Hong Kong police made the first arrests Wednesday under a new national security law imposed by China’s central government, as thousands of people defied tear gas and pepper pellets to protest against the contentious move on the anniversary of the former British colony's handover to Chinese rule.
The law, imposed following anti-government protests in Hong Kong last year, makes secessionist, subversive, or terrorist activities illegal, as well as foreign intervention in the city’s internal affairs. Any person taking part in activities such as shouting slogans or holding up banners and flags calling for the city’s independence is violating the law regardless of whether violence is used. The most serious offenders, such as those deemed to be masterminds behind these activities, could receive a maximum punishment of life imprisonment. Lesser offenders could receive jail terms of up to three years, short-term detention or restriction. Wednesday's arrests came as thousands took to the streets on the 23rd anniversary of Britain's handover of Hong Kong to China in 1997. For the first time, police banned this year's annual march. Protesters shouted slogans, lambasted police and held up signs condemning the Chinese government and the new security law. The law’s passage Tuesday further blurs the distinction between the legal systems of Hong Kong, which maintained aspects of British law after the 1997 handover, and the mainland’s authoritarian Communist Party system. Critics say the law effectively ends the “one country, two systems” framework under which Hong Kong was promised a high degree of autonomy.
Today on AirTalk, we’ll dig into what this means for Southern Californians with ties to Hong Kong. If you’re a Hong Konger or you have family or friends who live there, we’d like to hear your thoughts on this new law. Join our live conversation by calling 866-893-5722.
With files from the Associated Press
Zhaoyin Feng, Washington reporter for BBC World Service; she tweets @ZhaoyinFeng
Gabriel Law, spokesperson for Hong Kong Forum Los Angeles, a non-profit that promotes democratic development in Hong Kong and China and native Hong Konger