Hong Kong is celebrating 23 years since the end of British rule with the entry into force of the new “anti-protest” law imposed by Beijing.
The National Security Act targets separation, sabotage, and terrorism with penalties of up to life imprisonment.
Hong Kong was returned to China from Britain in 1997, but under an agreement that is supposed to protect certain freedoms for at least 50 years.
But critics say the law is “the end of Hong Kong” and it stops these freedoms.
“[China] “He promised 50 years of freedom to the people of Hong Kong and gave them only 23 years,” said US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
- China’s new law: Why is Hong Kong concerned?
But the city leader said the law would “restore stability” after widespread protests in 2019.
“The National Security Act legislation is the most important development in the relations between the central government and Hong Kong since its handover,” said Chief Executive Carey Lam.
Will there be protests on the anniversary?
A pro-democracy protest is organized every year on the anniversary, and usually tens or hundreds of thousands of people attend.
But for the first time since the handover, the authorities banned the rally – arguing that it would ban viruses on gatherings of more than 50 people.
Some activists vowed to challenge the ban and march later in the afternoon.
“We demonstrate every year … and we will continue walking,” pro-democracy activist Young Kwok Hong told Reuters.
But a pro-democracy activist warned that there was “a great opportunity to arrest us.”
“The accusations will not be light, please judge yourself,” said Tsang Kensheng of the Social Democrats.
Insiders told the South China Morning Post that city police officers were on standby. They said that about 4,000 officers are ready to deal with any disturbances.
What does the new law say?
Under the new law – which applies to both permanent and non-permanent residents – separation, sabotage, terrorism, and collusion with foreign forces are punishable by a minimum of three years, with a maximum of life.
Protesters often targeted the city’s infrastructure during the 2019 protests – under the new law, the destruction of public transport can be considered terrorism.
Beijing will also set up a new security office in Hong Kong, with its law enforcement personnel – and neither will be subject to the authority of the local authority.
Inciting hatred against the central government in China and the Hong Kong regional government is now crimes under Article 29.
- Life imprisonment for breaking Hong Kong security law
- Beijing establishes a new security office in Hong Kong
What was the reaction?
Minutes after the law was passed, pro-democracy activists began to resign, fearing the punishment the new law would allow.
“With vast powers and an unspecified law, the city will turn into a secret police state,” said Joshua Wong, a pro-democracy leader.
The political party that he co-founded – Demosisto was also dissolved.
One opposition lawmaker told the BBC that the move had taken away the city’s rights.
“Our rights (extracted), our freedom is gone, the rule of law, our judicial independence,” said opposition lawmaker Ted Hoy.
In the United States, legislators from both parties launched a bill to grant refugee status to Hong Kong residents at risk of persecution, local media reported.
Under the National Security Act, many of the protests that have rocked Hong Kong over the past year can be classified as sabotage or separation … punishable by life imprisonment.
Carrie Lam, the city’s pro-Beijing leader, said the law was too late.
Political activists quit and a pro-democracy protester, who asked not to be named, told me that ordinary people are now deleting posts on social media.
Many people stop talking about politics, and stop talking about freedom and democracy, because they want to save their lives.
They want to preserve their freedom and avoid arrest.
One of my contacts, a lawyer and human rights activist, sent me a message shortly after the law was passed.
Books please delete everything in this chat.