Hong Kong officers marked the 23rd anniversary of the territory’s return to China on Wednesday hours after Beijing’s imposition of a brand new nationwide security law drew worldwide condemnation.
Chief Executive Carrie Lam joined her predecessors and different officers on the harbour’s edge for a flag-raising ceremony and a reception for specially-invited visitors, because the territory’s annual pro-democracy march was banned for the primary time.
In her speech, Lam praised the brand new law as “the most important development” within the relationship between Beijing and Hong Kong for the reason that 1997 handover, saying it’s “necessary and timely” transfer to revive stability.
She defended the laws, which got here into drive in a single day after being rushed via China’s rubber-stamp parliament as “constitutional, lawful, sensible and reasonable”.
In a press briefing following the ceremony, Zhang Xiaoming, the Executive Deputy Director of the Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office, mentioned suspects arrested under the law could be tried within the mainland, including that Hong Kong’s authorized system couldn’t be anticipated to implement the legal guidelines of the mainland.
Spreading “rumours” and “directing hatred” in direction of the Hong Kong police Among transgressions might be amongst transgressions probably prosecuted and punished under the brand new law, he mentioned.
Amid threats of potential arrest, protesters gathered close to the convention centre the place the ceremony was held, carrying banners and shouting their opposition to the brand new law, which seeks to punish crimes of secession, subversion, terrorism and collusion with overseas forces with punishments together with life in jail.
Authorities barred civil society’s annual demonstration, citing a ban on gatherings of greater than 50 individuals as a result of of the coronavirus, however many activists have mentioned they’ll defy the order and march later within the afternoon.
As of 0500 GMT, cops have been seen making arrests, together with Democratic Party legislator Andrew Wan, who was seen being led by police in handcuff. Images on social media additionally confirmed police utilizing pepper spray on Wan’s face.
The annual rally is historically held to air grievances about every little thing from sky-high residence costs to what many see as Beijing’s rising encroachment on the town’s freedoms.
This is a painful second for the individuals of Hong Kong. This new nationwide security law should not turn into a weapon of worry. pic.twitter.com/JKuQoSVwzg
— Amnesty International (@amnesty) June 30, 2020
“We march every year, every July 1, every October 1 and we will keep on marching,” mentioned pro-democracy activist Leung Kwok-hung.
On July 1 final yr, tons of of protesters stormed the town’s legislature to protest towards a now-scrapped invoice that will have allowed extraditions to mainland China, ransacking the constructing. The protests continued all year long with rally-goers demanding common suffrage as promised within the territory’s Basic Law or mini-constitution.
Critics worry the laws, which was solely made public after it was handed, will outlaw dissent and destroy the autonomy promised when Hong Kong was returned from the United Kingdom to China in 1997.
Al Jazeera’s Katrina Yu, reporting from Beijing, mentioned that the pace at which the brand new law was crafted and handed proved China’s “determination to stamp out” Hong Kong’s pro-democracy motion, which it sees “as too much of a threat” to the central authorities’s energy.
She mentioned that China could have misplaced persistence over the past yr, because the protests continued.
The laws radically restructures the connection between Beijing and Hong Kong envisaged under the so-called “one country, two systems” framework, obliterating the authorized firewall between the town’s impartial judiciary and the mainland’s party-controlled courts.
It empowers China to arrange a nationwide security company within the metropolis, staffed by officers who aren’t certain by native legal guidelines when finishing up duties.
It outlaws 4 sorts of nationwide security crimes: subversion, secession, terrorism and colluding with overseas forces to hazard nationwide security.
The full textual content of the law gave three eventualities when China may take over a prosecution: sophisticated overseas interference circumstances, “very serious” circumstances and when nationwide security faces “serious and realistic threats”.
“Both the national security agency and Hong Kong can request to pass the case to mainland China and the prosecution will be done by the Supreme People’s Procuratorate and the trial will be in the Supreme Court,” the law said.
“No matter whether violence has been used, or the threat of violence used, leaders or serious offenders will be sentenced for life imprisonment or a minimum of 10 years in jail,” it mentioned.
“The Hong Kong government has no jurisdiction over the national security agency in Hong Kong and its staff when they are discharging duties provided in this law,” it added.
The textual content additionally specified that those that destroy authorities services and utilities could be thought of subversive. Damaging public transportation services and arson would represent acts of “terrorism”. Any individual collaborating in secessionist actions, whether or not organising or collaborating, will violate the law regardless of whether or not violence is used.
The law additionally mentioned sure nationwide security circumstances might be held behind closed doorways with out juries in Hong Kong in the event that they contained state secrets and techniques, though the decision and eventual judgements could be made public.
The laws has drawn worldwide condemnation with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo accusing China of “paranoia” and saying the law “destroys the territory’s autonomy and one of China’s greatest achievements”.
The introduction of the law additionally demonstrated that China’s dedication to worldwide treaties, such because the Sino-British Joint Declaration, have been “empty words”, Pompeo added.
Meanwhile, Taiwan opened an workplace on Wednesday to assist individuals fleeing Hong Kong, with a senior minister saying the self-ruled island would proceed to help individuals within the territory.
“This is an important milestone for the government to further support democracy and freedom in Hong Kong,” mentioned Chen Ming-tong, the pinnacle of Taiwan’s China-policy making Mainland Affairs Council.
Al Jazeera’s Adrian Brown, reporting from Hong Kong, mentioned that residents of the town in all probability felt that the brand new law was “a lot more far-reaching than they imagined, (and) many are “nonetheless attempting to determine the way it will affect their lives.”
“Make no mistake. This is a law that will going to affect everyone in Hong Kong.”