It was on 1 July 1997 that Hong Kong became free from 156-year long colonial rule of Britain and became part of the totalitarian Communist state of China. In the opinion of Deputy Executive Director Zhang Xiaoming of Hong Kong & Macao Affairs office in Beijing, Chinese parliament gave a resounding birthday gift – the new national security law.
The controversial law – which makes any act questioning the authority of China a criminal offence - gives Chinese security agencies full rights to operate in Hong Kong from now on. Charges can be filed under clauses covering sabotage activities, extremism and unlawful collusion with foreign countries; China will get the right to imprison Hong Kong protesters for terms from three years to life. China's puppet government in Hong Kong also gets the same power under the new draconian law.
The law ratifies apprehensions expressed earlier that with the passage of the new law, all the individual liberties under the Basic Law of Hong Kong will cease to exist, and criticising authorities and participating in protest strikes will all constitute criminal offences. Past fears are becoming present-day reality. And within 24 hours of the new national security law – that hampers the political freedom and democratic criticism of Hong Kong residents – getting Chinese government's nod, all that Hong Kong residents had feared has happened.
China made this birth-day gift to Hong on the 23rd anniversary of Britain's hand over of Hong Kong to China. The day was marked by an annual freedom and democracy rally in Causeway Bay when the police enforced the new law as a veritable gift from China. Thousands came out on the streets of the city, where Covid lockdown was tightly enforced, protesting against the controversial law and shouting pro-independence slogans. Subsequent events prove that the arrest made there have only led to the spread of protests. Since last June, Hong Kong had become the scene of strong agitations, which continued even during the Covid restrictions.
As per the deal signed by Britain with Hong Kong - encapsulated in Hong Kong's Basic Law – with Hong Kong becoming part of China in 1997, China is bound to allow Hong Kong citizens democratic freedoms including the right to organise and speak in public forums, an independent judiciary and autonomy. But nowhere in China is such freedom granted.
The national security law passed by Chinese parliament in end-May aims at reining in Hong Kong by subverting the principle introduced by Deng Xiaoping of 'One country, two systems'. A curious fact is that even while fiercely enforcing the law, China has been holding the full text of the law secret. So much for the democratic manner of Communist China in legislative practice.
Protests against the new law, which is mainly aimed at imprisoning democratic protesters, have been rising not only in Hong Kong, but all over the world. British prime minister Boris Johnson has issued a statement that the new legislation has blocked the freedom of Hong Kong and that 3 million of Hong Kong residents will be offered an opportunity to settle in UK and apply for British citizenship. US Secretary Mike Pompeo termed the Chinese move as highly objectionable. International human rights bodies too have come out against the law.
However, the indications given by China are that the attempts initiated by Xi Jinping ever since his accession to power in 2013 to bring Hong Kong under its tutelage, cannot be deferred any further. And unlike in 2019, China looks more stubborn to use widespread arrests and brutal forms of torture to accomplish its goal. China has also sounded a threat that the model used in Uyghur will be replicated in Hong Kong too. As a result of the protests held last June by thousands of red-shirts, the regime had suspended the controversial extradition bill. But the new draconian law proves that it was more a temporary softpedalling than a change of mind. For that very reason, the democratic freedom movement launched by the people of Hong Kong against Communist autocracy, calls for the support of the world.