According to articles in the media controlled by the Communist Party, the law criminalizes secession, repression against the central Chinese government, terrorism and collusion with foreign powers. A few hours after the report, the details remain unclear, particularly as analysts and activists have described the translucent process.
Speaking at a weekly press conference Tuesday morning, City Leader Carrie Lam initially declined to answer questions about the law, saying “I am inappropriate to comment.” A few hours later, she defended this in a video speech to the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva, saying it would restore stability and prosperity to Hong Kong.
Her administration appears to have been completely eliminated from the process – however, this did not stop them from predicting that the legislation would affect only a few people in the city and would not harm political freedom and legal autonomy.
In a statement last week, Lam said the law was “in accordance with the rules of law” and “the rights and freedoms applicable in Hong Kong.”
The chilling effect
In accordance with the pattern of similar legislation in China, such discussion may be illegal under the new law. Wang, Lau and Chou are also heavily involved in lobbying the international community to pressure Beijing on Hong Kong, which many consider to be “allied with foreign powers”.
Two other political parties, the Hong Kong National Front and StudentLocalism, are also suspending operations in the city, but both groups – pro-independence parties – continue to work abroad.
Some pro-independence figures seem to have fled Hong Kong in recent months, with fears of violent anti-government protests or arrest in the coming legislation, often last year. On Sunday, Hong Kong Independence Union convener Wayne Chan confirmed that he had jumped out of the city. He faces charges related to the protest.
Pro-government unions and politicians welcome the passage of the law – former leader C.Y. Leung rewards for future prosecution – there is a great deal of frustration among many Hongkongers over the constant lack of detail, and knowing that the law has been passed but does not know what it means.
In a letter to the city government on Monday, Hong Kong Bar Association chairman Philip Dykes said the privacy of the law was “really extraordinary” and urged the government to clarify how citizens’ minimum rights are guaranteed.
Such uncertainty goes beyond Tuesday night when the bill is finally expected to be made public and gazetted. Regardless of how the crimes are described or punished, many look to the police and prosecutors to see how hard they can enforce them.
A key test comes Wednesday, marking the 23rd anniversary of the city’s handing over of Chinese rule. Today has traditionally seen an anti-government parade through the city, but this year protests have been banned.
Managers say they will go ahead anyway. Yet how many people join them, and what crimes – if any – they feel are guilty of doing so.