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  • Police and Protesters Clash in Hong Kong, U.S. Declares City No Longer Autonomous From China

  • Hong Kong Protesters Arrested as Security Chief Warns of “Growing Terrorism”

  • Hong Kong Opposition Fears “One Country, One System” with New Security Law

 


Photo: Hong Kong, Asia’s World City…, by Studio Incendo

Hong Kong, Asia’s World City…, by Studio Incendo (CC BY 2.0)


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Police and Protesters Clash in Hong Kong, U.S. Declares City No Longer Autonomous From China

Following the arrest of nearly 200 people protesting against Beijing’s move to unilaterally impose national security legislation in Hong Kong last weekend, police on Wednesday arrested over 360 who were rallying against a law that would outlaw “insulting” the PRC national anthem. After last weekend’s protest and arrests, police warned of further arrests and jail terms for any “illegal disturbances” at Wednesday’s planned demonstration, which like the previous round of protest occurred despite recently extended public health restrictions limiting public gatherings. At The Guardian, Helen Davidson and Verna Yu report on Wednesday’s standoff between pro-democracy protesters and armed police in Hong Kong:

Earlier in the day, police in riot gear stopped and searched mainly young people outside Hong Kong’s MTR railway stations during morning rush hour and lined walkways as commuters shuffled past, prompting accusations on social media that the city had become “a police state”.

Roads around the Legislative Council building (LegCo) were blocked off as lawmakers held a debate on the anthem law.

[…] Police accused protesters of setting fire to debris and throwing objects at officers. “Police had no other option and needed to employ minimal force, including pepper balls to prevent the relevant illegal and violent behaviour,” the force said.

The crowds remained, swearing at police and chanting: “Hong Kong independence, it’s the only way.”

“I’ve come for something I care deeply about – ultimately it’s freedom,” said a 40-year-old lawyer who wished to remain anonymous, citing the national security laws, Beijing encroachment, and a recent report clearing police of wrongdoing. “If we keep quiet, they can get away with it. I don’t think we can change things but need to make sure our voices are heard.” [Source]

Pro-democracy rallies over the last two weeks mark the resurgence of last year’s stalled protest movement, which represented the culmination of years of mounting anxieties over Beijing’s expanding influence in the region. Last year’s movement began in opposition to a draft extradition law that many in Hong Kong feared would allow mainland authorities to crack down on political dissent. The draft was eventually withdrawn, but the movement continued with expanded demands, including for full democracy and limits to Beijing’s encroaching power. Stalled during the city’s battle with the coronavirus pandemic, the movement showed signs of reemerging earlier this month when small protests broke out in shopping districts and led to over 200 arrests. After Beijing last week made public the draft resolution that it would use to require Hong Kong to implement national security legislation—and effectively overturn the “one country, two systems” principle—calls for independence began being heard at demonstrations. As Hong Kong’s establishment rallies for public support of the national security law and counters criticism over its potential effects on the region’s freedom, authorities have promised it would only affect a “small group of illegal criminals,” and have warned of mounting “terrorism.”

More from CNN’s James Griffiths on the chaotic scenes across Hong Kong on Wednesday:

Riot police detained and arrested dozens of people in the busy shopping area of Causeway Bay and Central, the city’s main global business hub, during scattered and seemingly spontaneous protests over the law, which critics say threatens basic political freedoms and civil liberties.

Multiple protesters could be seen wrestled to the ground by police, and pepper spray and pellets were fired into crowds gathered in densely populated areas. Arrests were also made in Mong Kok, in Kowloon, police said.

“It’s like a de facto curfew now,” former lawmaker and pro-democracy activist Nathan Law told Hong Kong public broadcaster RTHK in the wake of the arrests. “I think the government has to understand why people are really angry,” he added.

[…] Police said people “occupied the nearby roads and blocked traffic,” disrupting “social peace.” They also released a photo showing dozens of people seated inside a police kettle, most of whom appear to be young and wearing regular clothes, rather than the heavy protest gear seen in previous unrest.

