The passage of a new emergency security bill in Hong Kong last month sparked widespread protests in the region. Many of the participants in the protest were charged under the new security law, which effectively bans protests and other forms of activism, and essentially forces the citizens of Hong Kong to be entirely obedient to the government in China. Even supporting or advocating for independence could lead to an arrest. Under the new law, acts of vandalism that take place during a protest could be considered terrorism.
The law can be applied very broadly, and be used to arrest anyone who shows even the most passive support for any type of resistance. Last week, the government in China claimed that over 600,000 people in Hong Kong who took part in a vote to choose pro-democracy candidates for the city’s legislature are likely guilty of breaking the new security law.
According to CNN, Beijing’s Liaison Office to Hong Kong said that the primary election “contravened the law.” A statement from the office accused “opposition groups” of threatening the integrity of the electoral system by holding their own primaries.
With the support of external forces, opposition groups and leaders have deliberately devised plans to hold this so-called ‘primary election,’ which is a serious provocation to the current electoral system and caused serious damage to the fairness and justice of the Legislative Council elections,” the Liaison Office said.
The Hong Kong government threatened to conduct an “in-depth investigation” into the primary, and said that they would “immediately refer the case to relevant law enforcement agencies,” if they determined that the security law was broken.
The Governments of China and Hong Kong have said that protesters are intending to gain a majority in parliament so they can block legislation and possibly even force the resignation of Chief Executive Carrie Lam.
Lam threatened to evoke the security law to prosecute Hong Kong citizens for attempting to gain control of their own government.
If this so-called primary election’s purpose is to achieve the ultimate goal of delivering what they called ’35-plus’ with the objective of objecting or resisting every policy initiative of the HKSAR government, it may fall into the category of subverting the state power — one of the four types of offenses under the national security law, Lam said.
Just as many activists feared, the national security law is immediately being used to stifle dissent as the mainland government makes moves to expand its influence in the territory. Even US citizens involved with the pro-democracy movement have been charged under the new security law.
Samuel Chu, the managing director of the D.C.-based Hong Kong Democracy Council, announced on Twitter that he woke up to media reports that he was a wanted fugitive in Hong Kong, adding that he has been an American citizen for 25 years.
If I am targeted, any American/any citizen of any nation who speaks out for Hong Kong can and will be too. We are all Hong Kongers now, he wrote, according to NBC News.
Chu was among six prominent activists who were instantly charged under the new security law for their previous political work. The other activists include Nathan Law, Wayne Chan Ka-kui, Honcques Laus, Simon Cheng and Ray Wong Toi-yeung. They are wanted on suspicion of secession or collusion with foreign forces, which carry lifetime prison sentences under the new security law.
As the arrest warrants were announced, Carrie Lam delayed the upcoming elections, citing concerns over the coronavirus pandemic. In addition to delaying the election, at least 12 candidates will be blocked from the ballots over their opposition to the national security law.
Meanwhile, Britain has offered to take in up to three million residents from Hong Kong. Considering that Hong Kong is a former British colony, the Chinese government criticized the offer as a provocation. The United States has placed sanctions on China in response to the new security law. The Hong Kong Autonomy Act imposes sanctions on banks that do business with Chinese officials who are involved in cracking down on pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong, according to BBC. Last year, the US also signed into law the Human Rights and Democracy Act, supporting pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong.