New security law starts to break down Hong Kong’s pro-democracy economy



FILE PHOTO: Memo papers with protest slogans are seen outside a “yellow” restaurant, a business that supports the pro-democracy movement, after the new national security law legislation in Hong Kong, China July 3, 2020. REUTERS/Tyrone Siu/File Photo

July 7, 2020

By Yanni Chow and Carol Mang

HONG KONG (Reuters) – As soon as Hong Kong’s new national security law came into force last week, Ivan Ng removed all the protest-themed paintings, posters and flags from the list of items for sale at his Onestep Printing shop.

Sandra Leung at Wefund.hk, which sells protest-themed artwork and accessories, said she has suspended sales of protective gear worn by protesters, flags with the slogan “Liberate Hong Kong,” and other items carrying popular chants.

Jeffrey Cheong, owner of Hair Guys Salon, said he closed his shop down for a few days last week to remove pro-democracy decorations.

Ng, Leung and Cheong are three of the 4,500 or so small businesses in Hong Kong’s “yellow economy,” which supports pro-democracy protesters and vice versa. That circle of support is showing signs of weakening in the face of the new law.

“We took down all the protest-related products right after the law was implemented, because the law doesn’t have very clear boundaries of (what constitutes) subversion,” Ng said. In the past week, he said his overall sales are down as much as 80%.

Leung said she had withdrawn items for sale she described as “sensitive,” such as gas masks used by protesters and items with anti-police slogans.

The new law prohibits what China describes broadly as secession, subversion, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces, with up to life in prison for offenders. It came into force late last Tuesday, about an hour before the 23rd anniversary of China taking back control of the former British colony.

The Hong Kong government went further on Friday, declaring the popular protest slogan “Liberate Hong Kong! Revolution of our times” illegal. Public libraries have started to review books written by pro-democracy activists to see whether they violate the new law.

LENNON WALLS GO

Hong Kong and Beijing authorities insist the city retains a “high degree of autonomy” but critics say the law effectively brings Hong Kong under the control of China’s Communist Party and violates China’s promise to safeguard Hong Kong’s freedom for 50 years after the 1997 handover.

Some businesses told local media they had been visited by the police who warned them that pro-democracy decorations were against the new law. Hong Kong police declined to disclose details of any such visits. In a statement to Reuters, a police representative said the objective of any enforcement action was not to target flags or slogans, but to “interdict people’s behavior on inciting and/or abetting others for the commission of secession or subversion.”

With or without police visits, many shops run by pro-democracy sympathizers have in the past week taken down their so-called Lennon Walls, the mosaics of colored Post-it notes with protest messages left by customers, named after the John Lennon Wall in communist-controlled Prague that was covered with Beatles lyrics and messages of political grievance.

The absence of these eye-catching features will make it harder to spot which shops support the pro-democracy movement. The same is true on the web.

An online platform called “Eat With You” that compiles lists of yellow shops and blue shops – whose owners are perceived to be pro-Beijing – deactivated last week. Another, hkshoplist.com, has taken down the reasons why it listed shops as yellow.

Some are finding new ways to stay in touch with their pro-democracy customers, such as putting up mosaics of blank Post-its and replacing posters with plain A4 sheets of paper.

One shop selling ice cream and drinks has taken down protest-themed decorations and updated its menu with fake patriotic slogans, hoping customers will appreciate the satire. “We must drink for the members of the Communist Party and people who love our country!” and “Special drinks for socialism with Chinese characteristics!” are two examples.

“The national security law is suppressing our freedom of speech,” said Selina Leung, 26, the manager of the shop called Talk 2 DeCream. “Rather than violating the law, we are trying to have fun during this hardship.”

(Reporting by Yanni Chow and Carol Mang in Hong Kong; Writing by Marius Zaharia; Editing by Bill Rigby)





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Pro-democracy activists say China’s new security laws are ‘the end of Hong Kong’ as we know it


China passed a sweeping national protection law for Hong Kong on Tuesday, a historic transfer that critics and numerous western governments panic will smother the finance hub’s freedoms and hollow out its autonomy.

The laws was unanimously accepted by China’s rubber-stamp parliament on Tuesday morning, minimal more than 6 months following it was 1st unveiled, sending shockwaves by means of semi-autonomous Hong Kong and further than.

“It marks the conclude of Hong Kong that the environment understood ahead of,” well known democracy campaigner Joshua Wong tweeted as his political party Demosisto declared it was disbanding. 

“With sweeping powers and ill-outlined law, the town will flip into a #secretpolicestate.”

