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Using Security Measure, Beijing Tightens Its Grip On Hong Kong


We're going to turn now to Hong Kong, where many residents are expressing alarm about a new security law that would likely be enacted by China. It would, among other things, outlaw anti-Beijing protests. The fear here is that Chinese security could be on the streets to enforce this, undermining the freedom and civil liberties Hong Kong has enjoyed since the one country, two systems agreement was made. So how is the Beijing-backed government in Hong Kong reassuring people there? Well, we're joined by Regina Ip, a pro-Beijing member of Hong Kong's Legislative Council. She's also Hong Kong's former secretary of security. Thank you so much for being with us this morning.

REGINA IP: You are welcome.

GREENE: I just want to start with a question that's on the minds of many people there right now. How will Hong Kong have any autonomy if this law is enacted?

IP: The concerns of our people are understandable because we don't have any details about the Hong Kong version of China's national security law yet, but I think our high-level autonomy will be intact because rights and freedoms will be protected by our common law system.

GREENE: But I just want ask, under the 1997 treaty between China and Great Britain, I mean, Hong Kong's Legislative Council has the sole authority to govern the city through the year 2047. Does this law not violate that by giving Chinese security a role in Hong Kong to enforce this?

IP: The Chinese security agencies I don't think will bear the brunt of enforcing it. It will be our own law enforcement.

GREENE: But they could be free. They could be authorized if they want to.

IP: Only if necessary, only if we cannot deal with it.

GREENE: But you understand why people in Hong Kong would be worried, I mean, if they see the door opening here.

IP: No, I fully understand that.

GREENE: Well, can I ask you about the one practical impact here. I mean, the United States, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, has already said that Hong Kong no longer enjoys autonomy from China because of this, and this could threaten this special trade relationship with the United States and other countries. Isn't that a trade relationship that has benefited China? And is this new law really in China's interest if it could really end that trade status?

IP: Well, I have read carefully Secretary Pompeo's statement. You know, he said he had certified to Congress that he can give us the same separate treatment as before 1997 and that could encompass areas other than trade, you know. We're waiting to find out what particularly (ph) those measures are, but where trade is concerned, it's not that worrying because we are a founding member of the World Trade Organization.

GREENE: So people who see this potentially as ending Hong Kong's role as an important financial hub, you're saying they're just dead wrong.

IP: I think time will tell. I think our financial center has very strong foundation. We also hold very large U.S. dollar denominated reserves. We lend money to the U.S. Why should the U.S. hurt us?

GREENE: But time will tell makes me think that you see a possibility of life changing here.

IP: Time will tell, yeah.

GREENE: Regina Ip is a member of the Executive Council of Hong Kong and the city's former secretary of security. We really appreciate your time this morning.

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