Since Beijing revealed plans to impose a national security law on Hong Kong, defenders of the bill have argued that fears of what it could do to the city’s political freedoms and civil liberties are overblown.
The law is simply plugging a loophole, they claimed, and is no different to what many other countries have on the books. Local officials and prominent businesses threw their weight behind the bill — sight unseen — promising that it would leave the city better off, and in any case, would only affect a handful of people.
On Saturday, China’s National People’s Congress (NPC), which is expected to pass the law in coming weeks, gave Hong Kong its first glimpse of what it contains. The critics may have been right to be worried: as drafted, the law appears to upend the city’s prized independent legal system, allowing Beijing to override local laws while enhancing its ability to suppress political opposition.
Most controversially, the law gives Beijing the power to exercise jurisdiction over select criminal cases, raising the prospect that for the first time in Hong Kong’s history, suspects could be extradited across the border to face trial, and potentially prison time, in the mainland.