New national security law comes into force in Hong Kong

(Hong Kong) Hong Kong’s new national security law providing for life sentences for treason or insurrection came into force on Saturday, denounced by pro-democracy activists and causing concern in the West .


This text supplements the national security law imposed by Beijing in 2020 after the major demonstrations the previous year in favor of democracy in Hong Kong.

Several categories of offenses are added compared to the 2020 text: treason, insurrection, espionage and theft of state secrets, sabotage endangering national security, sedition and “ external interference.”

It was passed unanimously on Tuesday by Hong Kong’s Legislative Council (LegCo), which does not include opposition representatives.

Several Western countries, including the United States, the European Union and the United Kingdom, have expressed alarm at this new law.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Friday expressed “deep concern” about the law being used to curtail dissenting voices, saying it could damage Hong Kong’s reputation as a financial hub. international.

The leader of Hong Kong, John Lee, former police chief, for his part spoke of a “historic moment” believing that the law will make it possible to “prevent, prohibit and punish espionage activities, plots and traps set put in place by foreign intelligence services.

“Violence in black”

It will also “prevent black violence”, he said, in reference to the pro-democracy demonstrations of 2019, during which hundreds of thousands of people demanded greater autonomy from Beijing.

The demonstrations were harshly repressed and Beijing imposed a national security law in 2020.

Nearly 300 people have so far been arrested in Hong Kong under the 2020 law, and dozens of politicians, activists and other public figures have been jailed or forced into exile.

The text provides for penalties of up to life in prison for sabotage endangering national security, treason and insurrection, 20 years for espionage and sabotage, and 14 years for “external interference”.

The law also expands the definition of the crime of “sedition”, dating from the British colonial era, to include inciting hatred against Chinese communist leaders, with an aggravated penalty of up to 10 years’ imprisonment. .

During the 1997 handover, Hong Kong was guaranteed certain freedoms, as well as judicial and legislative autonomy, for 50 years, as part of an agreement entitled “One country, two systems”.

The new text puts an end to a large part of the legal guarantees that Hong Kong benefited from, in order to align with the legislation of mainland China.

Demonstrations abroad

The security minister can now impose punitive measures on activists who are abroad, including the cancellation of their passports.

Police powers have also been expanded to allow people to be detained for up to 16 days without charge – up from the current 48 hours – and to prevent a suspect from meeting lawyers and communicating with other people.

In London, where a large Hong Kong diaspora resettled after the government cracked down on 2019 protests, around 100 protesters gathered outside the Foreign and Commonwealth Office on Saturday, chanting “Free Hong Kong”.

“When journalists approach citizens in Hong Kong, they are not really willing to share their views because they are afraid,” said “J,” a 30-year-old protester, one of those who moved in 2019.” Every time we go back (to Hong Kong), we will have to be more careful.

Chinese citizens were also present, including “Fernando”, a 23-year-old student from the Shanghai area.

“I want China to be democratic and the rule of law to reign. I have a certain moral duty to support them,” he explains.

Asked about the risk of being monitored, he replied: “I think they are watching, they are everywhere. You see a lot of people here, they wear masks and sunglasses, like me.”

Dozens of people took part in a rally in Taipei, some holding “rogue law” signs and images of the now-shuttered pro-democracy newspaper Apple Daily.

“Hong Kong no longer has democracy or freedom of speech,” said Leos Lee, a former Hong Kong city councilor who moved to Taiwan.


reference: www.lapresse.ca

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