Hong Kong activists have removed the profiles from social media and closed campaign groups after Beijing passed a new security law for the territory that many fear could lead to jail.
The standing committee of the National People’s Congress approved the measure on Tuesday morning and is expected to be enacted in Hong Kong late Tuesday, on the eve of the 23rd anniversary of his return to the Chinese government.
The legislation, aimed at ending the often violent anti-government protests that have engulfed Hong Kong for the past year, will criminalize secession, subversion, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces.
The full text of the law has yet to be released, but public broadcaster RTHK quoted sources as saying that in “special circumstances,” Hong Kong’s top leader and the Beijing-led national security agency in Hong Kong could Sending “serious” national security cases to the courts of mainland China for trial.
High-profile activists Joshua Wong, Nathan Law and Agnes Chow have resigned from their political group, Demosisto, and the group itself announced its closure hours after news of the law’s passage. The Hong Kong National Front, an independence group, also announced its closure, but said its work would continue in Taiwan and the United Kingdom. Another pro-independence group, Studentlocalism, also said it would stop working.
Local reports say the penalties for national security crimes will range from three to 10 years in prison, with life in prison for “serious cases.” The law is not supposed to be applied retroactively, although any action that has “endangered the state” in the past two years could be used as evidence in court, they say.
Although reports say China would exercise jurisdiction only in a minority of serious national security cases that the Hong Kong government cannot handle, many Hong Kong people were not reassured.
“Everything is so vague. Say what they say about this goal to only a few people, I can’t trust them, ”said Marie Tsang.
“I feel very uncomfortable because you don’t know where the red line is, you don’t know what they mean by national security crimes, so you just have to guess,” said Tsang, a former accountant and full-time mother who she said has erased many of your online photos and posts and are looking to migrate.
A student who identified himself as Kelvin said he found the law “unnecessary” and “disturbing.”
“Many things in this law are open to interpretation. Authorities can choose judges and the way they interpret things will become a precedent in court, ”said the 27-year-old, who said he was also deleting photos and online posts.
Some activists showed defiance by organizing a lunchtime protest at a shopping mall in the prestigious central business district. Several people sang songs and chanted slogans. Some displayed flags in favor of independence and held up posters opposing the national security law, and urged people to participate in a protest on July 1, the anniversary of Hong Kong’s transfer to control of Beijing. A large number of police officers searched some of them.
Police have banned the July 1 march, which has been held every year since 1997, citing Covid’s concerns, but activists have said they would still demonstrate. On Lihkg.com, a site popular with protesters, users asked people to come out to “celebrate” the passage of the law.
In the decades following the surrender, Hong Kong’s free press, independent courts and legislature, as well as its traditions of protests and marches, have made the city a haven for civil liberties not enjoyed at the border , especially since the Xi Jinping government has done so. cracked down on civil society.
Those differences were highlighted last year when the protests, over another controversial bill that residents saw as a further Chinese invasion of their city, turned into a broader democratic movement. In the past year, police have arrested more than 9,000 protesters, including pro-democracy lawmakers and activists who have frequently lobbied to draw international attention to the Hong Kong cause.
Some hope the security law will end the protests. The 70-year-old market stall owner, who identified herself as Ms. Ha, said that stronger punishment was needed to prevent “rioters from destroying Hong Kong.”
“It will scare people and they will no longer cause chaos,” he said.
Ip Kwok-him, a Hong Kong deputy in the Chinese National People’s Congress, said the law was not “a tiger without teeth” and would have a “deterrent effect.”