The pandemic has weakened China’s economy but not its leaders’ desire to assert powerMay 22nd 2020HONG KONG AND SHANGHAIJUST AS THE sun rises in the
JUST AS THE sun rises in the east and people need water to survive, so has China’s rubber-stamp parliament, the National People’s Congress, convened its plenary session every March and opened the session with a lengthy—nay, soporific—“work report” from the prime minister. This year is different for two reasons. First is the coronavirus pandemic, which had delayed the NPC itself by nearly three months. The second is that in the past year the Chinese government has faced protests on a scale unseen for three decades, in one corner of its domain, Hong Kong.
In his work report, Li Keqiang, the prime minister, spoke of establishing a “sound” legal system to ensure national security in Hong Kong, which has flourished in part because of its independent judiciary and political freedoms. Just before the NPC opened, China had signalled how it hopes to achieve that “soundness”: by adopting legislation that would require Hong Kong to prohibit acts of subversion against the Chinese government.
The move is unprecedented but not completely unexpected. Article 23 of China’s mini-constitution for Hong Kong, the Basic Law, requires the local government to enact such a law. But a previous attempt, in 2003, was shelved after huge protests. Recently the central…