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Beijing's "authoritarian rule" has always had issues with Hong Kong's democracy, and with this national security law it's clear that there was essentially no involvement by the Hong Kong government when it was drafted.

Why did China wait until now to pass it? Why not do it last year during all the protests, or the year before? Xi Jinping doesn't need anyone's permission to do this.

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    Not sure if there is any answer to this beyond opinion and speculation but strategically it seems like they were delayed up to a point because the protests were effective. They probably calculated that by waiting they could implement it more effectively. But I don't expect you'll find any public statements to confirm this. – Brian Z Jul 20 at 16:04
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    Assume that the PRC wants unified rule over all parts of what they consider China. Look back to the Opium Wars and the unequal treaties to see the historical baggage. They also want prosperity through trade and a good international image. I cannot tell how they balance this, but it appears that they do balance. – o.m. Jul 20 at 17:47
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    That's as relevant as asking why Putin annexed Crimea in 2014, or why Hitler annexed Austria and the Sudetenland in 1938. In all cases the "strong leader" wants something badly but knows that if he hurry too much it'll be an international turmoil they don't want to cause, so they wait until a good oportunity arises and takes it. – Bregalad Jul 20 at 18:26
  • @Brian Someone could answer with an explanation of the reasons given by China in official statements and documents. Or they could cite expert analysis of China's foreign policy activity. Or they could have professional experience in foreign affairs in the Pacific rim (a good subjective answer). There are a lot of options. – indigochild Jul 20 at 20:57
  • Between 1997 and 2019 you might say that 2047 seemed to be in the distant future. The extradition bill was introduced in 2019 and that led to intensifying dissent. Until the intensification of dissent the CCP may have expected little net benefit to creating the Hong Kong national security law of 2020. – H2ONaCl Sep 7 at 22:52
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This question comes from an assumption that Chinese government acts on its own free will, "not needing anyone's permission".

In fact, China is (and was, one year ago, and will be, 27 years after today) bound by its Constitutional principle colloquially known as "One country, two systems" introduced by Deng Xiaoping.
This principle is based on the internationally-acknowledged agreement signed as part of The transfer of sovereignty over Hong Kong back in 1997 and is valid till 2047.

The newly introduced National Security Law contradicts provisions of this constitutional principle:

China’s decision to impose the new national security law on Hong Kong lies in direct conflict with its international obligations under the principles of the legally-binding, UN-registered Sino-British Joint Declaration. The proposed law would undermine the One Country, Two Systems framework.
Joint statement from UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab, Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne, Canadian Foreign Minister François-Philippe Champagne, and US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo.

It is not publicly known why exactly China chose to obey its Constitutional principle before and broke it only this time, so the rest of the question will probably remain unanswered unless some official statement is released.

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  • "why exactly China chose to obey its Constitutional principle before and broke it only this time" - the CCP has lost so much face internationally over the past year that it feels it can only slightly recover by punishing those in its own country whilst asserting greater control and authority there. Before, actions taken by the West were nowhere near the extent of actions taken this year. – TheSimpliFire Jul 21 at 9:57
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To add to bytebuster's answer, it seems that even China scholars fail to see a specific reason for timing, besides the obvious taking advantage of the pandemic crisis.

The CCP surely knew there would be repercussions of the likes of US removing special status to Hong Kong, but the current situation might allow Chinese government and businesses to compensate for the outflow of capital in HKSE and markets in general. Only time will tell, but it seems to work thus far .

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My guess:

The CCP fear that their grasp is slipping. They struggle keeping people's minds captive now that information is harder to contain and control.

There's a reason why photos from 1989 of the unarmed man facing down a column of armored tanks in Tiananmen square are banned.

Any dissent is seen as a grave danger to their one-party authoritarian state. It is swiftly beaten down to firmly "discourage" critical views in fear of "infecting" people with a notion of freedom.

Citizens of Kong enjoyed many freedoms denied the rest of the Chinese people. Like freedom of expression. Freedom to criticize the CCP. etc.

Then this law went into effect, and now masses of protesters get arrested for wanting the right to speak their mind freely.

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