Known hardliner to head new security office . . .
China’s new National Security Law on Hong Kong came into effect on Tuesday, dealing another blow to Hong Kong’s battered civil society. Among the law’s provisions, Article 48 creates a Beijing-controlled office in Hong Kong with powers to monitor, investigate, and prosecute matters it deems related to national security. Subsequent provisions give the office extensive discretionary power to override Hong Kong’s government and judiciary. On Friday, China announced it had appointed veteran party official Zheng Yanxiong to lead the office. Zheng is a hardliner best known for his crackdown on protests in mainland China and his dislike of foreign media. His appointment could be a portent of things to come.
Freedom curtailed overnight . . .
The new legislation was passed on the eve of Hong Kong’s annual July 1 demonstrations, which mark the date of Hong Kong’s handover to China. The law’s effects were immediate, as the protests drew a much smaller crowd than before. People who had joined past protests deleted their social media accounts and chat history. Some pro-democracy political organizations, including Joshua Wong’s Demosisto, disbanded for fear of persecution. Stores and restaurants took down signs supportive of protests. By the end of the day on Wednesday, nearly 400 people had been arrested, and 10 were charged with violating the new law. The Hong Kong government subsequently declared the popular slogan “Liberate Hong Kong, Revolution of Our Times” to be illegal.
Canada halts extraditions, bans sensitive exports . . .
Beijing’s latest crackdown received mixed international responses. At a meeting of the UN Human Rights Council on Tuesday, 53 countries signalled support for the new law, while 27 countries were opposed. The U.S. passed new Hong Kong-related sanctions penalizing banks that do business with Chinese officials, while Canada announced that it would halt extraditions and exports of sensitive goods to Hong Kong. Anticipating a large exodus from Hong Kong, the U.K. was first to offer residency and a path to citizenship to holders of British National Overseas passports, and Australia and the U.S. are considering similar measures.