Pro-democracy activists in Hong Kong on Thursday marched to protest calls for the immediate abolition of draconian national security laws, as city leaders warn that the law will increasingly influence journalism, art, internet and education.
Chanting “We don’t have democracy or human rights!” “Human rights to state power!” and “No national security!” Demonstrators marched from MTR Wanchai Station to the Convention and Exhibition Center, where chief executive Carrie Lam was speaking at an event marking National Security Law Education Day on Thursday.
Demonstrator Chow Hang-tung, vice president of the Hong Kong Alliance advocating for China’s patriotic democracy movements, said national security laws did nothing to make people feel safer.
“Are Hong Kong residents safer since the national security law was enacted?” Chau Tinh Tri said.
“We are being left with more and more fear, our human rights are being trampled upon, and more and more people are going to jail,” she said. “What kind of security is that?”
“National security law is basically the law that deprives us of our security,” she said.
Inside the venue, Carrie Lam warns that the law – imposed on the city by the ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP) from July 1, 2020 – will soon have an impact on every aspect of life. in the city.
“We will continue the work to protect national security … and ensure that the work involved is fully understood and implemented fully and comprehensively,” Lam said in his speech.
Law enforcement will be felt in all areas of city life, “she said [in] fields of politics, society, economy, culture, technology, internet, finance, public health. “
The government has launched a legal campaign in schools, many of which have set up “national security committees” to educate students on how to “keep safe” Hong Kong.
Hong Kong’s National Security Law threatens anyone who criticizes the Chinese or Hong Kong government anywhere in the world to face life imprisonment.
It created specialized secret security agencies, denied the right to a fair trial, provided new powers to police, strengthened restrictions on civil society and the media, and undermined judicial supervision.
The law also affects the right to education and the right to freedom of information, opinion and expression in schools, as political statements and discussions are prohibited in city classrooms and university campuses. city.
Freedom is limited
Since the city was handed over to China in 1997, the seven million residents of Hong Kong have continued to enjoy free internet access from the Great Firewall, which limits what mainland Chinese users have. can be viewed or done online.
But in January, the HKChronicles website, which publishes live accounts of the protest, was blocked for the first time, raising fears that internet service providers in the city are increasingly facing pressure. content censorship under the new law.
In response to media inquiries about the blocking, Hong Kong police cited Article 43 of the national security law, which states that police can ask service providers to block access to the interior. Online content is considered “likely to constitute a crime against national security or result in a breach of national security.”
Police said at the time that they would “act according to the law” depending on the circumstances.
China’s fearsome state security police have also set up a headquarters in the city to oversee law enforcement and tackle “serious cases”, while the government warns that slogans related to protest movements last year, including “Hong Kong Free, Revolutionary Now!”, will be within the jurisdiction of the law.
Lam said on Thursday that the law enforcement process is still underway.
“We will engage the whole community in efforts to raise awareness among Hong Kong people about national security and the obligation to comply with the law, so that everyone has a responsibility to protect security,” she said. national security ”.
“National security and political security are inseparable,” Lam said. “To achieve genuine national security, governance must be held firmly in the hands of patriots.”
When she spoke, the Hong Kong Police Force publicly demonstrated for the first time the Chinese People’s Liberation Army’s (PLA) welcoming style of operations at a public holiday to mark the law.
Lam said “national security messages” are being introduced into schools and communities, in which students leave messages in favor of the law by clearly mimicking the “Lennon walls” recorded it was used in the 2014 and 2019 protest movements.
“[We will] Strengthen communication, guidance, monitoring and management of national security issues handled by schools, social organizations, media and internet ”, Mr. Lam said.
She said the law has created a new political and law enforcement infrastructure, including the National Security Bureau of the Hong Kong Police Force, the Justice Department’s National Security Prosecution Division and the Secretariat. signed by the National Security Commission.
Location and action
The CCP special envoy in Hong Kong Luo Huining said Beijing is concerned about “both words and deeds.”
“We will take care of anyone who voluntarily interferes in Hong Kong’s affairs and tries to use it [its people] like a pawn, “said Luo.
“Countries and outside forces should … draw a lesson from our resolute countermeasures [to economic sanctions linked to the suppression of dissent and the protest movement], “he said.
“Anything that undermines national security through a fierce confrontation will have a legal counterattack,” he said, in a clear mention of the protest movement and protesters who have resisted. riot police again in 2019.
“Soft confrontations will be handled through laws and regulations,” he said.
Zheng Yanxiong, director of the Central People’s Government’s National Security Protection Office in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, who has been punished by the US government, said recent sweeping changes to the system. Hong Kong’s political domination goes hand in hand with suppression of national security.
Earlier this month, Beijing unveiled comprehensive plans to ensure that anyone who runs for Hong Kong’s legislature is a staunch supporter of the ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP), All candidates will be screened by the national security police before candidate is allowed.
The new system will force those who hope to vote to run a series of multi-layered pro-CCP committees before they can appear on any ballot. However, the decision of all such committees will be subject to the approval of the national security branch of the Hong Kong Police Force, according to details published by the Standing Committee of the People’s Congress. National Population (NPC).
Zheng said the system was set up to “end all chaos that challenged the constitutional order” in Hong Kong.
Foreign Ministry official Yang Yirui said foreign powers have posed a threat to national security in Hong Kong in recent years, regarding Beijing’s claim that pro-democracy movements more recently by foreign governments.
Their aim was to “turn Hong Kong into an independent or semi-independent political entity, into a land of separatism, the bridgehead of subversion, infiltration and destruction,” Yang told the dignitaries at the same event that Mr. Lam mentioned.
‘Like the Cultural Revolution’
Current affairs commentator Johnny Lau said the law was part of a so-called “modernization” process aimed at removing the distinction between Hong Kong and other Chinese cities.
“Actually, the atmosphere in Hong Kong right now is very similar to the early days of the Cultural Revolution [1966-1976]”, Said Lau.
“They use the denunciation as a starting point for a person’s political attack, and this is increasingly happening in Hong Kong,” he said. “Beijing wants to turn political tensions into political pressure”.
Last month, organizers canceled a public screening of a documentary about a Hong Kong university surrounded by riot police as students fired petrol bombs and other ammunition from behind barricades. provisional in November 2019, following a denunciation in a pro-CCP newspaper in Hong Kong.
The Hong Kong Film Critics Association canceled “Inside the Red Brick Wall”, after several articles in Beijing-backed Wen Wei Po criticized the plan as a violation of national security laws.
In the same month, the brand new M + Museum announced it had shelved plans to display Ai Weiwei’s Perspective Study: Tiananmen Square (1997), after it opened later this year.
The work is a picture of an artist holding his middle finger in Tiananmen Square.
Reports by Fong Tak Ho, Lau Siu Fung and Lu Xi for RFA Cantonese and Mandarin Service. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.