China picks hardliner to head HK national security agency
Hong Kongers erase their social media history in face of security law
Beijing, July 3: China appointed a hardliner involved in a clamp down against protests on the mainland as the head of Hong Kong’s new security agency on Friday, state media said, days after imposing a sweeping law on the territory that criminalises dissent.
Zheng Yanxiong will take the helm of the controversial national security agency, a new office set up under the legislation that empowers mainland security agents to operate inside Hong Kong openly for the first time, unbound by the city’s laws.
The office — which has investigative and prosecutory powers — will monitor intelligence related to national security and process cases, in some circumstances handing them over to the mainland for trial, according to the law.
Hong Kongers are scrubbing their social media accounts, deleting chat histories and mugging up on cyber privacy as China’s newly imposed security law blankets the traditionally outspoken city in fear and self-censorship.
China’s authoritarian leaders enacted sweeping new powers on Tuesday — keeping the contents secret until the last minute — after more than a year of often violent protests in a financial hub increasingly chafing under Beijing’s rule.
“I changed my profile name and switched to a private account so that my employer will not be able to see future posts which they deem to be offensive to China or have breached the national security law,” Paul, an employee of a large company whose management he described as “pro-Beijing”, said.
Hong Kong police on Friday brought their first charges under a sweeping new national security law that Beijing imposed on the city earlier this week.
“A 24-year-old local man has been charged with one count of inciting others for secession and one count of terrorist activity,” the police said in a brief statement.
A police source said the charges were brought against a man who drove his motorbike into a group of police officers on Wednesday during protests against the security law.
The source asked for anonymity on order to be able to speak freely.
Video footage captured by local television showed a man on an orange motorbike with a flag that declared “Liberate Hong Kong, Revolution of our Times” on the back.
He turned down a side street and drove into a group of riot police.
Bystander footage shot on a mobile phone captured a scene moments later, where the man was swiftly detained after he fell to the ground. Police at the time said three officers were wounded.
Western nations are moving to offer millions of Hong Kongers refuge after Beijing passed draconian security laws designed to choke the city’s democracy
movement — but many obstacles prevent a mass exodus.
The United Kingdom is leading allies in offering nearly half the city’s 7.5 million people a potential pathway to British citizenship, with strong indications Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the United States may also offer some form of asylum.
Speaking in parliament, foreign secretary Dominic Raab said Britain had a duty of care to residents of a colony it handed back to China in 1997.
The United Nations voiced alarm on Friday that arrests were already being made in Hong Kong
under Beijing’s controversial new national security law despite “vague” definitions of the offences covered by the legislation.
The UN rights office said it was in the process of analysing the contents of the new law, which outlaws acts of subversion, secession, terrorism and colluding with foreign forces.
“We are alarmed that arrests are already being made under the law with immediate effect, when there is not full information and understanding of the scope of the offences,” UN rights office spokesman Rupert Colville told a press briefing via video link. — AFP