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Sweeping nationwide safety legislation imposed as Hong Kong marks handover anniversary

The legislation got here into impact in Hong Kong within the lead-up to July 1 — the 23rd anniversary of the handover of Hong Kong from British rule to China — and dramatically broadens the powers of each native and mainland authorities to analyze, prosecute and punish dissenters.

In obscure language, the legislation criminalizes secession, subversion, terrorism, and collusion with overseas powers. People who’re convicted of such crimes can face sentences as much as life in jail.

On Wednesday, Hong Kong police stated they’d arrested a person for carrying an independence flag — the primary such arrest underneath the nationwide safety legislation.

The evening earlier than, police commanders have been informed in a coaching session that anyone seen waving an independence flag or chanting for independence shall be arrested, a police supply stated. In addition, the supply stated anyone searched and located to have independence flags of their possession shall be arrested.

Despite a heavy police presence and risk of stricter penalties, lots of of individuals turned out within the busy procuring district of Causeway Bay on Wednesday, handing out flyers and waving posters. Riot police fired pepper spray into the group at one level, and unfurled a purple flag warning protesters of being in violation of the brand new legislation.

July 1 is historically a day of protests within the metropolis however for the primary time since handover, police didn’t give permission to protesters to carry peaceable demonstrations.

Speaking after the annual flag elevating ceremony on Wednesday, Hong Kong’s high official, Chief Executive Carrie Lam, stated the legislation is a “crucial step to ending chaos and violence that has occurred over the past few months” within the metropolis.

“The national security law is the most important development in securing ties between China and the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region since the handover,” she stated, framing criticism of the legislation as “vicious attacks.”

The stringent new laws and its 66 articles have been saved secret from the general public till the legislation went into impact and seem to supply the federal government, courts, police and authorities a roadmap to quash any trace of the mass anti-government protests that rocked the town final yr.

Here are among the key takeaways of the legislation, in response to a translation from Chinese state information company Xinhua.

  • The legislation establishes 4 new offenses of secession, subversion, terrorism, and collusion with overseas powers. The most penalty for every is life imprisonment.
  • The Chinese central authorities will set up its personal legislation enforcement presence in Hong Kong, labeled the “Office for Safeguarding National Security.”
  • A secretive nationwide safety committee for Hong Kong can even be established, comprised of Hong Kong authorities officers and an adviser appointed by the Chinese central authorities. According to a abstract printed by the Hong Kong authorities, this group’s work “shall not be disclosed to the public,” and “decisions by the Committee shall not be amenable to judicial review.”
  • Activities equivalent to damaging public transport and public providers “in order to pursue political agenda” could be thought-about terrorism — a provision that seems to focus on protesters who final yr disrupted visitors and the town’s infrastructure.
  • A terrorism cost may also embrace the vaguely worded provision of “other dangerous activities which seriously jeopardize public health, safety or security.”
  • The legislation targets perceived overseas interference in Hong Kong. Throughout the protests, the Chinese authorities blamed “foreign forces” for interfering within the metropolis’s affairs. The legislation states that anybody who “steals, spies, obtains with payment, or unlawfully provides state secrets or intelligence” to a overseas nation, establishment, group or particular person shall be responsible of an offense underneath collusion with overseas powers.
  • The legislation additionally makes it an offense for individuals to name on a overseas nation, establishment, group or particular person to impose sanctions or blockades on Hong Kong. The US stated it will impose visa restrictions on present and former Chinese officers over Hong Kong.
  • Working with a overseas authorities, establishment, group or particular person to incite hatred in opposition to the Hong Kong or Chinese Central authorities is now a offense.
  • The legislation can be utilized to non-permanent residents in Hong Kong and people who are in violation of the legislation shall be deported, no matter conviction. It additionally applies to non residents abroad who violate the nationwide safety legislation whereas overseas. This raises the prospect of overseas nationals being charged for suspected crimes dedicated whereas abroad ought to they go to the territory.
  • Those convicted of a nationwide safety crime in courtroom can not stand for elections or maintain public workplace.
  • Hong Kong’s Chief Executive now has the ability to nominate judges to deal with circumstances associated to nationwide safety. National safety circumstances involving state secrets and techniques could be tried with out a jury.
  • Hong Kong courts will oversee nationwide safety circumstances however Beijing can take over prosecution in sure circumstances, making use of Chinese legislation and prosecution requirements.
  • In these circumstances, Beijing can select which prosecuting physique will hear the case and which courtroom it is going to be heard in, that means that circumstances might probably be held within the mainland. The anti-government protests final yr have been sparked over a proposed legislation that will permit extradition to mainland China.
  • Trials shall be held in an open courtroom however when the case includes “state secrets or public order” it may be moved behind closed doorways.
  • A brand new nationwide safety unit shall be arrange within the Hong Kong Police Force that may have the ability to look properties, intercept data and carry out covert surveillance with out a warrant. It may also recruit members from exterior of Hong Kong — probably permitting mainland officers to function within the metropolis.
  • The legislation additionally directs the Hong Kong authorities, together with the brand new fee, to strengthen its administration over overseas information businesses and non-government organizations.
  • Ultimately, the nationwide safety legislation trumps native legal guidelines: the brand new laws states that if there’s a battle with present Hong Kong legislation, the nationwide safety legislation will prevail.

