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 drew worldwide condemnation.
Chief Government Carrie Lam joined her predecessors and different officers on the harbour’s edge for a flag-raising ceremony, 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 “obligatory and well timed” transfer to revive stability.
She additionally defended the regulation as “constitutional, lawful, wise and affordable”.
The nationwide safety laws got here into drive in a single day after being rushed by means of China’s rubber-stamp parliament in report time.
In a press briefing following the ceremony, Zhang Xiaoming, Government Deputy Director of Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Workplace, declared that suspects arrested by the mainland’s new workplace in Hong Kong on costs of violating the brand new nationwide safety regulation for the town can be tried within the mainland.
Zhang informed reporters that the mainland’s nationwide safety workplace abides by Chinese language regulation, and that Hong Kong’s authorized system can’t be anticipated to implement the legal guidelines of the mainland.
Amid threats of potential arrest, protesters gathered close to the venue of the ceremony carrying banners and shouting slogans expressing opposition to the brand new regulation, which seeks to punish crimes of secession, subversion, terrorism and collusion with overseas forces with as much as life in jail.
Authorities barred civil society’s annual demonstration, citing a ban on gatherings of greater than 50 individuals due to the coronavirus, however many activists pledged to defy the order and march later within the afternoon.
The annual rally is historically held to air grievances about every little thing from sky-high house costs to what many see as Beijing’s growing encroachment on the 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.
On July 1 final yr, tons of of protesters stormed the town’s legislature to protest in opposition to a now-scrapped invoice that might have allowed extraditions to mainland China, and ransacked 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.
Beijing stated the safety regulation is critical to cope with separatism and overseas interference, however 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 “willpower to stamp out” Hong Kong’s pro-democracy motion, which it sees “as an excessive amount of of a menace” to the central authorities’s energy.
She stated that China might have misplaced endurance during the last yr, following a sequence of main protests within the semi-autonomous metropolis.
The laws radically restructures the connection between Beijing and Hong Kong envisaged below the so-called “one nation, two methods” framework, obliterating the authorized firewall between the town’s impartial judiciary and the mainland’s party-controlled courts.
It empowers China to arrange a nationwide safety company within the metropolis, staffed by officers who will not be certain by native legal guidelines when finishing up duties.
It outlaws 4 sorts of nationwide safety crimes: subversion, secession, terrorism and colluding with overseas forces to hazard nationwide safety.
The total textual content of the regulation gave three eventualities when China may take over a prosecution: sophisticated overseas interference instances, “very severe” instances and when nationwide safety faces “severe and lifelike threats”.
“Each the nationwide safety company and Hong Kong can request to cross the case to mainland China and the prosecution can be achieved by the Supreme Folks’s Procuratorate and the trial can be within the Supreme Courtroom,” the regulation said.
“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 offered on this regulation,” it added.
The textual content additionally specified that those that destroy authorities amenities and utilities could be thought of 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 instances may very well 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 could 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 one in every of China’s best achievements”.
The introduction of the regulation additionally demonstrated that China’s dedication to worldwide treaties, such because the Sino-British Joint Declaration, have 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 Taiwan would proceed to assist freedom and democracy within the metropolis.
Chen Ming-tong, the pinnacle of Taiwan’s China-policy making Mainland Affairs Council, stated the ability exhibits their willpower to help Hong Kongers.
“This is a crucial milestone for the federal government to additional assist democracy and freedom in Hong Kong,” Chen stated.
Al Jazeera’s Adrian Brown, reporting from Hong Kong, stated that residents of the town are waking up on Wednesday to a brand new regulation, and he stated that it’s probably that they want really feel that the brand new regulation “is much more far-reaching than they imagined.”
“This regulation was enacted a couple of minutes earlier than midnight,” he famous, including that many are “nonetheless attempting to determine the way it will influence their lives.”
“Make no mistake. It is a regulation that can going to have an effect on everybody in Hong Kong.”