Compared to last year, when lunchtime protests were a semi-regular sight ahead of the coronavirus outbreak, often involving white collar business workers, police demonstrated far less tolerance for any obstruction of roads or other minor disruption. Police were seen detaining people for shouting protest slogans and displaying banners, and one police liaison officer told a crowd in Central through a loudspeaker: “After eating lunch, go back to your normal life and don’t stand here anymore.” [Source]

Hong Kong’s embattled Chief Executive Carrie Lam on Monday censured foreign “interference” amid mounting diplomatic pressure on Beijing to respect Hong Kong’s autonomy. Since then, the E.U. has joined in the call, and Germany stated that it expects Beijuing to respect the region’s rule of law and that Hong Kong should retain a “high degree of autonomy.” Currently engaged in several diplomatic spats with Beijing—including over trade and responsibility for the coronavirus pandemic—the U.S. State Department announced that it no longer considers Hong Kong to be autonomous:

The AFP reports on Pompeo’s full statement:

Hours before Beijing will hold a key vote on a controversial new security law on Hong Kong, Pompeo sent a notice to Congress that China was not living up to obligations from before it regained control of the territory from Britain in 1997.

“I certified to Congress today that Hong Kong does not continue to warrant treatment under United States laws in the same manner as US laws were applied to Hong Kong before July 1997,” Pompeo said in a statement.

“No reasonable person can assert today that Hong Kong maintains a high degree of autonomy from China, given facts on the ground.”

[…] “While the United States once hoped that free and prosperous Hong Kong would provide a model for authoritarian China, it is now clear that China is modeling Hong Kong after itself,” Pompeo said. [Source]

At the South China Morning Post, Mark Magnier reports on the implications of Secretary Pompeo’s certification, which could allow for new sanctions, and could jeopardize Hong Kong’s preferential trade relationship with Washington, under a bill passed by U.S. congress last year:

[…] Under the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act passed by the US Congress in November, the administration must decide annually whether governance of Hong Kong is suitably distinct from China.

Options available to the administration – which may in part depend on Beijing’s reaction, analysts said – include higher trade tariffs, tougher investment rules, asset freezes and more onerous visa rules.

The move sent shock waves through China and Hong Kong policy circles.

[…] “I fully expect the US to proceed with sanctions on individuals and entities deemed to be undermining Hong Kong’s autonomy,” [Bonnie Glaser from the Centre for Strategic and International Studies] added. “Secondary sanctions are possible on banks that do business with entities found in violation of law guaranteeing Hong Kong’s autonomy.”

Analysts noted a long-standing dilemma faced by successive US administrations: if Washington imposes sanctions on Hong Kong, it risks hurting residents of the city at least as much as it penalises Beijing. […] [Source]

On Twitter, prominent pro-democracy activist Joshua Wong explained the likely global economic impact of both the imposition of a national security law and the termination of Hong Kong’s special trade status, to urge international leaders to oppose the former and reconsider the latter:

At Bloomberg, Iain Marlow and Daniel Flatley take a deeper look at the global implications of Hong Kong losing its special status:

2. What would losing it mean for Hong Kong?

An estimated $38 billion in trade between Hong Kong and the U.S. could be jeopardized. “Longer term, people might have a second thought about raising money or doing business in Hong Kong,” said Kevin Lai, chief economist for Asia excluding Japan at Daiwa Capital Markets. It would be “the nuclear option” and “the beginning of the death of Hong Kong as we know it,” said Steve Tsang, director of the University of London’s SOAS China Institute.

3. What about for the U.S.?

It has its own reasons for not rocking the boat too much. Hong Kong, the only semi-democratic jurisdiction under Chinese rule, offers U.S. companies a relatively safe way to access the Chinese market and employs a U.S. dollar peg, linking it with the American financial system. According to the Congressional Research Service, the largest U.S. trade surplus in 2018 was with Hong Kong — $31.1 billion. Some 290 U.S. companies had regional headquarters in the city that year and another 434 had regional offices, it said. Hong Kong’s first justice minister after the handover to China in 1997, Elsie Leung, told the South China Morning Post in May that any damage would be mutual: “We are not just getting the benefits – it’s a free-trade arrangement which is good for both sides.”

