HK se­cu­rity law takes ef­fect

Xi signs leg­is­la­tion that crit­ics fear will end Hong Kong’s free­doms

Philippine Daily Inquirer - - FRONT PAGE - — STORY BY AFP AND REUTERS

BEI­JING—CHI­NESE Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping has signed the Hong Kong na­tional se­cu­rity law, putting into ef­fect a leg­is­la­tion crit­ics fear will curb the city’s free­doms. The law was en­acted hours after it was passed by China’s par­lia­ment, set­ting the stage for the most rad­i­cal changes to the for­mer British colony’s way of life since its re­turn to Chi­nese rule. Wash­ing­ton re­acted by elim­i­nat­ing the city’s spe­cial sta­tus.

HONG KONG/BEI­JING—CHI­nese Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping has signed the Hong Kong na­tional se­cu­rity law, state me­dia re­ported on Tues­day, putting into ef­fect leg­is­la­tion crit­ics fear will curb the city’s free­doms.

Xi en­acted the law hours after after par­lia­ment passed it, 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 prodemoc­racy protests in the city and aims to tackle sub­ver­sion, ter­ror­ism, sep­a­ratism and col­lu­sion with for­eign forces—are due out later on Tues­day.

Amid fears the leg­is­la­tion will crush the global fi­nan­cial hub’s free­doms, and re­ports that the heav­i­est penalty un­der it would be life im­pris­on­ment, prodemoc­racy ac­tivist Joshua Wong’s De­mo­sisto group said it would dis­solve.

The end

“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 novel coro­n­avirus, be­gan elim­i­nat­ing Hong Kong’s spe­cial sta­tus un­der US law on Mon­day, halt­ing de­fense ex­ports and re­strict­ing tech­nol­ogy ac­cess. China said it would re­tal­i­ate. Hong Kong leader Car­rie Lam, speak­ing at her weekly news con­fer­ence, said it was not ap­pro­pri­ate for her to com­ment on the leg­is­la­tion as the meet­ing in Bei­jing was still go­ing on, but she threw a jibe at the United States.

Not scared

“No sort of sanc­tion­ing ac­tion will ever scare us,” Lam said.

Henry Tang, a Hong Kong del­e­gate to China’s top ad­vi­sory body, said after a meet­ing at Bei­jing’s main rep­re­sen­ta­tive of­fice in Hong Kong, de­tails of the law would be pub­lished later on Tues­day.

It is ex­pected to come into force im­mi­nently.

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, with­out pro­vid­ing de­tails.

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 leg­is­la­tion may get an early test with ac­tivists and prodemoc­racy politi­cians say­ing they would defy a po­lice ban, amid coro­n­avirus re­stric­tions, on a rally on the an­niver­sary of the July 1 han­dover.

At last year’s demon­stra­tion, which came amid a se­ries of prodemoc­racy protests, a crowd stormed and van­dal­ized the city’s leg­is­la­ture.

“We will never ac­cept the pass­ing of the law, even though it is so over­pow­er­ing,” said Demo­cratic Party chair Wu Chi-wai.

It is un­clear if at­tend­ing the unau­tho­rized rally would con­sti­tute a na­tional se­cu­rity crime if the law came into force by then.

A ma­jor­ity in Hong Kong op­poses the leg­is­la­tion, a poll con­ducted for Reuters this month showed, but sup­port for the protests has fallen to only a slim ma­jor­ity.

Protest dis­persed

Po­lice dis­persed a hand­ful of ac­tivists protest­ing against the law at a shop­ping mall.

Dozens of sup­port­ers of Bei­jing popped cham­pagne corks and waved Chi­nese flags in cel­e­bra­tion in front of gov­ern­ment head­quar­ters.

“I’m very happy,” said one el­derly man, sur­named Lee.

“This will leave anti-china spies and peo­ple who brought chaos to Hong Kong with nowhere to go.”

This month, China’s of­fi­cial Xin­hua news agency un­veiled some of the law’s pro­vi­sions, in­clud­ing that it would su­per­sede ex­ist­ing Hong Kong leg­is­la­tion and that in­ter­pre­ta­tion pow­ers be­long to China’s par­lia­ment top com­mit­tee.

Bei­jing is ex­pected to set up a na­tional se­cu­rity of­fice in Hong Kong for the first time and could also ex­er­cise ju­ris­dic­tion on cer­tain cases.

—REUTERS

SEE­ING RED Build­ings rise in the back­ground as Hong Kong and Chi­nese flags are car­ried by sup­port­ers of the na­tional se­cu­rity law on Tues­day.

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