China yesterday imposed a sweeping national security law on Hong Kong, a historic move that critics and many Western governments fear will smother the territory’s freedoms and hollow out its autonomy.
As the law was signed by Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) little more than six weeks after it was first unveiled, Beijing described it as a “sword” hanging over the heads of those who endanger national security.
The contents of the law have so far been kept secret from Hong Kong’s 7.5 million inhabitants, sparking alarm, anger and fear.
“It marks the end of Hong Kong that the world knew before,” prominent democracy campaigner Joshua Wong (黃之鋒) wrote on Twitter as his political party Demosisto announced that it was disbanding. “With sweeping powers and ill-defined law, the city will turn into a #secretpolicestate.”
Some Hong Kongers said that they were deleting their Twitter accounts and scrubbing other social media platforms.
In contrast, former Hong Kong chief executive Leung Chun-ying (梁振英) took to Facebook to offer bounties of up to HK$1 million (US$129,026) for anyone who could help secure the first prosecutions under the new legislation or track down people who have recently fled the territory.
The US, Britain, the EU and Human Rights Watch have all voiced fears it could be used to stifle criticism of Beijing, which wields similar laws to crush dissent on the mainland.
The law bypassed Hong Kong’s fractious legislature and was to take effect last night, Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam (林鄭月娥) said.
“The fact that Hong Kong people will only come to know what’s really in this new law after the fact is more than preposterous,” said Claudia Mo (毛孟靜), an opposition Hong Kong lawmaker.
A summary of the legislation published by Xinhua news agency this month said that it would cover subversion, secession, terrorism and colluding with foreign forces.
China’s security agencies would also be able to set up publicly in the territory for the first time. Beijing will also have jurisdiction over some cases, toppling the legal firewall that has existed between Hong Kong and the mainland’s Chinese Communist Party-controlled courts.
On the mainland, national security laws are routinely used to jail critics, especially for the vague offense of “subversion.”
Speaking via video link to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, Lam attempted to defend the law.
The Beijing-appointed leader said that Hong Kong had been living with “a gaping hole in national security,” and that the law was “urgently needed.”
Lam said that the legislation would help heal a territory “traumatized by escalating violence fanned by external forces.”
She was referring to last year’s pro-democracy protests, which began in response to a now-withdrawn bill that would have allowed extraditions to the mainland.
“I urge the international community to respect our country’s right to safeguard national security, and Hong Kong people’s aspirations for stability and harmony,” she said.
Additional reporting by staff writer
EXTRADITION DEAL? A former prosecutor said that the US Department of Justice might ask Taiwan to extradite the men in return for the US doing something in return The US won arrest warrants for three Taiwanese men — a former president of China-based Fujian Jinhua Integrated Circuit Co (福建晉華) and two engineers — charged with stealing secrets from Idaho-based Micron Technology Inc. The effort to apprehend the three men — former Fujian Jinhua president Stephen Chen (陳正坤), and Ho Chien-ting (何建廷) and Wang Yong-ming (王永銘), who work for Taiwan-based United Microelectronics Corp (UMC, 聯電) — is notable because they were charged in 2018 in the first case filed under the “China initiative” of US President Donald Trump’s administration targeting trade-secret theft, hacking and economic espionage. However, legal experts have said
There was a net reduction last year in the number of Taipei residents and this year is expected to set a 23-year high for population decline in the city, Ministry of the Interior statistics released yesterday showed. From January to last month, 18,861 more people moved out of Taipei than moved into the capital, an increase of 7,000 from the same period last year, the data showed. That is a 7.2 percent decrease in the city’s population since the start of the year, the biggest drop in both percentage and total number among all municipalities and counties nationwide, the data showed. The data
COUNCILS CLASH: The Mainland Affairs Council said a new office in Hong Kong is to assist people with issues related to investment, study and employment in Taiwan The Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) yesterday denied an accusation by the Hong Kong-Taiwan Economic and Cultural Co-operation and Promotion Council that its Taiwanese counterpart in the territory was “interfering with Hong Kong’s internal affairs.” The Hong Kong council leveled the accusation after Taipei’s Taiwan-Hong Kong Economic and Cultural Co-operation Council this month announced it would establish a Taiwan-Hong Kong Services and Exchanges Office to facilitate humanitarian aid for Hong Kongers. The new office is scheduled to begin operations on Wednesday. The MAC yesterday asked the Hong Kong council to “not misinterpret” the government’s intentions. The two Taiwan-Hong Kong councils were established in 2010 to
IRRESPONSIBLE ATTITUDES? Some experts say the NHI system does not do enough to educate the public, or pay doctors to talk to patients, about healthy lifestyles While the life expectancy of Taiwanese newborns in 2018 reached 80.69 years, the number of years people spent in poor health hit a record high at 8.41 years, Ministry of Health and Welfare statistics showed on Saturday. Healthy life expectancy is calculated by a person’s life expectancy minus the time they spend in ill health, such as the loss of mobility, disabilities and chronic disease, based on medical records and calculations about the years they live with disabilities. The number of years that Taiwanese spend in poor health is increasing slowly, but steadily, rising by 0.46 years, or five-and-a-half months, between 2012