4. And more broadly?

Any sanctions or move to rescind the special status would further strain the relationship between the U.S. and China, already under pressure from the coronavirus pandemic, the Hong Kong protests, an ongoing trade war and other issues. In addition to the annual review of Hong Kong’s trading status, the new law requires the president to freeze U.S.-based assets of, and deny entry to the U.S. by, any individuals found responsible for abducting and torturing human rights activists in Hong Kong. Such sanctions could come sooner than a suspension of the trading status, and would obviously complicate things further. […] [Source]


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Hong Kong Protesters Arrested as Security Chief Warns of “Growing Terrorism”

The announcement at top political meetings in Beijing last week that the Chinese government would unilaterally impose national security legislation in Hong Kong sparked fear from pro-democratic lawmakers and activists that Beijing was hastening its running efforts to take full control over the territory. The law—which would ban “foreign interference,” secessionism, and subversion of state power—would be a direct blow to the protest movement which began a year ago in opposition to a draft extradition law. The draft was eventually withdrawn, but the movement continued with expanded demands, including for full democracy and limits to Beijing’s encroaching power over the city. The movement’s activity dwindled after pro-democracy groups saw encouraging gains in local elections late last year, then came to a standstill during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. More recently, some have suspected Hong Kong authorities of using related disease control measures to stymie public protests while they make progress towards political goals.

On Sunday and in defiance of social distancing rules, thousands of protesters gathered in Causeway Bay to demonstrate against Beijing’s move to bypass Hong Kong’s democratic process in violation of the “one country, two systems” principle. Police reacted with tear gas, pepper spray, water cannons, and nearly 200 arrests. At The Wall Street Journal, Neil Western and Joyu Wang report on the police crackdown that ensued, and cite protesters who in a state of desperation are sharpening their demands:

“I think this is the termination of one country, two systems,” one protester said Sunday, describing how police descended quickly on the early marchers, squeezing them from two sides and prompting many to flee. “Hong Kong is lost. The most important thing is to fight back against the Communist Party,” added the 25-year-old insurance-company employee.

Heavily armed police in full riot gear stayed out in force throughout the day as protesters chanted Hong Kong’s protest anthem. Police said they were forced to use tear gas because demonstrators had assaulted police officers, thrown objects at them and obstructed traffic.

Calls for Hong Kong to be free from Chinese rule rang out, while some protesters waved independence flags. Chinese leader Xi Jinping said in 2017 that Beijing wouldn’t tolerate demands for independence, calling it China’s red line.

“One country, two systems has gone now,” said Chris Hon, a 25-year-old engineer among the crowd Sunday. “The only option left to restore our own system is independence.” [Source]

More on the standoff between protesters and police from Al Jazeera, which also report a warning from Hong Kong’s security chief of the growing threat of terrorism as the local government rallied in support of Beijing’s proposal:

“Terrorism is growing in the city and activities which harm national security, such as ‘Hong Kong independence’, become more rampant,” Secretary for Security John Lee said in a statement.

“In just a few months, Hong Kong has changed from one of the safest cities in the world to a city shrouded in the shadow of violence,” he said, adding that national security laws were needed to safeguard the city’s prosperity and stability.

Tam Yiu-chung, Hong Kong’s sole delegate to China’s National People’s Congress Standing Committee, told the public broadcaster RTHK on Monday that said he did not expect any delay in the drafting of the national security law.

[…] Earlier, Ray Chan, a pro-democracy member of Hong Kong’s Legislative Council, wrote on social media: “Call us terrorists, whatever you want, after the Wuhan Virus outbreak, China has no more credibility in the world.” [Source]

Reporting on the protests and arrests, the South China Morning Post’s Phila Siu and Chris Lau noted attempts by CCP leaders to ease fears about the rights implications of the security law, while being clear about their intent to implement it:

The protests erupted just hours after Chinese Vice-Premier Han Zheng, Beijing’s top leader in charge of Hong Kong, told local delegates to the national legislature that Beijing’s determination to push through the national security law should not be underestimated, and that mainland authorities would “implement it till the end”.

[…] At the ongoing National People’s Congress session in Beijing, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi sought to ease concerns about the new law, saying it would not damage the city’s autonomy or freedoms.

[…] The law would have “no impact on Hong Kong’s high degree of autonomy, the rights and freedoms of Hong Kong residents, or the legitimate rights and interests of foreign investors in Hong Kong”, Wang said. “Instead of becoming unnecessarily worried, people should have more confidence in Hong Kong’s future. This will improve Hong Kong’s legal system and bring more stability, a stronger rule of law and a better business environment to Hong Kong.” [Source]

In her weekly press conference on Tuesday, Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam similarly dismissed concerns over the law’s impact on freedoms and human rights, defending the draft legislation as a “responsible move” for Hong Kong’s law-abiding majority and scolding foreign diplomatic support of the protesters. From BBC news:

Hong Kong’s leader Carrie Lam has said other countries “have no place” interfering in the territory, as she robustly defended a controversial national security law planned by China.

