|Beijing’s top legislative body on Tuesday unanimously passed a contentious national security law, which takes effect on Wednesday. The enforcement is expected to strictly limit the freedom of 7.3 million Hong Kong citizens who have been advocated the city’s autonomy. AsiaToday’s intern reporter and Hong Kong University senior Jang Min-ki has interviewed some Hong Kong citizens./ Photographed by Jung Jae-hoon
AsiaToday reporters Lee Joo-hyung & Jang Min-ki
The weather was cloudy and misty in Hong Kong on the eve of China’s expected imposition of a sweeping new national security law for the city. Various roads where protests are expected have been already closed on Hong Kong Island.
Beijing’s top legislative body on Tuesday unanimously passed a contentious national security law, which takes effect on Wednesday. The enforcement is expected to strictly limit the freedom of 7.3 million Hong Kong citizens who have been advocated the city’s autonomy. AsiaToday’s intern reporter and Hong Kong University senior Jang Min-ki has interviewed some Hong Kong citizens.
The law is expected to carry a maximum penalty of life in jail, contrary to earlier indications of a 10-year limit. Most of all, Hong Kong citizens are worried that the law will eliminate Hong Kong’s own identity. They are afraid that the legislation will remove Hong Kong’s unique symbols, such as the ‘Asian financial hub’, the ‘one country, two systems’ policy, and more.
In particular, many Hong Kong citizens seemed to feel pity and a bit helpless with the outcome of months of protests against a highly controversial plan to allow extraditions to mainland China. Raising the possibility that any expression of dissatisfaction and dissent towards the government would be banned in the future, they were concerned that the new law will bring disruption of communication between the government and citizens as well as abuse of the legislation to suppress opposition forces.
“The most fearful thing is that this situation can lead to loss of freedom of expression as well as human rights abuses,” said Tsui, a 25-year-old citizen who works for a company in Hong Kong. “The government is focusing on expressing the opposition while rejecting to communicate with citizens.”
“In the worst case, even a single comment without intention to fight against the government could violate the law,” she said. “This will lead to a bigger wave. For example, citizens would talk through illegal methods on a secure connection,” she added.
“I’m worried that Hong Kong will lose every inch of its distinct identity due to the deprivation of freedom of speech,” said Zuwei, a 20-year-old university student. “These factors have attracted a lot of investment over the years. Hong Kong will lose its beauty and value.”
“I feel helpless about the passage of the law that the majority of citizens disagree,” he said. “I was really disappointed that Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam was playing like a puppet of China, and even personally thought of leaving Hong Kong.”
Some raised concerns over retaliatory measures after the law approval, such as US’ elimination of Hong Kong’s special status. “Hong Kong is known as an excellent international trading center due to its free market system. But foreign investors will begin to see Hong Kong as a city of China,” said Hong Kong citizen ‘A’.
Some argue that efforts to preserve Hong Kong’s unique identity and culture should continue despite the passage of the legislation.
“We will continue to speak our own language Cantonese. We won’t disappear even if Hong Kong is absorbed into China,” said Hoi Man, a 23-year-old university student. “If big figures like Joshua Wong are arrested, the remaining supporters are expected to become dispirited.”
Another citizen ‘B’ said, “I haven’t thrown away the ‘one country, two systems’ concept yet. Hong Kong and China are different, and we are not ready to admit the collapse of the ‘one country, two systems’ policy.”
Foreigners in Hong Kong expressed strong regret for the enactment of the Hong Kong national security law and were supporting the struggle of Hong Kong citizens.
“The government says that the law will not be as coercive as it is concerned, but citizens don’t believe it, and are skeptical,” said Telle, a 20-year-old Swedish who has lived in Hong Kong for three years. “However, I’m not going to sit by and watch the crisis since I’m studying here in Hong Kong. I will definitely participate in the July 1 protest.”