Beijing’s new national security law for Hong Kong is essentially the most radical shift in how the semi-autonomous metropolis is run because it was handed again to China by Britain in 1997.
China’s authoritarian leaders say the powers will restore stability after a yr of pro-democracy protests and won’t stifle freedoms.
But it has already despatched concern coursing by way of a metropolis used to with the ability to communicate overtly and basically altered town’s relationship to each Beijing and the surface world.
Legal firewall toppled
A key pillar of Hong Kong’s success has been an impartial judiciary, insulated from mainland China’s party-controlled courts and their conviction charges of round 99 %.
That authorized firewall has now come down.
The law grants China jurisdiction in some national security instances and permits mainland security brokers to arrange store overtly within the metropolis for the primary time. Those personnel aren’t certain by native legal guidelines.
Local police have been granted broad surveillance powers that don’t require judicial oversight whereas trials involving state secrets and techniques could be held behind closed doorways with out juries.
China additionally claims common jurisdiction. That might make it dangerous for Beijing critics, together with foreigners, to journey to Hong Kong or by way of its airport.
Central authorities management tightened
Hong Kong usually passes its personal legal guidelines by way of a legislature.
But the national security law was written in Beijing and imposed on town — its contents saved secret till it was enacted on Tuesday night.
It establishes supremacy over the Basic Law, the mini-constitution that grants town sure freedoms in addition to judicial and legislative autonomy.
The law states that if there’s a discrepancy between the 2 techniques, China’s law takes priority.
It additionally embeds mainland officers inside Hong Kong’s authorities.
A brand new national security fee is headed by the pinnacle of Beijing’s Liaison Office and staffed by each mainland and native officers.
Article 22 of the Basic Law says the central authorities can not intervene within the operating of Hong Kong.
But Beijing has made clear national security trumps that and is the central authorities’s purview.
Beijing and Hong Kong’s authorities mentioned the brand new powers would solely goal a “very small minority”.
But it has rapidly change into clear sure political opinions, even when expressed peacefully, at the moment are unlawful — particularly requires independence or autonomy.
The first arrests underneath the brand new law got here on Wednesday, nearly all of them individuals who had been in possession of flags or leaflets selling independence.
On Thursday the federal government confirmed that one of many metropolis’s hottest protest chants — “Liberate Hong Kong, revolution of our times” was now banned.
For some, the phrase represents real aspirations to separate Hong Kong from China.
But for a lot of others, it’s a extra common cry for democracy and an expression of rising frustration with Beijing’s rule.
Protest partitions scrubbed
The influence of the law on individuals’s speech has been seen each digitally and bodily.
Some eating places and companies have eliminated political shows after warnings from police. Officials had been filmed scraping sure phrases and phrases from a protest wall at a college campus.
Across city, posters and phrases are being faraway from “Lennon Walls” that first sprung up throughout final yr’s pro-democracy protests.
Some Hong Kongers are getting inventive, changing outlawed slogans with altered variations or puns that solely trace at politics in a bid to remain forward of the brand new legal guidelines.
Online, individuals have scrubbed discussion groups and anonymised their social media accounts — or deleted them solely.
Politicians flee, shut down events
For years Hong Kong was a spot to which individuals fled after they feared persecution on the authoritarian mainland.
Now it’s a place individuals flee from.
Prominent democracy activist Nathan Law introduced on Thursday night that he had gone abroad to an undisclosed location due to the law.
He and a bunch of fellow younger activists disbanded their pro-democracy get together Demosisto two days earlier, fearing prosecution, although it doesn’t advocate Hong Kong independence.
“As I look down at the magnificence of Hong Kong from the airplane, this image has become one unforgettable scene in my mind,” he wrote.
“I hope the day will come when I can return to Hong Kong again and I can still be that young guy who hasn’t forgotten about his initial aspirations.”
Other teams who extra overtly advocate autonomy for town additionally introduced they had been shutting down.