On Tuesday China passed and implemented its controversial and wide-ranging security law in the autonomous region of Hong Kong. The details of the law’s 66 articles were kept secret until after it was passed. Now, secession (breaking away from the country), subversion (undermining the power or authority of the central government), terrorism (using violence or intimidate against people), and collusion with foreign or external forces.
Many have warned that the laws can be interpreted by China how it pleases, and are intended to allow Beijing to have a legal framework to deal with what it sees as serious challenges to its authority.
The island was always meant to have a security law, but could never pass one because it was so unpopular.
Critics say the new law undermines the freedoms Hong Kong is meant to have under the “one country, two systems” framework.
This came about when the island territory was handed back to China from British control in 1997.
The two systems framework ensured that certain freedoms that people in mainland China did not enjoy, including freedom of speech, were protected.
Carrie Lam, the Beijing-backed leader of Hong Kong, said the new law filled a “gaping hole” in national security.
But Ted Hui, an opposition legislator, told the BBC: “Our rights are (being) taken away; our freedom is gone; our rule of law, our judicial independence is gone.”
Hong Kong isn’t alone in being at the mercy of mainland China.
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They say it is only a matter of time before China will attempt a similar power grab.
Bradley Bowman, from The Foundation for Defence of Democracies, writing in Newsweek, proposed the question “Hong Kong today, Taiwan next?”
He said that “something is happening in Beijing” with its political manoeuvres hitting headlines left, right and centre – its actions in Hong Kong, skirmishes with India in the Himalaya borders, and its attempt at dominance of the South China Sea all proving “an even more aggressive policy” in which “Beijing could target Taiwan next”.
On the topic of Hong Kong, Mr Bowman wrote: “Washington should view Beijing’s actions on Hong Kong as part of a larger CCP (Chinese Communist Party) policy that could culminate in military action against Taiwan.
“It is indeed possible that Beijing may continue to wait until the military balance of power erodes further before acting.
“But history is littered with examples of nations ignoring growing threats or consoling themselves that an attack was unlikely, only to be suddenly and tragically proven wrong.
“Such an attack would be a catastrophe for Taiwan – it would also put Washington on the horns of a horrible dilemma – forcing the US to either go to war with China or look the other way.
“A failure to honour Washington’s obligations and defend Taiwan would deliver a devastating body blow to America’s interests, reputation and influence.”
Later on, he said: “The CCP, of course, has long cast a covetous eye at Taiwan, eager to bring the free and prosperous island under authoritarian control.
“And at the broadest level, the CCP does not view Hong Kong and Taiwan as fundamentally different situations.
“From Beijing’s perspective, the absence of unchallenged Chinese authoritarian control in both Hong Kong and Taiwan is an antiquated and unacceptable remnant from a time when China lacked sufficient power to do anything about it.
“In the lead-up to January’s Taiwanese presidential election, Beijing threw all but the kitchen sink at Taiwan in an attempt to undermine incumbent and pro-sovereignty candidate Tsai Ing-wen. Despite a robust disinformation campaign, military intimidation and efforts to stifle Taiwan’s economy, Tsai earned a resounding re-election.
“Her successful campaign on democracy and freedom, and her subsequent inauguration last month, may have left the CCP with the conclusion that force – and not guile – represents the best path forward.”