Hong Kong police make first arrests on handover anniversary under new ‘anti-protest’ law


Hong Kong police on July 01, made their first arrests of pro-democracy demonstrators under new “anti-protest” law imposed by Beijing. Ten people were held accused of violating the law, including a 15-year-old girl who was waving a Hong Kong independence flag.

About 360 others were detained at a banned rally, which marked the 23rd anniversary of Hong Kong’s handover from Britain to China.

The national security law targets secession, subversion and terrorism with punishments up to life in prison.

Hong Kong’s sovereignty was handed back to China by Britain in 1997 and certain rights were supposed to be guaranteed for at least 50 years under the “one country, two systems” agreement.

On Wednesday, thousands gathered for the annual pro-democracy rally to commemorate the handover anniversary, defying a ban by authorities who cited restrictions on gatherings of more than 50 people because of COVID-19.

Police used water cannon, tear gas and pepper spray on demonstrators. Seven officers were injured, including one officer who was stabbed in the arm by “rioters holding sharp objects”, police said. The suspects fled and bystanders offered no help, they added.

The new security legislation for Hong Kong has been condemned by numerous countries and human rights activists.

UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab called the measures a “flagrant assault” on freedoms of speech and protest.

The UK has also updated its travel advice on Hong Kong, saying there is an “increased risk of detention, and deportation for a non-permanent resident”.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said China had broken its promise to Hong Kong’s people.

But in Beijing, foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian urged countries to look at the situation objectively and said China would not allow foreign interference in its domestic affairs.

Crimes of secession, subversion, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces are punishable by a minimum sentence of three years, with the maximum being life. It also says:

Damaging public transport facilities – which often happened during the 2019 protests – can be considered terrorism.

Beijing will establish a new security office in Hong Kong, with its own law enforcement personnel – neither of which would come under the local authority’s jurisdiction.

Inciting hatred of China’s central government and Hong Kong’s regional government are now offences under Article 29.

The law can also be broken from abroad by non-residents under Article 38, and this could mean that foreigners could be arrested on arrival in Hong Kong.

Beijing will also have power over how the law should be interpreted and not any Hong Kong judicial or policy body. If the law conflicts with any Hong Kong law, the Beijing law takes priority.

Chief Executive Carrie Lam, Hong Kong’s pro-Beijing leader, said the law would “restore stability” and that it was “considered the most important development in relations between the central government and Hong Kong since the handover”.

Demonstrators in the Causeway Bay district chanted “resist till the end” and “Hong Kong independence”, with police using a flag to warn protesters that certain slogans and banners might now constitute serious crimes.

Ahead of the protest, pro-democracy activist Tsang Kin-shing, of the League of Social Democrats, warned there was a “large chance of our being arrested”, saying: “The charges will not be light, please judge for yourself.”

A man who gave his name as Seth, 35, told Reuters: “I’m scared of going to jail but for justice I have to come out today, I have to stand up.” (Source: BBC)