People in Hong Kong face the possibility of living behind bars for violating a controversial new security law imposed by China.
Details of the law, which criminalizes secession, subversion, and collusion with foreign forces, were published after its entry into force.
Critics say the new law effectively reduces protest and freedom of expression.
He was brought in by Beijing after growing discontent and a pro-democracy movement.
Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam defended the law and said it filled a “gap” in national security. Previously, the Beijing-backed policy admitted that it had not seen the draft.
The United Kingdom, the EU and NATO have expressed concern and anger, while pro-democracy groups have begun to dissolve.
What do we know about the law?
Full details of the new law only emerged after it went into effect at approximately 23:00 local time on Tuesday (16:00 BST). They include that:
- The crimes of secession, subversion, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces are punished with a minimum sentence of three years, the maximum being life imprisonment.
- Inciting hatred of the central and regional governments of Hong Kong are now crimes under Article 29
- Damaging public transportation facilities can be considered terrorism
- Those found guilty may not run for public office
- Beijing will establish a new security office in Hong Kong, with its own law enforcement personnel, none of which would be under the jurisdiction of the local authority.
- The Hong Kong chief executive officer can appoint judges in national security cases and the secretary of justice can decide whether or not there is a jury.
- Decisions made by the national security commission, created by local authorities, cannot be legally challenged
- China also says it will take on the prosecution in cases deemed “very serious”, while some trials will be heard behind closed doors.
- People suspected of breaking the law may be intercepted and placed under surveillance
- The management of foreign non-governmental organizations and news agencies will be strengthened.
- The law will also apply to non-permanent residents.
The law will not apply to acts that occurred before its entry into force.
Under national security law, many of the acts of protest that rocked Hong Kong in the past year could now be classified as subversion or secession … and punishable by life imprisonment.
The city’s pro-Beijing leader Carrie Lam said the law had been long overdue.
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Fearing repercussions, political activists are giving up their posts, and a pro-democracy protester, who asked to remain anonymous, told me that ordinary people are now deleting posts on social media.
Many people simply stop talking about politics and stop talking about freedom and democracy because they want to save their own lives. They want to save their freedom and avoid being arrested.
A contact of mine, a lawyer and human rights activist, sent me a message shortly after the law was passed. Please delete everything in this chat, he wrote.
What has been the reaction?
The backlash started at the time the law, which was first announced six weeks ago, was signed by Chinese President Xi Jingping.
Democracy activists in Hong Kong immediately resigned, fearful of the new law and the punishment it allows.
Joshua Wong, secretary general and founding member of the pro-democracy group Demosisto, warned that the city “would become a secret police state.”
China’s team leader for the human rights group Amnesty International, Joshua Rosenzweig, accused Beijing of targeting “ruling Hong Kong out of fear from now on.”
- Read more: Minutes after the new law, pro-democracy voices resigned
The move also sparked an international backlash, with UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab saying China had broken promises it had made to the people of Hong Kong under the terms of the 1997 installment.
That agreement enshrined the “one country, two systems” principle in a document called the Basic Law, Hong Kong’s mini constitution, for 50 years.
The Basic Law protects rights such as freedom of assembly and freedom of expression, none of which exist in mainland China, and also establishes the governance structure of the territory.
Julian Braithwaite, Britain’s ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva, told the UN Human Rights Council that the law “has clear implications for human rights.”
Braithwaite, speaking on behalf of 27 nations, urged China to reconsider.