The new national security law for Hong Kong has taken effect in the semi-autonomous Chinese city, amid renewed protests and ongoing criticism by many Western governments led by the US and former colonial power the UK. The protests only attracted a small number of people compared to protests held earlier this year.
The law will punish crimes of secession, subversion, and collusion with foreign forces with sentences of up to life in prison. Mainland security agencies will also be officially based in Hong Kong for the first time, with powers that are not subject to the city’s local laws in certain circumstances.
The law also provides for greater oversight of non-governmental organizations and news groups, at least in part a response to US and other Western countries to promote and fund dissident groups and other protestors, and specifies that those who destroy government facilities and utilities would be considered subversive. Damaging public transportation facilities and arson would constitute acts of terrorism.
The law stipulates that Hong Kong’s governor – currently Chief Executive Carrie Lam – will appoint judges for national security cases. However, mainland authorities will exercise jurisdiction in “complex” cases such as those involving a foreign country, or serious situations that pose a major or imminent threat to national security.
Suspects arrested by the mainland’s new office in Hong Kong on charges of violating the new national security law for the city would be tried in the mainland as the national security office functions in accordance with Chinese law.
China says the law is necessary to tackle secession, subversion, terrorism, and collusion with foreign forces following violent anti-government protests that escalated in June last year.
Carrie Lam stated that the national security law is “the most important development” since the city’s return from British to Chinese rule in 1997.
“It is a historical step to perfect Hong Kong safeguarding national security, territorial integrity, and a secure system,” she said, adding that the law was “constitutional, lawful, sensible, and reasonable.” LINK
Critics of the law consider it to be a serious threat to the region’s autonomy and civil liberties. Large protests erupted in Hong Kong after the law was proposed in May of this year.
Following the approval of the law, some protesters gathered near the venue of the formal ceremony announcing the law on Wednesday carrying banners and shouting slogans in opposition to the measures adopted.
Earlier, Hong Kong authorities barred an annual march scheduled to be held on Wednesday, citing a ban on gatherings of more than 50 people in a bid to curb the coronavirus epidemic.
Police fired water cannon to disperse protesters who defied the ban and gathered in the city’s downtown for the annual rally marking 23 years since British rule ended.
Riot police also used pepper spray and warned that certain slogans and banners might constitute serious crimes under the new national security law.
Later in the day police made their first arrest under the new law, detaining a protester for carrying a flag calling for Hong Kong’s independence. The man was arrested after police issued multiple warnings to the crowd at a protest in the city’s Causeway Bay shopping district that they might be in violation of the law.
Western countries, led by the US and the UK, continue to denounce the Chinese law and threaten China with punitive countermeasures. Anticipating the enactment of the security law, late last week the US Senate unanimously approved a bill to impose sanctions on Chinese businesses and individuals — including the police — that undermine Hong Kong’s autonomy or restrict the rights and freedoms of the city’s residents in anticipation of the new law. US officials also say they will end favourable trading terms granted to the former British colony after it passed to Chinese control in 1997.
One of the bills, the Hong Kong Autonomy Act, would impose sanctions on businesses and individuals that help China restrict Hong Kong’s autonomy. That bill was authored by GOP Senator Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania and Democratic Senator Chris Van Hollen of Maryland. A second measure from Missouri Republican Senator Josh Hawley is a resolution condemning China for violating a 1984 agreement to guarantee autonomy for Hong Kong.
The measures were combined into one bill before passing and still need to be passed in the House and signed by US President Donald Trump if they are to take effect.
Chinese officials responded to the measures earlier this week, saying that China would retaliate against US sanctions and other unilateral punitive measures by imposing visa restrictions on US ‘personnel’ it considers to have ‘performed badly’ on matters regarding the semi-autonomous Chinese territory.
Foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian reiterated China’s insistence that the law was “purely an internal affair of China, and no foreign country has the right to interfere.”
“The U.S. side’s attempt to obstruct China from promoting Hong Kong’s national security legislation through the so-called sanctions will never succeed. In response to the above-mentioned wrong behavior of the U.S. side, China has decided to impose visa restrictions on U.S. personnel who perform badly on Hong Kong related issues.” LINK
In the UK, the Guardian cited ‘prominent activists’ claiming, inter alia, that:
“From now on Hong Kong enters a new era of reign of terror. However, even under … China’s direct authoritarian rule Hong Kongers will continue to fight … When justice fails, our fight goes on.”
On Tuesday, Japan called the development “regrettable”. President Tsai Ing-wen of Taiwan, which is opening a dedicated office to helping residents fleeing from Hong Kong, said the latest move from Beijing shows that the one country, two systems formula is “not feasible.” LINK
The US Air Force has also been active in the vicinity of China over the last week. Taiwan News reports that:
A U.S. Navy P-8A Poseidon airplane was spotted flying over the Bashi Channel on Sunday (June 28), marking eight days in a row that U.S. military aircraft sightings were reported near Taiwan’s airspace.
The aircraft was seen taking the route south of Taiwan over the waterway separating the island country and the Philippines, according to Twitter user South China Sea Strategic Situation Probing Initiative (SCSPI). The account is operated by China’s Peking University Institute of Ocean Research.
The P-8A Poseidon is the U.S. Navy reconnaissance aircraft carrying out maritime patrol missions and capable of engaging in anti-submarine and anti-surface warfare…
A dozen U.S. warplanes have been sighted in the region over the past weeks, including maneuvers of P-8A, RC-135 reconnaissance aircraft, and a C-17A transport plane on Thursday (June 25) in the South China Sea. Experts believe the missions could be associated with the actions of the PLA’s nuclear-powered submarines in proximity to the Philippine Sea, wrote the South China Morning Post.
The Ministry of National Defense (MND) declined to comment on Sunday’s aerial activity other than to say that the airspace and seas were being monitored and that there was no cause for concern. LINK
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