[…] She denied that the law would curtail the rights of Hong Kongers.

These rights – set out in the Basic Law which is Hong Kong’s mini-constitution – have been in place since it was handed back to China in 1997 by the UK. The Basic Law guarantees certain freedoms to the territory, such as the right to protest, which do not exist on the mainland.

[…] She also spoke of the “positive response” from the public in the past few days, saying it “flies in the face of what those overseas politicians are saying”.

[…] Carrie Lam tried to assure the public that the law will only target “small groups of illegal criminals” – but could offer little when pressed for details. [Source]

As Lam claims a positive public response to Beijing’s draft law—an assertion thinly supported by a pro-government think-tank survey—online calls suggest another large turnout should be expected for a Wednesday demonstration against the second review of a national anthem law that would criminalize “insulting” China’s national anthem.

Police have warned of jail terms for any who cause “illegal disturbances” at the planned Wednesday protests. Booing the anthem is a practice some Hong Kong residents have adopted at public events in recent years, and the Hong Kong proposal is similar to a 2017 Chinese law.

On Twitter in an affirmative response to the NPC Observer’s detailed explanation of the situation, PRC law expert Jerome Cohen urges caution in accepting claims from the chief executive and other pro-establishment Hong Kong authorities that only a “small group” of people engaged in “terrorist” activity should be concerned by the law:

Lam’s censure of foreign “interference” comes as prominent Hong Kong pro-democracy activists lobby in support of diplomatic opposition to Chinese aggression in Hong Kong, and as the U.S. State Department criticizes Beijing’s actions and congress makes moves toward new sanctions on Chinese officials. A Global Times editorial attacked the U.S.’ “rallying Western officials and instigating Western media outlets to attack China’s National People’s Congress for its formulation of a national security law for Hong Kong” as a politically opportunist “nothingburger” that shouldn’t worry China, whose market appeal is stronger than American rhetoric. Meanwhile, the E.U. has joined the chorus of diplomatic calls for Beijing to respect Hong Kong’s autonomy.

At The New York Times, Steven Lee Myers’ suggests that the aggressive recent move by Beijing to demand national security legislation may be a sign that Xi Jinping is no longer concerned enough by international rebuke to exercise restraint:

Mr. Xi’s move against Hong Kong has nonviolent echoes of President Vladimir V. Putin’s forceful seizure of Crimea from Ukraine in 2014, which was a violation of international law and of Russia’s previous diplomatic commitments. The annexation made Mr. Putin an international pariah for a while, but Russia still remains firmly in control of Crimea.

[…] While Mr. Xi is using legislation rather than military force in a territory already under Chinese rule, it is nonetheless a brash move by an autocratic leader willing to risk international condemnation to resist what he views as foreign encroachment on his country’s security.

“The Communist Party doesn’t care anymore about the reactions, because it’s about survival, the stability of the one-party system, avoiding the fate of the Soviet Union,” [professor at Hong Kong Baptist University Jean-Pierre] Cabestan said. “Hong Kong is being perceived more and more as a base of surveillance, as a factor in the destabilization of the Chinese state.”

[…] Victoria Hui, a political scientist at the University of Notre Dame and author of a book on the 2014 Hong Kong protests known as the Umbrella Movement, said the international community had often spoken out against China’s steady accretion of power over the territory but had exacted no real punishment. […] [Source]

Financial Times’ Tom Mitchell and Xinning Li cite anonymous pro-Beijing politicians who say the surprise unilateral move to force the legislation had been planned for months, and reflected “Beijing’s frustration with Hong Kong officials and its fear that election losses in September would further weaken their hand.”

More recently at the New York Times, Myers and Elaine Yu reported on new comments from the commander of the PLA garrison in Hong Kong, who also defended the bill and pledged to “safeguard the stability of Hong Kong.” The interview, aired on state television, was accompanied by footage of recent local military drills and scenes from when the PLA sent troops last summer at the height of the protests:

The garrison commander, Maj. Gen. Chen Daoxiang, addressed the situation in Hong Kong in an interview on the sidelines of the National People’s Congress in Beijing, where he serves as one of nearly 3,000 delegates to the annual legislative gathering.

