puts an end to any anti-government, pro-democracy protests. 


It’s no coincidence that China announced this proposed law amid a global pandemic – the rest of the world is too preoccupied with COVID-19 news to notice or care enough about this law. The law threatens the existing “One country, two systems” regime in Hong Kong which basically says that China believes Hong Kong is part of China, but it is labeled as a “Special Administrative Region” and has its own government and democratic systems separate from China’s. 


Hong Kong is meant to be a Special Administrative Region from 1997 – when the British handed Hong Kong partially back to China – until 2047, when Hong Kong will be completely part of China. However, over the past 20 years China has repeatedly made attempts to prematurely gain control over Hong Kong, and this sparked the unrest that has brought millions of people to the streets to protest the system that is slowly breaking.