Hong Kong, Jul 1 (efe-epa).- Hong Kong commemorated Wednesday the 23rd anniversary of its handover by the United Kingdom to China, with the contentious national security law for the semi-autonomous city drawn up by Beijing already in effect.
In an address on Tuesday, Hong Kong’s Chief Executive Carrie Lam described the law, whose content was only released once it had been enacted, as “constitutional, lawful, sensible and reasonable.”
She added that “the enactment of the National Security Law in Hong Kong is a turning point to take Hong Kong out of the current impasse and to restore stability and order from the chaos,” although a large part of the local population, as well as journalists, activists and lawyers, fear that the new legislation will undermine the freedoms enjoyed by the city.
The law establishes sentences of up to life imprisonment for “acts of secession, subversion, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces to endanger national security.”
Moreover, any person convicted under the law will not be allowed to stand as a candidate in the elections for Hong Kong’s Legislative Council.
The next elections to elect the members of this body are scheduled in September.
In November 2019, the pro-Democracy candidates won a landslide victory against pro-Beijing candidates in the district council elections.
Meanwhile, the Hong Kong police pledged to “resolutely enforce the law,” against which a demonstration has been planned at around 7 pm local time on Wednesday.
“In response to the various criminal acts that endanger national security, the Hong Kong Police Force will conduct arrests and take other law enforcement actions in accordance with the National Security Law and the Laws of Hong Kong to protect the life and property of Hong Kong citizens and the basic rights and freedoms they enjoy under the law,” the police said in a statement on Tuesday.
Officials Wednesday said police arrested the first group of people for infringing the new law, including a man holding a pro-independence flag.
Several pro-democracy groups in Hong Kong announced their dissolution on Tuesday, fearing that the new law would put their members at risk.
The 1984 Sino-British Joint Declaration, which articulated Hong Kong’s handover from British to Chinese hands in 1997, established a legally binding treaty whereby Hong Kong’s freedoms and autonomy had to be safeguarded for at least 50 years from that date.
The Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs has said on numerous occasions that the clauses of the treaty were fulfilled at the time.
Beijing said Wednesday that the national security law for Hong Kong “will strengthen the ‘one country, two systems’ model,” as well as “prosperity and stability “of the semi-autonomous city.
At the first press conference to explain the law, the deputy director of the Beijing Office for Hong Kong, Zhang Xiaoming, said “the legislation is the second most important after the Basic Law” – the city’s mini-constitution – and represents “a milestone in the central government’s policy towards Hong Kong.”
Zhang defined the text as a “firm and flexible approach to the situation in the city,” adding that “it is normal for people in Hong Kong to have doubts” about the consequences of the law but stressed that “it will clearly strengthen the model of ‘one country, two systems,'” which enshrines the framework of liberties of the former British colony with respect to mainland China. EFE-EPA