General Chen said the new legislation would deter “all kinds of separatist forces and external intervention forces,” echoing the view of Mrs. Lam and others in China’s political leadership that the protests have international support intended to undermine the Communist Party’s rule over the city.

“Garrison officers and soldiers are determined, confident, and capable of safeguarding national sovereignty, security and development interests and maintaining the long-term prosperity and stability of Hong Kong,” General Chen said in an interview with China’s state television network, CCTV.

[…] “I have never heard of a garrison official in Hong Kong publicly commenting on Hong Kong’s affairs, even though of course the legislation is being done in Beijing,” said the pro-democracy lawmaker Tanya Chan, calling the move “shocking.” [Source]


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Hong Kong Opposition Fears “One Country, One System” with New Security Law

On Friday, the Chinese government released the full text of a draft resolution requiring the implementation of national security laws in Hong Kong. The resolution, which will bypass the normal legislative process in Hong Kong by being introduced in Annex III of the Basic Law—Hong Kong’s mini-constitution—requires the Hong Kong government to enact its own national security legislation. The last time the Legislative Council tried to do so in 2003, mass protests forced them to withdraw the motion. From a translation of the resolution by China Law Translate:

The state will unflinchingly and accurately implement the principles of “one country, two systems”, “Hong Kong people ruling Hong Kong” and a high degree of autonomy, and uphold the principle of governing Hong Kong according to law, to preserve the constitutional order of Hong Kong Special Administrative Region as determined by the Constitution and the Basic Law of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, and employ necessary measures to establish and complete the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region’s legal system and enforcement mechanisms for preserving national security, and lawfully preventing, stopping, and punishing, conduct and activities that endanger national security.

[…] The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region shall complete legislation for preserving national security as provided for in the Basic Law of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region as soon as possible. The administrative, legislative and judicial organs of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region shall, in accordance with relevant laws and regulations, effectively prevent, stop, and punish conduct endangering national security. [Source]

The resolution also allows the Chinese government to establish security and intelligence agencies in Hong Kong. Under the “One Country, Two Systems” framework, Hong Kong currently operates its own law enforcement and judicial systems, independent of China. Clare Jim and Jessie Pang of Reuters report:

The document said the laws will safeguard the central government’s “overall jurisdiction” as well as Hong Kong’s “high autonomy” given Hong Kong’s “increasingly notable national security risks”.

“When needed, relevant national security organs of the Central People’s Government will set up agencies” in Hong Kong to safeguard national security, the draft said.

Hong Kong’s judiciary, along with the government and legislature, must “effectively prevent, stop and punish acts endangering national security”, it states. The reference to Hong Kong’s staunchly independent legal system has rattled some Hong Kong lawyers.

[…] “It is essentially declaring directly that ‘one country, two systems’ is null and a failure,” said Eric Cheung, principal lecturer at Hong Kong University’s department of law, of the legislation. [Source]

However, there remained some uncertainty over whether Chinese law enforcement would be allowed to operate in Hong Kong under the Basic Law:

The National People’s Congress Observer Blog explained the legality of the new resolution on Twitter:

Legal scholar Jerome Cohen weighs in further on the impact of Beijing’s move on Hong Kong’s government and citizens:

In his analysis of Premier Li Keqiang’s Work Report presented at the opening of the National People’s Congress session, David Bandurski of China Media Project describes how Wang Chen, vice-chairman of the NPC Standing Committee, discussed the new legislation in a speech Friday:

The work report itself deals only very briefly with the question of Hong Kong in the final section (in the fourth to last paragraph, in fact), following general language about the CCP’s leadership of the armed forces and the determined protection of “national sovereignty, security and development interests.” Hong Kong and Macau follow together, without any particular emphasis, before the issue of Taiwan is addressed.

[…] The work report is intended as a broad overview of goals and a summary of supposed achievements, so we should not be surprised that it glosses right over this major development. The details were more forthcoming, and the language far more astringent, in the speech this afternoon (on video here) from Wang Chen, vice-chairman of the NPC Standing Committee, specifically addressing the question of new legislation for Hong Kong. Wang said, to a chilling chorus of pre-scripted applause (his voice even rose in anticipation at precisely this point) that “strong measures must be taken to stop and to punish” what he characterized as actions “seriously challenging the bottom line of the principle of ‘One Country Two Systems’, and seriously damaging national sovereignty, security, and development interests.” [Source]

Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Law has said she and her government will cooperate with Beijing to implement new national security legislation as quickly as possible. From Kelly Ho at Hong Kong Free Press:

Lam backed the NPC’s proposal to include national security laws in Annex lll of the Basic Law, saying that it was “undoubtedly within the purview of the Central Authorities.”

