China’s sweeping new national security law on Hong Kong has sparked international condemnation, while Beijing claims the reform is needed to tackle unrest and instability in the financial hub.
China’s government passed the law on Tuesday in response to unrest and the upcoming anniversary of Hong Kong’s 1997 handover from British colonial rule to China.
The legislation targets those protesting and speaking out against China’s treatment of Hong Kong. The law has yet to be publicly released, and many citizens still do not know what it exactly contains or how it will impact their rights.
#BREAKING: A man was arrested for holding a #HKIndependence flag in #CausewayBay, Hong Kong, violating the #NationalSecurityLaw. This is the first arrest made since the law has come into force. pic.twitter.com/C0ezm3SGDm
— Hong Kong Police Force (@hkpoliceforce) July 1, 2020
Chinese officials insist the law will only affect a small group of people but the opposite was recorded in the arrests of protesters on Wednesday. The law bans subversion, sedition, terrorism, and collusion but its definition of these crimes is broad to potentially include various forms of speech or organizing.
Wednesday, on the anniversary of the territory’s handover, Hong Kong police arrested more than 300 people with nine of those arrests being under China’s new national security law. This comes after the Chinese government cited that the law would restore stability within the territory, but instead, the worst violence seen in months occurred.
The Chinese government has received international criticism in response to the law. Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen pledged a humanitarian “action plan.” She cited that the Taiwan-Hong Kong Office for Exchanges and Services in Taipei will handle applications from Hong Kong citizens seeking to stay in Taiwan for “political reasons.”
The law is gaining attention outside of Asia as well. Canada has warned its citizens in Hong Kong that they now face a higher risk of arbitrary detention and extradition to mainland China. The Chinese government responded saying that Canada’s actions were “completely unreasonable.”
So far, the only western country to take direct action against the Chinese government is the United Kingdom. Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced that the UK would extend a broader citizenship path to Hong Kong. Roughly 300,000 Hong Kong citizens have a British National Overseas (BNO) status, with 2.6 million eligible to apply. With BNO, Hong Kong citizens would have the right for them and their dependents to work or study in Britain for five years and have the ability to apply for settled status, and then possible citizenship.
The UK’s action represents a larger theme of condemnation of China’s handling of Hong Kong and policy creation in which the UK has waffled on their relationship with China and what they gain from it.