September 03, 2019

China warns it could unilaterally impose emergency rule on Hong Kong
China on Tuesday refused to rule out military intervention in Hong Kong and said that it could unilaterally declare a state of emergency rule in its sternest warning since pro-democracy protests began thirteen weeks ago. The government’s top office overseeing Hong Kong threatened to apply national Chinese laws in the semi-autonomous territory and call on the military should the chaos that has seen millions take to the streets continue to escalate. The spokeswoman for the Hong Kong and Macau Central Office - which reports directly to China’s cabinet - cited Article 18 of Hong Kong law, which permits the central government to take control in the event that a crisis spirals beyond the local authority. “Hong Kong’s Basic Law allows for Hong Kong to request help or for the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress to declare a state of emergency,” said Xu Luying. The ominous comments mark the first time Beijing has floated intervening in Hong Kong without the explicit request of the city's leaders, ratcheting up doubts about their autonomy. More than 1,100 protesters have been arrested as demonstrations have paralysed the city for the past three months. Their demands have grown from the scrapping of a bill allowing extradition to mainland China to include universal suffrage, an investigation into police brutality, and the resignation of city's chief executive. Over the weekend protesters set up barricades en route to the airport while on Monday thousands of students boycotted school, marching under banners reading "boycott for freedom" and "save Hong Kong". “If the situation in Hong Kong continues to worsen and it becomes turmoil that cannot be controlled by the SAR government and endangers the country's sovereignty and security, the central government will not sit idly by," warned Ms Xu. Demonstrators shine lasers while gathered on Lung Wo Road during a protest in the Admiralty district of Hong Kong, China, on Monday, Sept. 2, 2019 Credit: Bloomberg By imposing a state of emergency, Beijing could carry out mass arrests, censorship, deportations and transport shutdowns without reference to existing law.  On Monday Hong Kong’s deputy leader, Matthew Cheung, did not rule out invoking the colonial-era emergency powers ordinance - a Hong Kong law that could be invoked without Beijing’s official approval by chief executive Carrie Lam, who last week floated it for the first time. Mx Xu also claimed that China could deploy its military in the city without breaching the Sino-British agreement that mandates unique freedoms for the city for fifty years after its 1997 handover.  “It’s a wrong notion that the deployment of the People’s Liberation Army in Hong Kong would be the end of one country, two systems,” Ms Xu said at the briefing in Beijing. Chinese officials on Tuesday made clear they were ready to seize emergency powers with a list of controversial reforms. Some suggested outlawing the face masks that protesters have worn to avoid recognition by authorities, and punishing teachers who commit the “heinous crime” of encouraging students to participate in rallies. Ms Xu further stated that patriotic education should be introduced in schools, mimicking the curriculum in mainland China.  In 2012, a Beijing-led attempt to impose patriotic education triggered street protests that gave many of today’s key activists their first taste of civil disobedience.  China’s intervention came as Ms Lam maintained she could handle the unrest and knocked back a leaked recording in which she said she “would resign” if she could, but Beijing left her with “very little” room for manoeuvre. “I have not even contemplated discussing a resignation with the central people's government. The choice of resigning, it's my own choice,” Ms Lam said. She also expressed disappointment that the comments made in a private meeting, where she was sharing “the journey of my heart”, had been leaked. Meanwhile on Tuesday British foreign minister Dominic Raab  called for a credible independent investigation into the behaviour of the police during the recent protests in its former colony. “In relation to the conduct of the police - and let's also recognise some of the violence on the ground they have got to deal with - but in relation to disproportionate actions, and overeactions, it is very clear that there is an independent police complaints council carrying out an inquiry, but the point I have made is it has to be credible,” Mr Raab told parliament.
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