She added the decision would not amend the Basic Law, nor replace or repeal Article 23 in Hong Kong’s mini-constitution, which allows the city to make laws to ban actions that they see as endangering national security.

“In other words, the HKSAR still has the responsibility to complete legislation for Article 23 of the Basic Law as soon as possible,” she said.

[…] “After the passage of the Decision, the HKSAR Government will fully co-operate with the Standing Committee of the NPC to complete the legislation as soon as possible to discharge its responsibility of safeguarding national security to ensure the long-term prosperity and stability of Hong Kong under “One Country, Two Systems,” she said. [Source]

In an explainer of the new laws at Lausan, Vincent Wong outlines what activities the new laws will potentially cover:

This effectively bans a broad spectrum of political activity, which would include much of what we’ve seen from the Hong Kong movement thus far. The enforcement of sedition and subversion laws diminishes Hongkongers’ right to free speech and press freedom. Any relationships with foreign political organizations could be categorized as foreign interference. Clashing with the police, even if in self-defense against their unaccountable violence, could be labeled as terrorist activity.

However, national security clauses aren’t new to Hong Kong. Many of them are found in Article 23 of Hong Kong’s Basic Law, the city’s mini-constitution, but efforts to pass these laws were ultimately scrapped after half a million people protested its passage in 2003. So what’s different this time? Why has this news caused such an uproar? Why has the pro-democracy lawmaker Dennis Kwok called it “the most devastating thing to happen to Hong Kong since the handover”?

This is because after this past year of protests, Beijing has arrived at the conclusion that the Hong Kong government (and its Legislative Council) can no longer be trusted with the passing and enforcement of national security laws.

In other words, the Xi administration is fed up with Hong Kong and is no longer satisfied with letting Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam “manage” the Hong Kong protest movement. Instead of observing from afar, the Xi administration has decided to directly intervene in Hong Kong’s lawmaking processes and intends to beat Hongkongers into submission using “rule by law.” [Source]

Participants in the 2019 protest movement—which started in opposition to a planned extradition bill and later expanded to more generalized demands for democracyhave expressed their fears over this new legislation. Some are also concerned that it may lead to more extreme resistance measures. Natasha Khan writes for the Wall Street Journal:

“I don’t know which is worse: the law itself, or the process of allowing the standing committee to pass the law for Hong Kong,” [veteran pro-democracy activist and legislator Martin Lee] said, referring to Beijing’s plan to use its highest political body to introduce laws for Hong Kong and override the city’s lawmakers. “It’s a dangerous precedent set at a critical stage, and in the future they can repeat the same thing again and again.”

[…] While many dissidents vowed on Thursday to continue their fight, they said protest tactics may change from mass rallies to underground resistance, with some resorting to lone-wolf attacks to highlight their cause. Police in recent months have warned of rising threats of bombs and other violent acts.

Ivan Choy, a senior lecturer at Chinese University of Hong Kong’s school of government and public administration, said Beijing’s tougher stance may lead to more extreme protests.

“This will provoke further reaction from younger generations,” he said. “It will be very difficult for more moderate voices in society to tell them to stay calm and see a political solution now.” [Source]

For The New York Times, Vivian Wang and Austin Ramzy report on how members of the protest movement are figuring out how to shift course from confronting their local leaders to directly taking on Beijing. Some are appealing to the international community for support:

Stunned and saddened, many protesters on Friday seemed demoralized and uncertain of their next move. While some on social media called for rallies or singalongs, several organizers said they would focus on events already planned for the coming days. Those demonstrations include a rally scheduled for Sunday to oppose a separate drive by Hong Kong officials to criminalize disrespect of the Chinese national anthem.

[…] Hong Kong’s reaction to the Chinese government’s plan likely won’t stay muted for long. Many in the anti-Beijing camp said they believed the protests would mushroom as social distancing measures eased. The Hong Kong government recently extended the restrictions through at least June 4.

The city’s democracy activists also emphasized that the details of Beijing’s plan remain unclear and that any law would likely not go into effect for several months, giving them time to mobilize.

