Pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong are likely to flare up today in opposition to Beijing’s request for tighter censorship laws.
The spread of COVID-19 to the city put a halt to ongoing protests calling for democratic reforms and autonomy from Beijing for the last three months. But with social restrictions beginning to be lifted, weekly protests have re-emerged following calls from the mainland to strengthen laws against treason, subversion, and criticism of the Chinese government. Pro-democracy advocates fear that this broad proposal will strengthen Beijing’s ability to crack down on future protests.
With the rest of the world distracted by the pandemic, the Chinese government is emboldened to further weaken Hong Kong’s autonomy. Over the next few months, expect more arrests of pro-democracy leaders, more pressure on Hong Kong’s independent judiciary and more blatant interference in pushing preferred bills through the city’s Legislative Council. More importantly, Beijing recently claimed “supervisory authority” over Hong Kong’s Basic Law, allowing the government to modify it arbitrarily. This frontal assault on the city’s constitutional settlement will likely galvanise massive protests over the summer.
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James is an analyst on the Current Developments Team, where he specialises in European and Indian politics. He is a regularly contributor to the Daily Brief