Pro-China supporters display Chinese and Hong Kong flags during a rally near the government headquarters in Hong Kong on June 30, 2020, as China passed a sweeping national security law for the city. Photograph:( AFP )
Fearing jail time, or worse, naysayers of the Chinese government will be put in prison for three-ten years depending on the gravity of crimes
In the backdrop of China passing its controversial national security law in Hong Kong, activist groups in the city have disappeared from social media, and most pro-democracy campaigns shut fearing repercussions.
Fearing jail time, or worse, naysayers of the Chinese government will be put in prison for three-ten years depending on the gravity of crimes. Those who commit “serious crimes” may also face life imprisonment.
Also read: Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam says national security law won't undermine autonomy
Earlier, authorities had claimed that the law would be used to weed out “terrorists” from the city, while alluding to the year-long protests in the city which ended in a lot of violence, and only simmered down with the advent of COVID-19.
What emerged as a protest against China’s now scrapped extradition law for Hong Kongers, turned into a larger demand for democracy and against Chinese influence in the city.
One country, two systems no more?
On July 1, Hong Kong will mark 23 years since it was returned to China by Britain, as part of the “one country, two systems” deal, which gives special privileges to the people of Hong Kong which are not available elsewhere in the Chinese mainland.
Additionally, the city is judged by its mini-constitution called “Basic law”.
National People’s Congress approved the legislation on Tuesday morning, June 30, which is expected to be enacted in Hong Kong later today.
With the goal to stifle anti-government protests, the legislation criminalises subversion, secession, terrorism, and working with foreign forces. The sedition aspect of the law essentially make any critique of the Chinese government illegal.
Fearing trial in China, activists shut shop
No details have been divulged yet. But according to the city’s RTHK broadcaster, under special circumstances, cases may be transferred to Chinese mainland courts, where punishments are stricter, and with lesser scope of freedom.
Activists such as Joshua Wong, Agnes Chow, Nathan Law resigned from their political group Demosisto after the news came in. The group itself too, announced plans to close down.
Another pro-democracy group, Hong Kong National Front announced its closure while adding that it would continue work in Taiwan and the UK. A student-based group, Studentlocalism also announced plans to shut operations.
Any actions by people qualifying as “endangering the state” may be used to arrest people.
China plans to interfere only in a few cases that HK may not be able to handle.
A protest is planned on July 1, the day of Hong Kong’s handover to China. However, the police have banned any kind of procession on the day, for the first time since 1997, citing coronavirus concerns.
Hong Kong has historically retained its democratic character - free press, independent courts, legislature, and a culture of protests. Over the last year alone, 9,000 people were arrested in Hong Kong.