From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :
Prelims level : Not Much
Mains level : Secessionist tendencies across the world and their handling
China has started pushing for an “improvement” in the Basic Law — the mini-constitution that defines ties between Hong Kong and Beijing — signalling a fundamental change in the way the highly autonomous city-state is run. The Chinese parliament is debating a controversial national security law for Hong Kong.
Practice question for mains:
Q. Democracy and authoritarianism cannot co-exist in the same country. Comment in context to the situation generated in Taiwan. How is the situation different from the withdrawl of special category status of Jammu and Kashmir.
Chinese authoritarian grip on Hong Kong
Hong Kong’s ‘Basic Law’
- Hong Kong is a Special Administrative Region (SAR) of China.
- It has observed a “one country, two systems” policy since Britain returned sovereignty to China on July 1, 1997, which has allowed it certain freedoms, the rest of China does not have.
- It is governed by a mini-constitution called the Basic Law — which affirms the principle of “one country, two systems”.
- The constitutional document is a product of the 1984 Sino-British Joint Declaration.
- Under this, China promised to honour Hong Kong’s liberal policies, the system of governance, an independent judiciary, and individual freedoms for a period of 50 years from 1997.
Uproar in Hong Kong
- China accuses that the Hong Kong SAR has not acted out its constitutional duty for national security in line with China’s Constitution and the Basic Law.
- Since the handover, Hong Kong residents have time and again taken to the streets to protect their Basic Law freedoms, with the first major pro-democracy protest taking place in 2003.
- In 2014, over one lakh city residents took part in the ‘Umbrella Revolution’ to protest against China’s denial of democratic reforms.
Impact of the 2019 protests
- The largest protests since the 1997 handover took place last year in 2019 when for months tens of thousands of Hong Kongers agitated against a proposed extradition law.
- The protest continued with pro-democracy marches even after the legislation was withdrawn.
- These protests were seen as an affront by mainland China, which under President Xi Jinping has increasingly adopted a more hardline approach to foreign policy and internal security issues in recent years.
Rise of Taiwanese aspirations
- The Hong Kong unrest is also believed to have left its mark on Taiwan, another prickly issue for Beijing which considers the island state as its own.
- In this year’s presidential election, Taiwanese voters brought to power the Democratic Progressive Party, which openly opposes joining China.
The National Security Law
- Under Article 23 of the Basic Law, Hong Kong has to enact a national security law “to prohibit any act of treason, secession, sedition, and subversion against the Chinese government.
- When the Hong Kong government first tried to enact the law in 2003, the issue became a rallying point for the city-wide protests which occurred that year.
- Since then, the government has steered clear of introducing the legislation again.
- Beijing could now make the law applicable to Hong Kong by another route — by inserting the legislation in Annex III of the Basic Law.
- The Chinese parliament is expected to vote on a resolution that will make way for the new law, which could be promulgated in Hong Kong.
What could happen if such a law takes effect?
- The new law would ban seditious activities that target mainland Chinese rule, as well as punish external interference in Hong Kong affairs.
- Many expect a revival of the protests that rocked the city last year.
- China, on the other hand, has sought support and understanding of India and other countries for its controversial decision as a precautionary measure.