Hong Kong’s leader Carrie Lam offered scant reassurances on July 7 over the newly implemented national security law. Critics say the law undermines liberties and legal protections that were promised when China took control of the former British colony. The Associated Press in an article titled, ‘Hong Kong grappling with future under national security law’ , points out to the various restrictions that the new national security law will bring about in the “semi-autonomous” region.
The “one country, two-systems” policy which was promised for at-least 50 years, starting from the 1997 handover from the British, enabled Hong Kong to have a vibrant and free press unlike the communist-ruled mainland, China. There is growing fear among many if they might be punished for what they post on Facebook, Twitter or even TikTok. Owned by Chinese internet giant ByteDance, TikTok made a statement confirming that operations will be shut in the city in light of recent events.
Empowered with the right to protest as a part of Hong Kong’s democratic setup until now, the new national security law comes as a direct order from Beijing which prohibits what China views as secessionist, subversive or terrorist activities or as foreign intervention in the city’s internal affairs. The law threatens the freewheeling cultural scene and a civil society that makes the fabric of life in Hong Kong distinct from the rest of China. The expansive definition and convenient interpretation of the law could target a wide array of people and organisations, prompting many to take defensive actions out of fear.
Carrie Lam, the city’s Beijing-backed chief executive, said that the work of the Committee for Safeguarding National Security she chairs, which oversees enforcement of the law, will not be made public. So implementation rules that give police sweeping powers to enforce the law won’t be subject to judicial review.
Asked if she could guarantee that media can still report freely in Hong Kong without facing censorship, “If the Foreign Correspondents Club or all reporters in Hong Kong can give me a 100% guarantee that they will not commit any offences under this national legislation, then I can do the same,” Lam said.