Hong Kong security law: Hailed by China loyalists, decried by the West

Hong Kong security law: Hailed by China loyalists, decried by the West

Hong Kong's new national security law was imposed on the eve of the anniversary of the
Hong Kong's new national security law was imposed on the eve of the anniversary of the city's handover from Britain to China. (File photo: AFP/DALE DE LA REY)

HONG KONG: China's sweeping national security law for Hong Kong has sharply divided opinion both inside the financial hub and beyond its borders. 

Beijing loyalists and China-friendly nations have hailed it. Hong Kong's pro-Beijing leader Carrie Lam on Wednesday (Jul 1) described the security law as "the most significant development" since the city's handover to China.

Beijing described the law as a "sword" that would hang over the heads of lawbreakers after a year of huge and often violent protests.

Many dissidents, rights groups and western governments, on the other hand, have decried it as the end of the city's free speech traditions and judicial autonomy.

Ahead of the territory's handover from Britain, China guaranteed Hong Kong civil liberties - as well as judicial and legislative autonomy - until 2047, in a deal known as "One Country, Two Systems".

READ: Hong Kong police make first arrests under new national security law

READ: Hong Kong national security law - 5 key facts you need to know

Here's how the world has reacted to the new law:

PRO-DEMOCRACY CAMP IN HONG KONG

Criticism poured in from Hong Kong's pro-democracy figures.

The Democratic Party said the legislation marked the end of "One Country, Two Systems" and "completely destroys Hong Kong's judicial independence".

Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam attends the reception for the 23rd anniversary of the establis
Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam attends the reception for the 23rd anniversary of the establishment of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region

The Labour Party said it feared dissidents would share the same fate as those on the mainland who are frequently jailed under Beijing's own national security laws.

The Civic Party said the legislation replaces "rule of law" with "rule of men".

"This rule of terror might create a false appearance of controlled social order, but it completely loses Hong Kong people's hearts," the party said.

UNITED STATES

"Today marks a sad day for Hong Kong, and for freedom-loving people across China," Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said after the law was passed.

"(China) promised 50 years of freedom to the Hong Kong people, and gave them only 23," he said, adding further US countermeasures would be announced.

A man lies on the ground as he is detained by riot police during a march against the national secur
A man lies on the ground as he is detained by riot police during a march against the national security law at the anniversary of Hong Kong's handover to China from Britain in Hong Kong, China July 1, 2020. REUTERS/Tyrone Siu

Washington has previously announced Hong Kong no longer has sufficient autonomy from the mainland to justify special trade privileges.

"Per President (Donald) Trump's instruction, we will eliminate policy exemptions that give Hong Kong different and special treatment, with few exceptions," Pompeo added.

In Congress, a group of bipartisan legislators tabled a bill that could provide refugee protection for Hong Kongers.

BRITAIN

Hong Kong's former colonial master Britain described the law as a "grave step" and "deeply troubling".

But it said it needed more time to determine whether Beijing has breached its "One Country, Two Systems" promise.

READ: Hong Kong marks handover anniversary under shadow of new security law

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has previously offered to extend visa rights to millions of Hong Kongers if the law was pushed through.

Chris Patten, the last colonial governor of Hong Kong, called the law "the end" of "One Country, Two Systems".

"It is a flagrant breach of the Sino-British Joint Declaration - a treaty lodged at the United Nations - and Hong Kong's mini constitution, the Basic Law," he added.

UNITED NATIONS

Twenty-seven countries - including Britain, France, Germany, Australia and Japan - issued a rare oral rebuke of China at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, describing "deep and growing concerns" over the new law.

They urged China to reconsider, saying the law "undermines" the city's freedoms.

The signatories added that the law was imposed without the direct participation of Hong Kong's people, its legislature or judiciary.

Police detain a woman at a rally against the new national security law in Hong Kong
Police detain a woman at a rally against the new national security law in Hong Kong AFP/DALE DE LA REY

Another 53 countries, led by China ally and fellow one-party state Cuba, announced support for the law at the Geneva meeting.

"The legislative power on national security issues rests with (the) state, which in essence is not a human rights issue," the statement said, according to Chinese state media.

"IT'S NONE OF YOUR BUSINESS": CHINA TO FOREIGN CRITICS

Beijing officials have rebuffed the criticism.

"What's this got to do with you?" said Zhang Xiaoming of the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office of the State Council at a press conference. "It's none of your business".

Officials insisted there had been wide consultation with members of Hong Kong society and hit back at claims it was undermining Hong Kong's autonomy.

"If what we want is one country, one system, it would have been simple," Zhang said.

"We are completely able to impose the criminal law, the criminal procedure and the national security law and other national laws on Hong Kong.

"Why would we need to put so much effort into formulating a national security law tailor-made for Hong Kong?"

Riot police stand in line as anti-national security law protesters march at the anniversary of Hong
Riot police stand in line as anti-national security law protesters march at the anniversary of Hong Kong's handover to China from Britain in Hong Kong, China July 1, 2020. REUTERS/Tyrone Siu

Zhang also insisted that the law - which he said cannot be applied retrospectively - was only to target "a handful of criminals" and "not the entire opposition camp".

"The purpose of enacting Hong Kong's national security law is definitely not to target Hong Kong's opposition camp, pro-democracy camp, as the enemy," he said.

Instead, the One Country, Two Systems policy showed the government's "political tolerance", he said.

His comments come a day after Hong Kong pro-democracy party Demosisto announced it was disbanding, following the passing of the law.

Zhang also lashed out at suggestions of punishment from other nations.

"As for ... some countries now saying that they will impose severe sanctions on some Chinese officials, I think this is the logic of bandits," he said in reference to the 27 countries that rebuked China at the UN.

Foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said in a separate briefing: "A minority of Western countries including the United Kingdom, attacked and smeared China on Hong Kong-related issues.

"The anti-China performance of a few Western countries has failed."

Source: AFP/jt

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