Last year I corresponded with Wing Yee Fan, a student at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. She told me about the violent protests that gripped the city for many weeks after the passing of a controversial extradition bill by the Chinese government. Wing Yee told me about the instances of police brutality amidst the crackdown by security services. Following the introduction of a new law passed by China in June, I once again caught up with her to discuss the unrest which looks set to re-emerge.
“We are all upset about the passing of the national security law which imposes further threats to our eroding legal system and demolishing freedom of speech and press”, she tells me. “There were some protesters arrested today for violating this new law by waving [the] flag of ‘Hong Kong Independence”.
The new law was passed on June 30th and gives Beijing extensive powers over the territory it has never had before. The law introduces new crimes which can be reprimanded with severe penalties, including life imprisonment. Included within this new list of crimes is the use of the slogan “Hong Kong independence, the only way out”. Destruction of public transport or government offices can now be considered terrorism and slogans considered ‘anti-government’ can lead to charges of secession. In addition, mainland security forces are now legally permitted to operate in the semi-autonomous region with impunity.
The Guardian reported on July 1st more than 370 protesters were arrested as police fired teargas, pepper spray and water cannons at those taking to the streets. Many consider the law a violation of human rights. Amnesty International labelled it a “painful moment”, emphasising the “new national security law must not become a weapon of fear”.
Much of the international community have condemned Beijing. UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced new rules which would make around 3-million Hong-Kong residents eligible for British citizenship. The PM’s decision comes as the security law violates a treaty between the two states which ensures Hong Kong remains largely autonomous from Beijing until 2047.
Speaking on this announcement WingYee told me: “Personally, I think the new announcement on UK citizenship is good for Hong-Kongers as it provides a second option for BNO (British National (Overseas)) holders and their families to live, work and study in the UK”. She added: “however, some measures should be made to ensure the newcomers share the same universal values. For example, Hong Kong police who have been using excessive force with no [consequences] should not enjoy the same treatment”.
Wing Yee was also keen to highlight limitations for the scheme, stating: “people who were born after 1997 are not eligible for it while the young people have put a lot of effort against the CCP (Chinese Communist Party)”. She finished by saying: “imagine a huge immigration wave in the future but leaving the young people behind…”
The future of Hong Kong looks uncertain. Beijing has attempted to keep international involvement away from the territory, warning the UK and US to stay out of HK affairs. China looks determined to increase its influence over the region, demonstrating a willingness to crack down on those who oppose it. With a largely negative response from the international community, tensions are on the rise. Hong Kong is once again under threat and only time will tell as to what the future holds for the region.