Reactions

The laws has been extensively criticized by opposition lawmakers in Hong Kong, human rights teams and politicians worldwide. Many fear it is going to be used to focus on political dissidents, activists, human rights legal professionals and journalists amid the central authorities’s persevering with crackdown on civil society underneath Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Opponents of the legislation say it marks the tip of the “one country, two systems” — a precept by which Hong Kong has retained restricted democracy and civil liberties since coming underneath Chinese management.

Crucially, these freedoms embrace the precise to meeting, a free press, and an impartial judiciary, rights that aren’t loved on the Chinese mainland.

On Wednesday, the Chinese authorities staunchly defended the legislation, calling it an ideal embodiment of the “one country, two system” coverage.

“If we want to implement ‘one country, one system,’ things would have been much simpler,” stated Zhang Xiaoming, govt deputy director of China’s Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office. “We could have directly applied Chinese criminal code, prosecution law and national security law to Hong Kong. Why would we go to such lengths to tailor-make a national security law for Hong Kong?”

Despite the short passage of the legislation, officers stated it was fastidiously written, and took into consideration opinions and suggestions from Hong Kong. They additionally brushed apart considerations and fears over the legislation’s affect on freedom of speech, judicial independence and political variety, reiterating that it targets solely a tiny minority of people that intend to do actual hurt to Hong Kong.

Hong Kong's Chief Executive Carrie Lam following a flag-raising ceremony to mark the handover on July 1, 2020.

Shen Chunyao, director of legislative affairs fee of the National People’s Congress Standing Committee, China’s high lawmaking physique that handed the brand new legislation, stated solely underneath “very rare” circumstances would Chinese state safety brokers and judicial authorities get entangled in Hong Kong circumstances.

“We don’t want to see (such occurrences), but we must set up a system that take such risks and factors into consideration,” he stated.

But Jimmy Lai, a Hong Kong media tycoon recognized for his outspoken help of the town’s pro-democracy motion, stated the legislation “spells a death knell to Hong Kong because it supersedes our law and our rule of law.”

Rights group Amnesty International stated the laws “represents the greatest threat to human rights in the city’s recent history.”

On Wednesday, Canada up to date its journey recommendation for Hong Kong, warning its residents that they “may be at increased risk of arbitrary detention on national security grounds and possible extradition to mainland China.”

United States Secretary of State Mike Pompeo stated it was a “sad day for Hong Kong, and for freedom-loving people across China” with the imposition of the nationwide safety laws in Hong Kong.

He stated the legislation “destroys the territory’s autonomy and one of China’s greatest achievements.”

CNN’s Steven Jiang, James Griffiths, Roger Clark, Karina Tsui, Jadyn Sham, Vanesse Chan, Chermaine Lee, Kylie Atwood, Philip Wang contributed.

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