Protesters outside the U.S. Consulate in Hong Kong, November 2019. Photo: Vivek Prakash/AFP via Getty Images

China plans to implement a sweeping national security law for Hong Kong that could dramatically constrain Hong Kong's autonomy and provoke fierce backlash from pro-democracy activists.

Why it matters: Beijing's encroachment on Hong Kong's independent legal system prompted massive protests last year that have resumed on a smaller scale as social-distancing measures lift.

  • The current proposal appears to be far-reaching, banning sedition, treason and secession, which Beijing tends to define very broadly, per the BBC.
  • The proposal would amend the Basic Law, which has governed relations with the mainland since Hong Kong was handed back to China from the U.K. in 1997.

Our thought bubble: By addressing this law in Beijing, China's leaders are bypassing Hong Kong's legislature and chief executive. The law could mean the end of the relative political freedoms that Hong Kong's people have enjoyed under the Basic Law — and thus the effective end of the "one country, two systems" framework.

What to watch: Secretary of State Mike Pompeo recently said that if Hong Kong's political freedoms are not upheld, the U.S. will consider revoking the special status that allows the city to thrive as an international financial hub.

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