Hong Kong marks handover anniv. under sweeping new security law
HONG KONG, Kyodo - Hong Kong on Wednesday marked the 23rd anniversary of its return to Chinese rule, one day after China imposed a sweeping national security law on the former British colony, with police arresting more than 300 protesters.
The theme of national security reverberated throughout celebratory events and protests, as Hong Kongers digested the law's impact on their lives and the future of the territory.
"It is a day of great historical significance," Chief Executive Carrie Lam told guests at an anniversary reception, calling the law's enactment "a turning point to take Hong Kong out of the current impasse and to restore stability and order from the chaos."
Luo Huining, head of the Central Government Liaison Office in Hong Kong, said in a separate event that "for the vast majority of Hong Kong residents including foreigners in Hong Kong, the law will be a guardian that protects their rights, freedoms and peaceful life."
The controversial law, which went into force in Hong Kong shortly before midnight after it was enacted in the Chinese parliament, outlaws acts of separation, subversion, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces.
Many people fear enforcement of the law could undermine the rights and freedoms China had promised for the semiautonomous region for 50 years following its return to Chinese sovereignty in 1997.
"Of course this is a repressive law," a clerk surnamed Lee, 30, said. "The scope of the law is so vague so that it could be used to persecute anyone on target. The Communist Party wants just a law to put in jail those who stood out. You may get a life sentence for chanting independence slogans."
That fear was quickly realized as Hong Kong police said Wednesday they had made at least nine arrests under the new law of five men and four women allegedly holding flags or placards advocating Hong Kong independence. (Kyodo)