Speaking after the annual flag raising ceremony on Wednesday, Hong Kong’s top official, Chief Executive Carrie Lam, said the law is a “crucial step in ending the chaos and violence that has occurred in recent years. months “in the city.
“The national security law is the most important development to secure ties between China and the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region since delivery,” he said, framing criticism of the law as “vicious attacks.”
In vague language, the law penalizes secession, subversion, terrorism, and collusion with foreign powers. People convicted of such crimes can face sentences up to life in prison.
Activists have vowed to demonstrate against the law on Wednesday, traditionally a day of protests in the city. However, for the first time since the delivery, the police have not given the protesters permission to hold peaceful protests.
Large red and yellow signs appeared on barges in the city’s port saying, “To celebrate the national security law.”
There was a strong police presence in Hong Kong’s central district and around the city’s Legislative Council on Wednesday morning. Police commanders were told the night before in a training session that someone seen waving an independence flag or singing for independence will be arrested, a police source said. Furthermore, the source said that anyone who has searched and found that they have flags of independence in their possession will be arrested.
However, a handful of protesters gathered in the Wan Chai district, near where the flag-raising ceremony was held, and the chant “people will never forget” and “will crush the national security law” was heard.
These are some of the main conclusions of the law:
- The law establishes four new crimes of secession, subversion, terrorism and collusion with foreign powers. The maximum penalty for each is life imprisonment.
- The Chinese central government will establish its own police presence in Hong Kong, called the “Office to Safeguard National Security.”
- A secret national security committee for Hong Kong will also be established, consisting of Hong Kong government officials and an adviser appointed by the Chinese central government. According to a summary published by the Hong Kong government, the work of this group “will not be disclosed to the public” and “the decisions of the Committee will not be subject to judicial review.”
- Activities such as damaging public transportation and public services “to pursue the political agenda” can be considered terrorism, a provision that appears to target protesters who last year disrupted city traffic and infrastructure.
- A terrorism charge may also include the loosely worded provision of “other dangerous activities that seriously jeopardize public health and safety.”
- The law targets perceived foreign interference in Hong Kong. Throughout the protests, the Chinese government blamed “foreign forces” for interfering in city affairs. The law establishes that any person who “steals, spies, obtains payment or illegally provides state secrets or intelligence” to a foreign country, institution, organization or individual will be guilty of a crime in collusion with foreign powers.
- The law also criminalizes individuals using a foreign country, institution, organization or individual to impose sanctions or blockades in Hong Kong. The United States said it would impose visa restrictions on current and former Chinese officials over Hong Kong.
- Working with a foreign government, institution, organization or individual to incite hatred against the central government of Hong Kong or China is now a crime.
- The law can also be applied to non-permanent residents in Hong Kong and those who violate the law will be deported, regardless of their sentence. It also applies to non-residents abroad who violate the national security law abroad. This increases the possibility that foreigners will be charged with alleged crimes committed abroad if they visit the territory.
- Those convicted of a national security crime in court may not stand for election or hold public office.
- Hong Kong’s chief executive now has the power to appoint judges to handle national security-related cases. National security cases involving state secrets can be tried without a jury.
- Hong Kong courts will oversee national security cases, but Beijing can take charge of prosecution in certain circumstances, applying Chinese law and the rules of prosecution.
- However, the law does not clarify whether the cases that Beijing rules on can be carried out on the mainland. Last year’s anti-government protests were sparked by a proposed law that would allow extradition to mainland China.
- Trials will be held in open court, but when the case involves “state secrets or public order” it can be moved behind closed doors.
- A new national security unit will be established in the Hong Kong Police Force that will have the power to search property, intercept information, and conduct covert surveillance without a warrant. You can also recruit members from outside Hong Kong, which could allow mainland officials to operate in the city.
- The law also orders the Hong Kong government, along with the new commission, to strengthen its management of foreign news agencies and non-governmental organizations.
- Ultimately, the national security law takes precedence over local laws: the new legislation states that if there is a conflict with existing Hong Kong law, the national security law will prevail.
Opponents of the law say it marks the end of “one country, two systems,” a principle by which Hong Kong has maintained limited democracy and civil liberties since it came under Chinese control.
Crucially, those freedoms include the right of assembly, a free press, and an independent judiciary, rights that are not enjoyed on the Chinese mainland.
Jimmy Lai, a Hong Kong media magnate known for his outspoken support for the city’s pro-democracy movement, said the law “spells death in Hong Kong because it replaces our law and our rule of law.”
The human rights group Amnesty International said the legislation “represents the greatest threat to human rights in the city’s recent history.”
“The speed and secrecy with which China has pushed this legislation intensifies fears that Beijing has created a calculating weapon of repression to be used against government critics, including people who simply express their views or protest peacefully.” said the head of Amnesty The China International Team Joshua Rosenzweig.
United States Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said it was “a sad day for Hong Kong and for freedom-loving people across China” with the imposition of national security legislation in Hong Kong.
He said the law “destroys the autonomy of the territory and one of China’s greatest achievements.”
CNN’s James Griffiths, Roger Clark, Karina Tsui, Jadyn Sham, Vanesse Chan, Chermaine Lee, Kylie Atwood, Philip Wang contributed.