China passes Hong Kong security law
US begins removing HK special status
HONG KONG/BEIJING (Reuters) — China’s parliament passed national security legislation for Hong Kong on Tuesday, setting the stage for the most radical changes to the former British colony’s way of life since it returned to Chinese rule 23 years ago.
Details of the law — which comes in response to last year’s often-violent pro-democracy protests in the city and aims to tackle subversion, terrorism, separatism and collusion with foreign forces — were yet to be released.
Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam nevertheless welcomed the law’s passage and said it would come into effect later on Tuesday, giving the city’s 7.5 million people little time to digest what is expected to be highly complex legislation.
Amid fears the law will crush the global financial hub’s freedoms, and reports that the heaviest penalty under it would be life imprisonment, pro-democracy activist Joshua Wong’s Demosisto group said it would dissolve.
“It marks the end of Hong Kong that the world knew before,” Wong said on Twitter.
The legislation pushes Beijing further along a collision course with the United States, Britain and other Western governments, which have said it erodes the high degree of autonomy the city was granted at its July 1, 1997, handover.
The United States, already in dispute with China over trade, the South China Sea and the coronavirus, began eliminating Hong Kong’s special status under U.S. law on Monday, halting defense exports and restricting technology access. China said it would retaliate. Lam, in a video message to the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva, urged the international community to “respect our country’s right to safeguard national security.”
She said the law would not undermine the city’s autonomy or its independent judiciary.
Authorities in Beijing and Hong Kong have repeatedly said the legislation is aimed at a few “troublemakers” and will not affect rights and freedoms, nor investor interests.
The editor-in-chief of the Global Times, a tabloid published by the People’s Daily, the official newspaper of China’s ruling Communist Party, said on Twitter the heaviest penalty under the law was life imprisonment.
As the law was passed in Beijing, the Chinese People’s Liberation Army garrison in Hong Kong held a drill which included exercises to stop suspicious vessels and arrest fugitives, according to the Weibo social media account of state-run CCTV’s military channel.
The legislation may get an early test with activists and pro-democracy politicians saying they would defy a police ban, amid coronavirus restrictions, on a rally on the anniversary of the July 1 handover.
HONG KONG (Reuters) — Hong Kong activist Joshua Wong said on Tuesday he is stepping down as leader of his democracy group Demosisto, just hours after media reported that Beijing had passed national security legislation for the Chinese-ruled city.
Wong has said he would be a “prime target” of Beijing’s national security law, which critics fear will crush freedoms in the former British colony.
Chinese and Hong Kong authorities have said the law is necessary to tackle separatism, subversion, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces following anti-government protests that escalated in June last year.
Wong has rallied support for Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement overseas, in particular in the United States, drawing the wrath of Beijing, which says he is a “black hand” of foreign forces.
“If my voice will not be heard soon, I hope that the international community will continue to speak up for Hong Kong and step up concrete efforts to defend our last bit of freedom,” Wong said on his Twitter feed.
Demosisto members Nathan Law and Agnes Chow also said they were stepping down from the group.
“The struggle of Hong Kong people will not stop, it will only continue with a more determined attitude,” Law said in a Facebook post.
Independence advocacy group the Hong Kong National Front said on its Facebook page it had shut its Hong Kong office and that its units in Taiwan and Britain would continue to promote independence for the Chinese-ruled city.
China considers Hong Kong to be an “inalienable” part of the country so any suggestion of independence are anathema to its Communist Party leaders. Independence activists fear they will be targeted by Beijing under the new security legislation.
Hong Kong pro-independence activist Wayne Chan said in a Facebook post on Sunday he had skipped bail and fled the city amid fears he would be detained.
The South China Morning Post newspaper, quoting an unidentified source, said China’s official news agency Xinhua would publish details of the law later on Tuesday and Hong Kong officials would gather at the office of Beijing’s top representative in the city later for a meeting on the legislation.
The draft law has alarmed foreign governments and Hong Kong democracy activists, who are concerned that Beijing is eroding the high degree of autonomy granted to the former British colony when it was returned to Chinese rule in 1997.
China says the national security law will target only a small group of troublemakers and people who abide by the legislation have no reason to worry.
Taiwan warns citizens of risk in Hong Kong visits
TAIPEI (Reuters) — Taiwan on Tuesday warned its citizens of risk in visiting Hong Kong after China’s parliament passed national security legislation for the city while Taiwan’s president said she was disappointed about the law.
The new law would “severely impact” freedom, democracy and human rights in Hong Kong, Taiwan’s cabinet said in a statement, adding that the democratic island would continue to offer help to Hong Kong people.
“The move severely impacts Hong Kong society’s freedom, human rights and stability. The government strongly condemns it and reiterates its support for the people of Hong Kong as they strive for democracy and freedom,” cabinet spokesman Evian Ting said.
Authorities in Beijing and Hong Kong have repeatedly said the legislation is aimed at a few “troublemakers” in Hong Kong and will not affect rights and freedoms, nor investor interests.
Nevertheless, Ting warned Taiwanese of “possible risks” when visiting Hong Kong in light of the legislation. He did not elaborate.
Months of anti-government, pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong last year won widespread sympathy in democratic and Chinese-claimed Taiwan, which has welcomed people from Hong Kong who have moved to the island and expects more to come.
President Tsai Ing-wen, who in May became the first government leader anywhere to pledge measures to help Hong Kong people who leave due to what they see as tightening Chinese controls, said she was “very disappointed” by China’s imposition of the law.
“We hope Hong Kong people continue to adhere to the freedom, democracy and human rights that they cherish,” she told reporters.
Police stop and search a man after they entered a shopping mall to disperse people attending a lunchtime rally in Hong Kong, Tuesday. China’s National People’s Congress Standing Committee has unanimously approved a national security law for Hong Kong, prohibiting acts of secession, subversion, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces to endanger national security.
Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam leaves after a press conference in Hong Kong, Tuesday. Hong Kong media reported that China has approved a contentious law that would allow authorities to crack down on subversive and secessionist activity in Hong Kong, sparking fears that it would be used to curb opposition voices in the semi-autonomous territory.