Hong Kong is celebrating its 23-anniversary as an autonomous region since its separation from British rule. The moment marking the independence from imperialist rule was marred by anti-protest law imposed by Beijing that came into effect at the end of May 2020. The national security law will effectively hurt city’s economy and is sketched to crack down on dissent, terrorism, subversion and treason of any kind against the mainland china. The rules set in the legislation will limit the freedom, the semi-autonomous city state was enjoying since 1997.
Hong Kong was returned back to China from Britain in 1997. The agreement signed by Beijing at that time protected certain freedoms of Hong Kongers for at least years. However, critics say the law is the end of Hong Kong autonomy and directly puts its freedoms in jeopardy.
“China promised 50 years of freedom to the Hong Kong people, and gave them only 23, “US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said.
The city’s leader however, promised to restore stability after mass demonstrations in 2019.
“The new law is considered the most important development in relations between the central government and Hong Kong since the handover,” said Chief Executive Carrie Lam.
At the same time, a Chinese official lashed out at foreign critics, questioning their voices: “What is this got to do with you?”
“We Chinese will not be scared by anyone,” said Zhang Xiaming of the Hong Kong and Macao Affairs office of the State council. “Gone are the days when we had to take cues from others.”
A pro-democracy protest is staged year as an anniversary event and attended by tens of thousands of people. Some activists have vowed to defy the law that banishes their freedom and pledged to carry the marches in the afternoon.
“We march every year… and we will keep on marching,” pro-democracy activist Leung Kwok-hung told Reuters.
Photos posted on social media and confirmed by Hong Kong police showed a flag printed with warning to protesters about the subversion activities. One pro-democracy activist feared the chance of the arrests.
“The charges will not be light, please judge for yourself,” said Tsang Kin-shing of the League of Social Democrats.
Police are on standby, insiders told the South China Morning Post on condition of anonymity. They said around 4,000 determined officers were deployed to handle any unrest.
What is the new law in China’s Hong Kong?
As per the new law crimes of secession, terrorism, subversion and collusion with foreign forces are punishable by a minimum sentence of 3 years and life sentence will be the maximum penalty for the dissent. Beijing under the new law will also set up a new security office in Hong Kong, with its own law enforcement personnel and neither of the two will be accountable to the local government. Inciting public sentiment against Hong and Chinese central government are now punishable offences under Article 29.
The law will also scrutinize the non-residents under Article 38 meaning foreigners could be arrested upon entering Hong Kong once it is established, they have broken the law. Some critics warned that the legislation could be applied retroactively and the offences even committed before the passing of the law will be prosecuted however, Mr. Zhang said ruled out the retroactive application. However, he added that the suspects arrested in Hong Kong may be tried by the Chinese authorities in mainland China.
On Wednesday, Mr. Pompeo said the draconian law destroyed Hong Kong’s autonomy.
“Hong Kong demonstrated to the world what a free Chinese people could achieve – one of the most successful economies and vibrant societies in the world.”
But Beijing’s paranoia and fear of its own people’s aspirations have led it to eviscerate the very foundation of the territory’s success,” he bristled at the communist regime.
Canada meanwhile, has updated its travel advisory for Hong Kong, which says: “You may be at increased risk of arbitrary detention on national security grounds and possible extradition to mainland China.”