China picks hard­liner to head HK na­tional se­cu­rity agency

Hong Kongers erase their so­cial me­dia his­tory in face of se­cu­rity law

The Asian Age - - World -

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

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