The United States, Britain, the European Union and the United Nations rights watchdog have all voiced fears the law could be utilised to stifle criticism of Beijing, which wields related rules on the authoritarian mainland to crush dissent. 

In an unprecedented choice, the law bypassed Hong Kong’s fractious legislature and the wording was saved magic formula from the city’s 7.5 million inhabitants.

“The countrywide protection regulation for Hong Kong was formally passed by the Nationwide People’s Congress Standing Committee right now,” the DAB, Hong Kong’s most significant pro-Beijing celebration, explained in a assertion on Tuesday welcoming the law.

A protester gestures for the duration of a rally in Hong Kong.

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There was no formal announcement from Beijing on the passage of the regulation. As an alternative the information filtered out by way of pro-Beijing politicians and nearby media retailers in Hong Kong.

“We haven’t viewed the particulars… but all Hong Kong delegates firmly assistance the legislation,” Henry Tang, leader of a group of pro-institution Hong Kong figures invited to a conference at Beijing’s Liaison Workplace Tuesday afternoon, explained to reporters.

But Beijing’s opacity has infuriated some others. 

“The actuality that Hong Kong persons will only appear to know what is actually really in this new legislation right after the point is a lot more than preposterous,” Claudia Mo, an opposition lawmaker, advised AFP.

Wen Wei Po and Ta Kung Pao – two Hong Kong newspapers that serve as conduits for Beijing’s official policy – also verified the passing of the legislation, as did several local Hong Kong media outlets citing nameless sources in Beijing. 

Even as phrase filtered out that the regulation had been accredited, Hong Kongers remained in the darkish about its contents and what might now represent a criminal offense. 

At her weekly press convention on Tuesday morning, Hong Kong chief Carrie Lam – a professional-Beijing appointee – declined to comment on no matter whether the law experienced been passed or what it contained. 

“I imagine at this instant, it is not proper for me to comment on any concerns linked to the countrywide protection regulation,” she told reporters.

‘End of Hong Kong’

As section of the 1997 handover from Britain, Hong Kong was guaranteed selected freedoms – as perfectly as judicial and legislative autonomy – for 50 yrs in a deal regarded as “A single Country, Two Systems”.

The system formed the bedrock of the city’s transformation into a planet class enterprise hub, bolstered by a dependable judiciary and political freedoms unseen on the mainland. 

Critics have long accused Beijing of chipping absent at that position, but they explain the stability regulation as the most brazen move but.

A summary of the regulation released by the formal state agency Xinhua this thirty day period reported the laws would include subversion, secession, terrorism and colluding with international forces. 

China’s stability companies will be able to set up shop publicly in the town for the to start with time.  

And Beijing will have jurisdiction over some conditions, toppling the authorized firewall that has existed in between Hong Kong and the mainland’s celebration-controlled courts. 

Analysts reported that even without information the protection legislation radically restructures the romance between Beijing and Hong Kong. 

“It’s a essential modify that dramatically undermines both of those the area and worldwide community’s self-confidence in the direction of Hong Kong’s “A person State, Two Programs” product and its position as a robust fiscal centre,” Hong Kong political analyst Dixon Sing instructed AFP.

On the mainland, nationwide security guidelines are routinely made use of to jail critics, especially for the vague offence of “subversion”.

Beijing and Hong Kong’s governing administration reject these allegations. 

They have reported the regulations will only concentrate on a minority of men and women, will not hurt political freedoms in the city and will restore enterprise confidence after a calendar year of historic pro-democracy protests. 

Tens of millions took to the streets final calendar year when a smaller sized tough main of protesters regularly battled law enforcement in frequently violent confrontations that noticed additional than 9,000 arrested.

Hong Kong banned protests in current months, citing past unrest and the coronavirus pandemic, whilst neighborhood transmissions have finished.

Some western nations warned of potential repercussions in advance of the security law’s passing. 

Nevertheless several are also cautious of incurring Beijing’s wrath and dropping lucrative entry to the mainland’s huge overall economy.

“We deplore this decision,” European Council head Charles Michel informed a press meeting Tuesday.

“This legislation threats very seriously undermining the substantial diploma of autonomy of Hong Kong,” Michel reported in comments recurring by European Commission head Ursula von der Leyen.

Chris Patten, the previous British governor of the territory, claimed in a statement that the choice marked “the end of just one-place, two-devices.” 

Washington – which has embarked on a trade war with China – has said the safety law suggests Hong Kong no more time enjoys ample autonomy from the mainland to justify unique status. 

