Hong Kong, July 1 (IANS) Hong Kong on Wednesday commemorated the 23rd anniversary of its handover by the UK to China, with the controversial national security law for the city drawn up by Beijing already in effect.
In an address, Hong Kong’s Chief Executive Carrie Lam described the law, whose content was only released once it had been enacted, as “constitutional, lawful, sensible and reasonable”, reports Efe news
She added that “the enactment of the National Security Law in Hong Kong is a turning point to take Hong Kong out of the current impasse and to restore stability and order from the chaos,” although a large part of the local population, as well as journalists, activists and lawyers, fear that the new legislation will undermine the freedoms enjoyed by the city.
The full draft of the controversial legislation, in six chapters consisting of 66 articles, was released late Tuesday night after it became effective in the city amid widespread concerns about its implications, despite official reassurances that only a small minority would be targeted, said the South China Morning Post newspaper.
It lists four categories of offences – secession, subversion, terrorism, and collusion with a foreign country or external elements to endanger national security.
The maximum penalty for each crime is life imprisonment, although the suggested sentence for some minor offences is less than three years’ imprisonment.
Suspects can be extradited to mainland China in cases that involve “complicated situations” of interference by foreign forces; cases in which the local government cannot effectively enforce the law and ones where national security is under “serious and realistic threats”.
Moreover, any person convicted under the law will not be allowed to stand as a candidate in the elections for Hong Kong’s Legislative Council.
The next elections to elect the members of this body are scheduled in September.
In November 2019, the pro-Democracy candidates won a landslide victory against pro-Beijing candidates in the district council elections.
Meanwhile, the Hong Kong police pledged to “resolutely enforce the law,” against which a demonstration has been planned at around 7 p.m. on Wednesday.
“In response to the various criminal acts that endanger national security, the Hong Kong Police Force will conduct arrests and take other law enforcement actions in accordance with the National Security Law and the Laws of Hong Kong to protect the life and property of Hong Kong citizens and the basic rights and freedoms they enjoy under the law,” the police said in a statement on Tuesday.
Several pro-democracy groups in Hong Kong announced their dissolution on Tuesday, fearing that the new law would put their members at risk.
The 1984 Sino-British Joint Declaration, which articulated Hong Kong’s handover from British to Chinese hands in 1997, established a legally binding treaty whereby Hong Kong’s freedoms and autonomy had to be safeguarded for at least 50 years from that date.
The Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs has said on numerous occasions that the clauses of the treaty were fulfilled at the time.