HONG KONG (Reuters) – For 23 years Hong Kong was an anomaly.
FILE SHEET: Women pass a government-sponsored announcement promoting the new national security law as a meeting on national security legislation is held in Hong Kong, China on June 29, 2020. REUTERS / Tyrone Siu
A free and partially democratic city under Chinese rule, protected by a firm tradition of the rule of law of the British colonial era and Beijing’s promise of freedoms for its unthinkable 7.5 million people on the mainland.
On June 30, however, China imposed a new paradigm on Hong Kong, which ended the liberal engagement, according to government, political and diplomatic sources.
The national security legislation imposed by Beijing was a response to last year̵7;s protests, preceded by years of fierce discontent over what many Hong Kong citizens saw as the erosion of the city’s freedoms. China.
Legislation has been enacted against terrorism, collusion with foreign powers, secession and subversion. But his 66 articles have far deeper implications for Hong Kong.
The Hong Kong and Macao Chinese Affairs Office said the law would be a “sharp sword” hanging over the heads of a “small number of people” that endangers national security.
At the same time, the law would be a “guardian” of the rights, freedoms and peaceful lives of the rest of the people of Hong Kong, the China State Council office said.
The legislation has already had a significant impact on the financial core as the city government responds, sometimes with China’s involvement.
A Hong Kong government source familiar with Beijing’s thinking said the law could have shocked many people, but that it had explained China’s limits on what is tolerable and not: the political reality that people have to deal with. ‘accept.
“It’s no longer the old era,” the government source said.
“The bottom line is much worse than we expected and people are surprised. But when it comes to China’s political bottom line, the situation is clearer now. No one has to guess anymore.”
The law has led to a chill and the removal of pro-democracy books from library shelves, the disqualification of Democrats in city elections and the arrest of three teenagers for posts that are considered secessionist on Facebook.
New arms have been set up in China’s state security apparatus, including a National Security Bureau in a lush Hong Kong Island neighborhood.
In some victims of opposition to the law, protesters have been arrested for once legal banners and for slogans now labeled subversive.
“THE BEGINNING ONLY”
Foreign governments and rights groups describe the law in bleak terms: an assault on Western-style freedoms and a de facto dismantling of the “one country, two systems” formula that has underpinned Hong Kong’s role as one of the financial centers of the world.
The leaders of the Communist Party of China have a very different view at a time of growing tension with the United States, prioritizing the restoration of order and the taking of foreign orders in the city.
The Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office called the law a “milestone” and a “turning point” for Hong Kong to end the chaos.
Some Asian and Western diplomats say they have been surprised by the scope of the law and the speed with which Hong Kong is changing.
“In a stroke it has shattered all the assumptions governing Hong Kong’s place in the world as an essentially free, open and well-managed city,” a Western envoy said.
“The overcoming has been amazing and many of us fear this is just the beginning.”
Another government source who refused to identify her said she would rather reveal more of Beijing’s red lines thanks to her relentless “white knuckle” attention in the city.
The Chinese authorities are no longer restricted to their reach and can intervene in the affairs of the city whenever they want. The law can circumvent all local laws.
The new National Security Office has powers of investigation and enforcement and can make “proposals on important strategies and important policies for safeguarding national security.”
According to activists, following the parallelism program with the legislation is a Beijing agenda to generate greater patriotism in Hong Kong and address the long-standing thorns, including the city’s free press, rights groups and opposition.
For a timeline of national security law, click
But there are risks to Beijing.
International pressure has grown and some Western countries have offered passports to the people of Hong Kong, attracting the irruption of China and increasing the risk of suffering brains.
Some companies are calibrating their perception of Hong Kong, in part because of concerns about customer confidentiality and data given to new powers under surveillance law, asset freezing and information demands.
Hong Kong’s financial markets have been largely positive, although the U.S. withdrawal from Hong Kong’s preferential trading status in response to the law will weigh economically.
Some mean that renouncing open dissent and rubbing social media accounts will not mean that convictions have changed.
“If I repent, if I quit, that means the regime wins,” activist Sunny Cheung said.
“This is not just something very intangible or ontological … We should do everything we can to protect Hong Kong’s distinction, identity and values.”
Additional reports by Greg Torode and Jessie Pang; Edited by Robert Birsel