Hong Kong security law is not doom and gloom but is a red line, leader
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[July 07, 2020]
By Yanni Chow and Carol Mang
HONG KONG (Reuters) - Hong Kong's national
security law does not spell "doom and gloom", its leader said on
Tuesday, as she tried to calm unease over legislation that critics say
could quash freedoms that have underpinned the city's success as a
In an illustration of worries about the law, the video app TikTok said
it was preparing to leave the Hong Kong market, and other tech firms
said they have suspended processing Hong Kong government requests for
The sweeping legislation that Beijing imposed on the former British
colony punishes what China defines as secession, subversion, terrorism
and collusion with foreign forces, with up to life in prison.
It came into force at the same time it was made public, just before
midnight last Tuesday, with police arresting more than 300 people in
protests the next day - about 10 of them, including a 15-year-old, for
suspected violations of it.
"Surely, this is not doom and gloom for Hong Kong," the city's
Beijing-backed leader, Carrie Lam, told a weekly news conference.
"I'm sure, with the passage of time ... confidence will grow in 'one
country, two systems' and in Hong Kong's future."
The legislation has been criticised by democracy activists and Western
governments, for undermining freedoms guaranteed under a "one country,
two systems" formula agreed when Hong Kong return to Chinese rule in
Both Hong Kong and Chinese officials have said the law, which gives
mainland security agencies an enforcement presence in the city for the
first time, was vital to plug holes in national security defences,
exposed by the city’s failure to pass such legislation itself as
required under its mini-constitution, the Basic Law.
Lam said cases involving the new mainland agents would be "rare", but
nevertheless, national security was a "red line" that should not be
The legislation was not harsh when compared with that of other
countries, she said.
"It is a rather mild law. Its scope is not as broad as that in other
countries and even China," she said.
Critics say the aim of the law is to stamp out a pro-democracy movement
that brought months of protests, at times violent, to the city last
Late on Monday, Hong Kong released details of how the law would be
implemented, outlining police powers over the internet, including the
ability to ask publishers to remove information deemed a threat to
Internet firms and their staff face fines and up to one year in jail if
they do not comply and police can seize their equipment. The companies
are also expected to provide identification records and decryption
But Lam said she had not noticed widespread fears and the law would
restore the city's status as one of the safest in the world after the
violent pro-democracy protests last year.
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Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam attends a news conference ahead
of national security legislation, in Hong Kong, China June 30, 2020.
'TIME AND FACTS'
Despite her assurances, the law has had a chilling effect.
"If Hong Kong police and the government do not get information from
Facebook, they may have other means," said 45-year-old playwright
"The fear has spread over freedom of expression."
Shortly after the law came into force, pro-democracy activists such
as Joshua Wong disbanded their organisations while others have left.
Many shops have removed protest-related products and decorations and
public libraries have removed some books seen as supportive of the
democracy movement. Canada has suspended an extradition treaty with
TikTok, a video app owned by China-based ByteDance said it would
exit the Hong Kong market within days.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said late on Monday the United
States was "certainly looking at" banning Chinese social media apps,
including TikTok, amid concern they were not in a position to
decline Chinese government requests.
TikTok, which has sought to emphasise its independence from China,
has been banned in India.
Facebook Inc, which also owns WhatsApp and Instagram, Google Inc and
Twitter Inc suspended processing government requests for user data
in Hong Kong.
The final power of interpretation of the law lies with authorities
in mainland China, where human rights groups have reported arbitrary
detentions and disappearances. China has been clamping down on
dissent and tightening censorship.
China's official Procuratorial Daily paper said authorities had
launched a special taskforce to ramp up political policing to
maintain social stability.
The news came on the day that Xu Zhangrun, a Beijing law professor
who has been an outspoken critic of the ruling Communist Party and
President Xi Jinping, was taken away by authorities.
Lam, asked about media freedom, said if reporters could guarantee
they would not breach the new law, she could guarantee they would be
allowed to report freely.
"Ultimately, time and facts will tell that this law will not
undermine human rights and freedoms," she said.
(Reporting by Yanni Chow, Carol Mang, Joyce Zhou, Clare Jim, Yoyo
Chow; Writing by Marius Zaharia; Editing by Kim Coghill, Robert
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