China has approved the passage of a controversial National Security Law for Hong Kong on June 30th, 2020.
Oppositions fear criminalization of dissent under the new law in the semi-autonomous territory of Hong Kong. China received heavy international condemnation against its autocratic move. The law was imposed unanimously by Beijing’s top legislative on the 23rd anniversary of the territory’s return to mainland China by the British.
Chief Executive of Hong Kong – Carrie Lam defended the law in her speech, “The enactment of the national law is regarded as the most significant development in the relationship between the central authorities and the HKSAR (Hong Kong Special Administrative Region) since Hong Kong’s return to the motherland.”
Critics believe the imposition to be a direct repercussion of last year’s anti-government, pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong for the withdrawal of the extradition bill – which has since been revoked by the People’s Republic of China. The new National Security Law challenges Hong Kong’s partial sovereignty to freedom of speech and assembly, some democratic rights and an independent judiciary, thereby eliminating the “one country, two systems” principle.
Under the new legislation, subversion (overthrowing the Central government), secession (trying to separate Hong Kong from mainland China), terrorism, and colluding with foreign forces to undermine national security are punishable by a maximum sentence of life in prison. The Central government’s encroachment would authorize the establishment of separate law enforcement and judiciary. Beijing will have the power to interpret the law, not Hong Kong’s judicial or policy body. It will topple the legal firewall that existed between Hong Kong and Mainland China. Suspects can be wire-tapped, put under surveillance, and made to undergo closed-door trials. They will also not be allowed to stand for public office. The law would apply to non-permanent residents of Hong Kong as well.
Dozens of demonstrators rallied the streets to protest against the new contentious law. The crowd chanted “Liberate Hong Kong!” and “Oppose the bad national security law.” Police detained hundreds of people and arrested a few under the new law for “illegal assembly, violating the Hong Kong national security law, obstructing police officers from performing their duties and possession of offensive weapons”. Many pro-democracy organization members have quit or deleted their social media accounts fearing prosecution. “Purpose of law is to change Hong Kong from rule of law to rule of fear,” said a protestor.
Notably, police used a new purple banner to warn the protestors. “You are displaying flags or banners/ chanting slogans/ or conducting yourselves with intent such as secession or subversion, which may constitute offenses under the HKSAR national security law,” it said.
Within a week, China opened a new office for its intelligence agents in Hong Kong. Education Bureau of the territory ordered schools to review and remove books that violate the new security law. Pro-democracy books were purged from the libraries. USA, UK, Canada as well as the United Nations (backed by twenty-seven countries) condemned China’s move to eliminate freedom and urged to reconsider the law. Google, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Zoom have paused the processing of data requests from the Hong Kong government, following the new law.
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