The battle for a free Hong Kong will have major economic ramifications. More than 1,000 protesters gathered in Causeway Bay on May 24, 2020, against Beijing's new national security law. Photo: Yat Kai Yeung / NurPhoto via AFP

Hong Kong’s controversial national-anthem bill will be discussed in the Legislative Council on Wednesday, with activists on social media calling for a rally in Admiralty to coincide with the start of classes.

Legco is expected to spend four days discussing the bill eventuating in a vote on June 4, a politically sensitive date as its marks the 31st anniversary of the 1989 Tiananmen Square events.

Dozens of protesters gathered in the International Finance Center mall on Monday evening to call on the public to protest against the bill, which would lead to fines and a three-year jail term for anyone deliberately distorting the lyrics or music of the People’s Republic of China’s national anthem.

The Secondary School Students’ Action Platform, a Hong Kong students’ group, called for a strike as more students in secondary Years 3 to 5 are due to return to class on Wednesday. On Tuesday, police set up barricades across the area and on some roads leading to the Legco complex. Riot police officers have been patrolling the area for several days.

Some schools on the Hong Kong Island have postponed the resumption of classes to safeguard students from blockages.

On Thursday, tensions are expected to mount as the National People’s Congress (NPC) passes a motion giving its Standing Committee power to discuss and pass the Hong Kong national-security law in the summer.

The law proposed by Beijing has remained a hot topic of debate as some legal experts say it is unconstitutional while others claim it will be tailor-made for Hong Kong. 

The Hong Kong Bar Association says the Standing Committee of the NPC appears to have no power to add the Hong Kong national-security law under Annex III of the Basic Law through the mechanism provided under Article 18 of the Basic Law.

It said the Legislative Council should be the law-making body of the special administrative region (SAR) under Article 66 of the Basic Law and it should enact, amend or repeal laws in accordance with the provisions of this law and legal procedures under Article 73(1) of the Basic Law.

The Bar Association said that when the Hong Kong government sought to introduce the national-security bill to Legco to implement Article 23 of the Basic Law in 2003, there were genuine and widespread concerns that the proposed legislation would infringe upon Hong Kong residents’ civil and political rights, including freedom of speech and the press. 

In the current exercise, the Hong Kong national-security law is intended to be enacted by promulgation of the Hong Kong government rather than legislation by Legco. There is no assurance that public consultation will take place at all on this vastly important legislation prior to promulgation, the Bar Association said.

“This is unprecedented,” it said. “The public must be allowed the opportunity to properly consider and debate proposed laws which affect their personal rights and obligations.”

The central government will probably make reference to the common law system as well as the shelved national-security bill in Hong Kong since a lot of study was done in 2003, said Albert Chen Hung-yee, a law professor at the University of Hong Kong and a member of the Basic Law Committee. Macau’s version of the national-security legislation will also be studied, he said. 

Chen said the proposed national-security law will be tailor-made for Hong Kong, instead of being modeled on the mainland’s national-security laws. He said it won’t have a retrospective effect after it is implemented in Hong Kong. 

Chen said Beijing hasn’t consulted the Basic Law Committee yet, but it may send officials to Shenzhen or Hong Kong to gather views later.

As of Tuesday, the central government had not yet unveiled the wording of the proposed national-security law. It is widely expected that the first draft will be disclosed within two days while the NPC is still in session.

According to Macau’s national-security law, passed in January 2009, a person can be jailed for 10 to 25 years if convicted of treason after joining a foreign military force, colluding with foreign governments, organizations, groups and their staff to trigger a war or a military action against China or supporting foreign military action against China during a war. 

For secession and subversion, a person will be jailed for 10 to 25 years for using violent or illegal means to try to separate a territory from the country or subverting the central government. A person who prepares for any of all these criminal acts will be jailed for three years. 

A person will be jailed for one to eight years for publicly or directly inciting another to commit treason, secession or subversion, as well as inciting the People’s Liberation Army to betray the country. In 2016, Macau passed a law to forbid money-laundering and sponsorship related to terrorist crime. 

On Tuesday, Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam strongly condemned foreign politicians who have raised concerns about the national-security legislation. She claimed that the Hong Kong public had shown support for the law.

Lam said national security is a matter for central authorities in every country and critics who say Beijing’s plan for Hong Kong undermines the SAR government and the Legco have no regard for the constitutional relationship between the territory and the central government.

Lam’s comments came after former Hong Kong governor Chris Patten, former British foreign secretary Malcolm Rifkind and about 200 politicians around the world issued a joint statement on Sunday criticizing Beijing’s proposed national-security law for Hong Kong.

On the same day, thousands of Hong Kong people rallied in Causeway Bay to oppose the national-security law. They occupied Hennessy Road for about 10 minutes but were dispersed by police with teargas.

Read: Rally against HK national security law on Sunday

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