Pro-democracy protesters have said they have 100 days to save Hong Kong from Beijing’s “evil regime” after China’s parliament voted to impose a security law that deals a mortal blow to the territory’s freedoms.
The National People’s Congress voted 2,878-1 yesterday to pass the law that will punish any dissent in Hong Kong with harsh jail sentences, and allow Beijing to set up its own security and intelligence operations. The law will be inserted directly into the territory’s mini-constitution without oversight from its own parliament, and is expected before the year’s end.
The Citizens’ Press Conference, a figurehead group for the amorphous pro-democracy movement, said yesterday that its members were determined in their opposition. “Supporters still march on with the same strong will and energy even in the face of a dark future,” the group said.
Activists rallied on online forums including Telegram and Lihkg.com, urging Hong Kongers to mount a “Hundred Day War” to protect their freedoms. “Hong Kong people can freely comment online for only about 100 days,” one member said. “No matter what happens afterwards, we must seize the opportunity to fight and fight!
“We would awaken the people of the world to resist the communist party’s evil regime.”
The forum also called on members to rally supporters around the world to “say no to China” and “say no to Made-in-China”.
Joshua Wong, a prominent Hong Kong activist, criticised the vote as a “black” operation “with no legislative scrutiny and public consultation . . . today’s decision is a direct assault on the will of HKers”.
Pro-Beijing politicians in Hong Kong have attempted to pass their own national security law for years. Efforts in 2003 prompted massive street protests, while attempts last year to push through a bill allowing for the extradition of Hong Kong citizens to the mainland sparked million-strong demonstrations before it was shelved by Carrie Lam, the chief executive.
Yesterday Ms Lam welcomed Beijing’s solution, saying the territory was “an inalienable part” of China and that “safeguarding national sovereignty, security and development interests is the constitutional duty”.
However, an online poll showed 98.6 per cent opposition to the plans.
Beijing’s decision was met by criticism from around the world. A joint declaration by the UK, Australia and Canada said that Beijing’s decision undermined the UN-registered 1997 Sino-British agreement that guaranteed “one country, two systems”.
On Wednesday Mike Pompeo, the US secretary of state, said that the law was “only the latest in a series of actions” undermining Hong Kong’s freedoms, and said the US was considering cancelling the territory’s special trading status, a move that would weaken its position as a global financial centre. President Trump has promised an announcement by the end of the week.
Beijing said it would direct the national parliament’s standing committee to enact “related laws to prevent, stop and punish any acts or activities that endanger national security”.
China announced only seven days ago that it was preparing to impose the law, citing the territory’s inability to stop pro-democracy movements last year. Yet the document passed yesterday by the National People’s Congress ran to only two pages and was thin on detail.
When pressed on specifics, Matthew Cheung, 69, the secretary of administration in Hong Kong, said that “all these are details yet to be announced. Everybody is waiting for it. We are also following developments closely.”
Senior officials in Hong Kong have claimed that the law would target only a “very small” group of agitators and there were no plans for cross-border law enforcement by mainland authorities.
Politicians in Hong Kong also approved the second reading of a bill that criminalises insulting the Chinese national anthem. In chaotic scenes, Ted Hui Chi-fung, 37, of the Democracy Party, hurled rotten vegetables at Andrew Leung, 69, a pro-Beijing politician. The national anthem law and China’s moves against pro-democracy movements have provoked a new wave of protests in the territory. On Wednesday, police deployed water cannon and fired tear gas at thousands gathering near the parliament. More than 350 protesters were arrested.