“Next week, the main thing might be the national anthem law, but in the coming months, the main thing will be the national security law,” said Agnes Chow, a prominent student activist. “I believe there will be a lot of mass protests in the coming weeks and months.” [Source]

Zen Soo at AP reports additional responses from pro-democracy activists in Hong Kong:

A former pro-democracy lawmaker, Lee Cheuk-yan, said at a news briefing by opposition parties and activists that Chinese leader Xi Jinping “has torn away the whole pretense of ‘one country, two systems’” and that Beijing is “directly taking control.”

“They’re trying to ban every organization in Hong Kong who dares to speak out against the Communist Party,” he said, describing it as a challenge to global values such as freedom and liberty.

Office worker Tiffany Chung called it ridiculous. “They promised ‘one-country, two-systems, but the content of the security law is basically implementing ‘one country, one system,’” she said. [Source]

Secretary of State Pompeo issued a strongly worded statement on Hong Kong, and two senators have introduced a bill to sanction Chinese officials and entities responsible for implementing the new laws. At the Washington Post, Shibani Mahtani looks at what other options the U.S. has for censuring China over this move, as the two countries are in the midst of a downward spiral in relations due to ongoing trade disputes and mutual accusations over responsibility for the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.

China’s provisions against “foreign interference” appear to put diplomats at risk of harassment; already, China last year leaked personal information of an American official in Hong Kong, accusing her of fomenting unrest, and detained an employee of the British consulate, who said he was blindfolded and shackled.

“If agents of China’s national security apparatus can operate in Hong Kong, they can use the same methods that they use in China,” said Leung Kwok-hung, a political activist in Hong Kong. “That is the end for us.”

Beijing’s gambit — imposing its will by decree, bypassing legislative procedures it promised Hong Kong under the terms of the 1997 handover — prompted warnings and indignation from Washington. And it marked a decisive blow in China’s efforts to undermine Hong Kong’s constitution, the Basic Law, and the “one country, two systems” formula that is supposed to preserve the city’s political rights and autonomy until 2047.

Armed with new tools, namely the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act, the question now is how far the Trump administration will go in its response. Attention is falling on whether the United States will end Hong Kong’s trade privileges by certifying that the territory should no longer be treated separately from China — a step many regard as a nuclear option because of the implications for business — or sanction key officials. [Source]

The U.K., Australian, and Canadian governments issued a joint statement against the laws. International human rights organizations including Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and Chinese Human Rights Defenders also condemned the move.

At the Guardian, Ilaria Maria Sala and Louisa Lim write that the new legislation “threatens to undermine all the cherished institutions and rights that distinguish this international city from mainland China”:

In Hong Kong, the news was met with numb disbelief. It was “the saddest day in Hong Kong’s history” according to the pro-democratic Civic party politician Tanya Chan. The very vagueness of mainland Chinese definitions of sedition, subversion and secession could criminalise groups such as religious believers, political parties advocating greater autonomy and even those who organised Hong Kong’s massive protests, some of which saw more than 1 million participants.

Given that Hong Kong’s future autonomy is now uncertain, the move also brings into question the city’s future as an international business centre. The news was met by protests in the legislative council and calls for more street action in spite of the ongoing restrictions on gatherings of more than eight people due to the pandemic.

Hong Kong’s defenders have often hoped the city would be protected by its role as a world city, thanks in no small part to the institutions that distinguish it from mainland China. Some warned that this would not be enough to protect Hong Kong from the Communist party. Before the handover, tycoon Vincent Lo Hong-shui, then chairman of the General Chamber of Commerce, issued a stark warning: “It’s really a myth to think that they will not kill the goose that lays the golden egg.” Through the enactment of this legislation, two decades later, those fears have now come true. [Source]

For Global Voices, Lokman Tsui, professor at the City University of Hong Kong’s School of Journalism and Communication, writes:

So what now? What can we in Hong Kong do? What can anyone do?

[…] Maybe it’s time to remind ourselves that Hong Kong has been really good at protesting, at acting, at being creative and surprising.

We surprised the government when half a million of us came out to stop the original national security bill in 2003.

Last summer, we surprised the world with a one million-person march. And then we surprised the world again, this time with a cool two million-strong march. We got the extradition bill killed.

[…] We refuse to be domesticated. Freedom is never free. But we earn our souls. [Source]

Further responses from Twitter:


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