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Hong Kong Lawmaker On China's Controversial New Security Laws


China plans to tighten its grip on Hong Kong. This week, the National People's Congress in Beijing announced a new national security and anti-sedition law the pro-democracy advocates warn could upend the one country two systems framework. Emily Lau is a former Democratic Party member of the Hong Kong Legislative Council. And she joins us now from Hong Kong. Ms. Lau, thanks so much for being with us.

EMILY LAU: Thank you.

SIMON: This proposed law criminalizes, quote, "treason, secession, sedition, and subversion against the government." And the state says it's aimed at preventing external forces from meddling in Hong Kong. What's wrong with that?

LAU: Well, they have been making such accusations for quite a number of years, but nobody has ever come up with any evidence of foreign interference and all that. And now without consulting the 7 million Hong Kong people, suddenly, out of the blue in Beijing, they announced that they're going to make this law for us. And they will pass it. I'm sure. The rubber stamp parliament of Beijing will pass it on Thursday next week. And the Hong Kong people are terrified. We don't know the definition of all these terms that you just mentioned. Who is going to come in? Are the people going to be arrested and taken back to mainland China to be tried? None of these things are clear.

SIMON: Well, help us understand how you're concerned this law might be used - assuming it passes.

LAU: We don't know. Just now, there are already reports that there will be demonstrations, marches tomorrow. And, of course, these are taking place without the authorization of the police. And the police said they are going to go all out to arrest them. So we are going to have all these confrontations tomorrow, and the law is not yet passed. But once it's passed, I'm sure there will be more, more such clashes. Is that what Hong Kong wants? They say the business community would welcome the law because it will bring prosperity and stability. But I don't think so. It will make many people, including business people, very anxious.

SIMON: The one country, two systems framework, to remind our listeners, gives Hong Kong a largely separate legal and even economic system from China. You think this this law could begin to upend that.

LAU: Exactly, because in 1997, when Hong Kong was handed by Britain over to Chinese Communist rule, the Chinese Communist government gave an undertaking that there would be a separate system in Hong Kong. Hong Kong people can continue to enjoy our free lifestyle, our rule of law, personal safety - all these things which the people in mainland China do not enjoy. And we should have that for 50 years. Now they are going to implement Chinese laws in Hong Kong. So it is really getting rid of one country, two systems. And that's why people are so angry. And they are so terrified. And we call on the international community - people in America and elsewhere in the free world - to speak out for Hong Kong and to tell the Chinese Communist government to cool it and not to suppress us - not to oppress us like that.

SIMON: Ms. Lau, are you concerned about police and Chinese government reaction if protests begin to pick up in Hong Kong this weekend and in the weeks that follow?

LAU: Well, exactly. It's very sad. There are many, many people, particularly young people, who are very upset. And they are not afraid of going out to confront the police. So in the coming days and weeks and months, I guess you will see scenes of very violent clashes. I hope no one will be killed. And we don't want that to happen. And that need not happen. If people can behave in a civilized manner, sit down and talk to your own people, instead of beating them up and locking them up. That's no way to behave.

SIMON: Emily Lau is a former Democratic Party member of the Hong Kong Legislative Council. Thanks so much for being with us.

LAU: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.