In a largely symbolic go, the United States on Monday ended delicate defence exports to Hong Kong around the law.

China claimed it would acquire unspecified “countermeasures” in response.

Britain experienced reported it was willing to deliver a “pathway to citizenship” for millions of Hong Kongers if the safety regulation went in advance.



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Hong Kong’s pro-democracy activists urge Australia to consider residency requests


Hong Kong’s pro-democracy activists have urged Australia to consider offering residency to citizens if China imposes its new national security law.

The push comes after Britain announced it would offer millions of Hong Kongers visas and a possible route to UK citizenship if China persists with the legislation.

UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab has asked Australia and other intelligence allies to share the “burden” of any mass migrations.

Hong Kong pro-democracy activist Sunny Cheung.

Supplied

Hong Kong pro-democracy protester Sunny Cheung has called on Australia to accept the request, warning the security law poses a “real danger” to activists like himself.

“I do hope that the Australian government really consider providing residency or asylum to activists – any people targeted by the regime under this law,” he told SBS News.

“If the international community can provide a channel for Hong Kongers to find another safe harbour that will be really promising,” he said.

The new security law would punish any behaviour that endangered Chinese national security in Hong Kong and was brought in after a wave of pro-democracy protests.

Sunny Cheung has called on Australia to consider offering residency to Hong Kongers if China's imposes the national security law.

Sunny Cheung has called on Australia to consider offering residency to Hong Kongers if China’s imposes the national security law.

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It has been approved by Beijing’s parliament as necessary to tackling “terrorism” and “separatism”.

But opponents fear it will lead to political oppression in the financial hub, eroding freedoms and autonomy supposedly guaranteed in the 1997 handover from Britain to China.

Mr Raab said he has raised the issue with foreign ministers of the Five Eyes intelligence sharing network, which also includes Australia, New Zealand, the United States and Canada.

“I raised it on the Five Eyes call yesterday, the possibility of … burden-sharing if we see a mass exodus from Hong Kong,” he said.

UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab during a media briefing in Downing Street

UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab during a media briefing in Downing Street

AAP

The UK government has outlined a plan to change immigration rules to allow British National (Overseas) passport holders renewable 12 month visas, which would place them on a route to citizenship.

About 350,000 people in Hong Kong currently hold British National (Overseas) passports, which allow visa-free access to Britain for up to six months.

A further 2.5 million people would be eligible to apply.

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson wrote about the possible intervention in an article for The Times newspaper. 

“If China proceeds to justify their fears, then Britain could not in good conscience shrug our shoulders and walk away; instead we will honour our obligations and provide an alternative,” he wrote. 

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has also said the US is considering options to welcome people from Hong Kong in response to China’s push.

But Australia has so far refrained from making a similar commitment and also ruled out sanctioning China over the controversial security law.

Hong Kong Lawmaker Jeremy Tam.

Hong Kong Lawmaker Jeremy Tam.

South China Morning Post

Jeremy Tam, a pro-democracy member of Hong Kong’s legislative council said Hong Kongers are fearful about how the law could threaten their freedom.

He also said Hong Kongers born after 1997 would not be eligible to apply for the BNO passport, meaning this option may not be available to those under the age of 23.

“Lots of Hong Kong people have been very worried about this national security law imposed on Hong Kong,” he told SBS News.

“It’s lots of fear, there is no doubt about it.”

He said any pathway opened up for Hong Kongers to travel to Australia would be welcome.

That it is down to the Australian government and … also the Australian people to consider that.”

Australia has expressed its “deep concern” regarding Beijing’s decision to impose the national security law in a letter alongside the UK, the US and Canada.

The countries are concerned the law threatens to “curtail” the liberty of the Hong Kong people and erode their autonomy under the “one country, two systems” model.

The joint statement said the countries are “extremely concerned” that this action will exacerbate “existing deep divisions” in Hong Kong society.

Australia-Hong Kong Link leader Jane Poon said it was “urgent” that Australia consider the UK’s proposal to offer protection to Hong Kongers.

“There is an urgency to consider any measure that could be taken to help the Hong Kong people,” she told SBS News.

“I hope the international community take further steps to deal with our Hong Kong situation.”

In the wake of the 1989 massacre in Tiananmen Square, then-Prime Minister Bob Hawke announced Chinese students would be allowed to stay in Australia.

Ms Poon said she believes the time has come to again take similar action. 

“I believe it is time for the Australian government to consider to provide the same measure. The urgency is there because it is coming soon the national law.”

Foreign Minister Marise Payne and the Department of Home Affairs have been contacted for comment. 

With AFP



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