China's ceremonial legislature on 18 June 2020 passed a draft of a national security bill for Hong Kong that has been strongly criticized as undermining faith in the semi-autonomous Chinese region's legal and political institutions. The National People's Congress' Standing Committee reviewed the bill that covers four categories of crimes: succession; subversion of state power; local terrorist activities, and collaborating with foreign or external foreign forces to endanger national security.
 
What
  1. The congress moved to enact the legislation at the national level after Hong Kong's own Legislative Council was unable to do so because of strong local opposition. 
  2. Critics say it could severely limit free speech and opposition political activity and legal experts say Beijing's legal justifications for acting are highly debatable.
  3. China acted after the widespread and sometimes violent anti-government protests in the territory last year that Beijing saw as a dangerous campaign to split Hong Kong from the rest of China.
  4. The U.S. has said that if the law is passed it will revoke some of the special privileges granted to Hong Kong after the former British colony was handed over to Chinese rule in 1997, while Britain has said it will offer passports and a path to citizenship to as many as 3 million Hong Kong residents. Beijing has denounced the moves as interference in its sovereign affairs.
  5. On 17 June 2020, the Group of Seven leading economies called on China to reconsider its plans in a joint statement voicing grave concern regarding China's decision to impose a national security law on Hong Kong, adding that it would breach Beijing's international commitments as well as the territory's constitution.
  6. The Asian financial hub's highly respected legal system already covers security issues from money laundering to terrorism and cyber crime. That leaves the proposed legislation to deal with vaguely defined crimes of a highly political nature along the lines found in mainland China's Communist Party-dominated system.
  7. Earlier this month, Hong Kong's legislature approved a contentious bill making it illegal to insult the Chinese national anthem after pro-democracy lawmakers boycotted the vote out of protest.
  8. Senior opposition figures have also been arrested for taking part in demonstrations and questions have arisen over whether the national security legislation will be used to disqualify pro-democracy candidates in September's elections for the Beijing-controlled Legislative Council.
Flashback
  1. Hong Kong was handed back to China from British control in 1997, but under a unique agreement - a mini-constitution called the Basic Law and a so-called "one country, two systems" principle.
  2. Under the same agreement, Hong Kong had to enact is own national security law - this was set out in Article 23 of the Basic Law.
  3. But its unpopularity means it has never been done - the government tried in 2003 but had to back down after protests.