In the aftermath of the protests, Beijing appears determined to stamp out any renewed rebellion against the Communist Party’s authority over the former British colony. China’s largely rubber-stamp parliament, the National People’s Congress, is preparing to circumvent the city’s lawmaking body, the Legislative Council, in drafting the new laws. The fear among many in Hong Kong is that China intends to criminalize existing freedoms, including criticism of the central government and its policies. It is the latest and biggest step in a concerted effort by Beijing to assert control over Hong Kong and its 7.4 million people.
In recent weeks there had been widespread speculation here that Beijing was planning this move, described by some local commentators as the “nuclear option.” Thursday’s announcement by China nonetheless stunned pro-democracy lawmakers, business leaders and lawyers in the city. It was, they said, a historic turning point – the end of “one country, two systems,” the formula Beijing had promised would allow Hong Kong to retain its way of life and freedom for at least 50 years after the 1997 handover to Chinese rule.