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22 May, 2020 05:41:52 PM
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China moves to tighten grip on Hong Kong

Independent Online/ AFP
China moves to tighten grip on Hong Kong

China moved Friday to quash Hong Kong's pro-democracy movement by unveiling plans for a new security law at the start of its annual parliamentary session that also laid bare the "immense" economic challenges caused by the coronavirus.

The 3,000-member National People's Congress (NPC) began with a minute of silence for China's victims of the coronavirus before Premier Li Keqiang delivered his annual version of the US president's "state of the union" address.

"At present, the epidemic has not yet come to an end, while the tasks we face in promoting development are immense," Li told mask-wearing delegates in Beijing's cavernous Great Hall of the People, while also touting China's success in suppressing the contagion.

The pandemic forced Beijing to delay its annual parliament by two months and reduce its length to a week.

Citing "great uncertainty" ahead, Li took the rare move of refraining from announcing a 2020 growth target for China's pandemic-battered economy, offering only a vague promise to address mounting joblessness and to improve living standards.

- Hong Kong under siege -

The most controversial move at the NPC opening was the introduction of a proposal to impose a security law in Hong Kong -- immediately denounced by the US and pro-democracy figures in the financial hub who called it a death sentence for the territory's unique freedoms.

The draft proposal will "guard against, stop and punish any separatism, subversion of the national regime, terrorist group activities and such behaviours that seriously harm national security".

The motion, which goes to a vote in the rubber-stamp legislature on Thursday, would authorise Chinese lawmakers to directly enact long-delayed Hong Kong security legislation itself at a future date, rather than leaving it up to the territory's administration.

- Economic uncertainty -

Although infection numbers have dwindled, China is still recovering from the COVID-19 outbreak that first appeared in the central city of Wuhan late last year and spread globally.

Beijing has faced accusations led by Trump that it mishandled its initial response, leading to nearly 330,000 deaths and economic carnage worldwide and sending US-China tensions spiralling to new depths.

China's economic growth shrank 6.8 percent in the first quarter because of the virus, its first contraction in decades.

Li had originally been expected to announce a 2020 growth target of around six percent -- but the pandemic has scrambled expectations, leaving millions of Chinese jobless and imperilling countless businesses.

Still, the government announced Friday it would increase its military budget by 6.6 percent.

TH

 

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Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman

Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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