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 safety regulation that drew defiant protests and worldwide condemnation.
Chief Govt Carrie Lam joined her predecessors and different officers on the harbour’s edge for a flag-raising ceremony and a reception for specially-invited company, because the territory’s annual pro-democracy march was banned for the primary time.
In her speech, Lam praised the brand new regulation as “an important improvement” within the relationship between Beijing and Hong Kong because the 1997 handover, saying it’s “essential and well timed” 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, smart and affordable”.
In a press briefing following the ceremony, Zhang Xiaoming, the Govt Deputy Director of the Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Workplace, stated suspects arrested underneath the regulation can 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 are among the transgressions that might be probably prosecuted and punished underneath the brand new regulation, he stated.
In a separate press convention on Wednesday afternoon, Lam additionally stated that the regulation displays Beijing’s want to uphold one nation, two system.
In response, pro-democracy lawmaker Claudia Mo was quoted as telling reporters that “free press might simply be introduced useless in Hong Kong.”
She added that journalists who publish delicate details about Hong Kong is also in “dire bother”.
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 regulation, which seeks to punish crimes of secession, subversion, terrorism and collusion with international forces with punishments together with life in jail.
The nationwide safety regulation has not muted chants for HK independence at July 1 rally. That is after police made first arrests underneath the Beijing imposed new regulation. pic.twitter.com/6mVgfX5v4a
— Wei Du 杜唯 (@WeiDuCNA) July 1, 2020
Authorities barred civil society’s annual demonstration, citing a ban on gatherings of greater than 50 individuals due to the coronavirus, however many activists have stated they are going to defy the order and march later within the afternoon.
As of 0500 GMT, cops had been seen making arrests, together with Democratic Occasion legislator Andrew Wan, who was seen being led by police in handcuff. Pictures on social media additionally confirmed police utilizing pepper spray on Wan’s face.
On the metropolis’s Causeway Bay space, one man carrying a “Free Hong Kong” shirt change into the primary individual arrested by police for violating the brand new regulation. A search additionally yielded a “Hong Kong independence” flag, police stated in an announcement.
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 growing encroachment on town’s freedoms.
“We march yearly, each July 1, each October 1 and we are going to carry on marching,” stated pro-democracy activist Leung Kwok-hung.
The Nationwide Safety Legislation could outlaw inciting hatred in opposition to the Hong Kong authorities and provides the regulation enforcement sweeping powers, however it undoubtedly didn’t handle to silence the heckling. “DLLM, #HongKongPolice,” protesters shout. pic.twitter.com/ycEslKvQEw
— Rachel Cheung (@rachel_cheung1) July 1, 2020
Nonetheless, police had been seen establishing cordon strains and blocking the realm the place the banned annual march was supposed to start out at 0600 GMT.
On July 1 final yr, a whole bunch of protesters stormed town’s legislature to protest in opposition to a now-scrapped invoice that might 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 Fundamental Legislation or mini-constitution.
Critics concern 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 UK to China in 1997.
Al Jazeera’s Katrina Yu, reporting from Beijing, stated that the pace at which the brand new regulation was crafted and handed proved China’s “dedication to stamp out” Hong Kong’s pro-democracy motion, which it sees “as an excessive amount of of a risk” to the central authorities’s energy.
She stated that China could have misplaced persistence during the last yr, because the protests continued.
The laws radically restructures the connection between Beijing and Hong Kong envisaged underneath the so-called “one nation, two techniques” framework, obliterating the authorized firewall between town’s unbiased judiciary and the mainland’s party-controlled courts.
It empowers China to arrange a nationwide safety company within the metropolis, staffed by officers who should not certain by native legal guidelines when finishing up duties.
It outlaws 4 kinds of nationwide safety crimes: subversion, secession, terrorism and colluding with international forces to hazard nationwide safety.
The total textual content of the regulation gave three situations when China may take over a prosecution: sophisticated international interference circumstances, “very severe” circumstances and when nationwide safety faces “severe and sensible threats”.
“Each the nationwide safety company and Hong Kong can request to go the case to mainland China and the prosecution can be completed by the Supreme Individuals’s Procuratorate and the trial can be within the Supreme Courtroom,” the regulation acknowledged.
“Regardless of whether or not violence has been used, or the specter of violence used, leaders or severe offenders can be sentenced for all times imprisonment or a minimal of 10 years in jail,” it stated.
“The Hong Kong authorities has no jurisdiction over the nationwide safety company in Hong Kong and its workers when they’re discharging duties supplied on this regulation,” it added.
The textual content additionally specified that those that destroy authorities amenities and utilities can be thought-about subversive. Damaging public transportation amenities and arson would represent acts of “terrorism”. Any individual collaborating in secessionist actions, whether or not organising or collaborating, will violate the regulation no matter whether or not violence is used.
The regulation additionally stated sure nationwide safety 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 can be made public.
The laws has drawn worldwide condemnation with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo accusing China of “paranoia” and saying the regulation “destroys the territory’s autonomy and certainly one of China’s biggest achievements”.
The introduction of the regulation additionally demonstrated that China’s dedication to worldwide treaties, such because the Sino-British Joint Declaration, had been “empty phrases”, Pompeo added.
In the meantime, Taiwan opened an workplace on Wednesday to assist individuals fleeing Hong Kong, with a senior minister saying the self-ruled island would proceed to assist individuals within the territory.
“This is a vital milestone for the federal government to additional assist democracy and freedom in Hong Kong,” stated Chen Ming-tong, the pinnacle of Taiwan’s China-policy making Mainland Affairs Council.
Al Jazeera’s Adrian Brown, reporting from Hong Kong, stated that residents of town in all probability felt that the brand new regulation was “much more far-reaching than they imagined, (and) many are “nonetheless attempting to determine the way it will affect their lives.”
“Make no mistake. This can be a regulation that can going to have an effect on everybody in Hong Kong.”