After announcing new sweeping security legislation in June, China has officially opened its first Hong Kong office to oversee the enforcement of such legislation. The new laws deal with the crimes of “secession, subversion, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces,” and sentencing for such crimes can result in life in prison. In addition, it was reported that “new police and prosecution units will also be set up to investigate and enforce the law” in Hong Kong. Pro-China officials stated that the new legislation would not affect the general population of Hong Kong, but rather only “troublemakers.” Newly released information about the laws showed that, among other things, police now have the power to conduct electronic surveillance and searches without a warrant.
Western countries, as well as human rights groups, do not support the legislation which exerts Communist China’s authority over Hong Kong, a semi-autonomous, pro-democracy financial hub. Foreign officials have said that the move signals the death of the “wide array of freedoms…such as freedom of expression and the press” that the “one country, two system” region has formerly known.
Joshua Wong, a pro-democracy former leader of the Umbrella Movement, said that libraries have already purged pro-democracy books from their collections. The department in charge of Hong Kong’s libraries said that they “must ensure that their collections are in compliance with the stipulations of the new security law” and have the responsibility to remove potentially dangerous materials.
Hong Kong citizens mourn the decision. Tanya Chan, a member of the Hong Kong Legislature, stated, “This is the end of Hong Kong, and it’s like the end of our homeland.” Another pro-democracy leader expressed the same sentiment:
“We are in a situation where the Chinese Communist Party controls the police, and the police control Hong Kong. It is not the way Hong Kong is supposed to work or has worked up until recently.”James To, Hong Kong legislator
Due to the legislation’s new cyber laws, companies including Facebook, Google, and Twitter “will deny [Hong Kong] law enforcement requests for user data” until more information regarding the laws is known.
53 countries, including North Korea, Syria, and Venezuela, are in support of the legislation. A representative for Cuba stated, “We believe that every country has the right to safeguard its national security through legislation and commend relevant steps taken for this purpose.”