1st Arrests Made After China Enacts Hong Kong Security Law

Jul 2, 2020
Originally published on July 6, 2020 7:43 am
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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

We have an early idea how China will impose a national security law on Hong Kong because police there have already made their first arrests. Thousands of Hong Kong residents were protesting on Wednesday to commemorate the handover to Chinese rule.

(SOUNDBITE OF PROTEST)

UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTER: (Chanting in Non-English language).

UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTERS: (Chanting in Non-English language).

UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTER: (Chanting in Non-English language).

UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTERS: (Chanting in Non-English language).

UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTER: (Chanting in Non-English language).

INSKEEP: It was the anniversary of the date when Hong Kong was handed over to China. People protested against this new law which lets Beijing prosecute crimes it deems related to national security. NPR's Emily Feng is covering this story from Beijing. Hi there, Emily.

EMILY FENG, BYLINE: Good morning, Steve.

INSKEEP: What were people arrested for?

FENG: It's not entirely clear. Police told us only that six men and four women were arrested under this new law for crimes that had just come into existence the night before. Police told us that one of these people arrested was a 15-year-old girl. Another person was arrested because he was shown waving a pro-independence flag, so advocating for what Beijing considers secessionist behavior.

And they were marching as largely peaceful demonstrators to commemorate, as you said, the handover of Hong Kong to Chinese rule. And they came out despite these very heavy legal penalties that the national security law prescribes, up to life in prison. If Beijing wanted, these 10 people they've arrested could be tried in mainland China by a Chinese court according to Chinese laws. Though, we don't know how they'll prosecute these 10 people yet.

INSKEEP: Is this one good way to summarize part of this law? Hong Kong, unlike the rest of China, has had free speech - or at least freer speech than the rest of China. They still have it except whenever Beijing thinks that that speech is threatening. Is that a fair summary?

FENG: And when it touches upon national security.

INSKEEP: OK. And are people looking for ways to get around this new law?

FENG: They are. And the main one seems to be leaving Hong Kong completely. Many, many people I talked to are considering emigration. They're looking at Taiwan, which is close by, shares a similar culture and has said that it will take more Hong Kongers as long-term residents. Australia said today that it's looking into offering special visas for Hong Kongers. And American legislation passed last year might make it easier for Hong Kongers to apply for temporary visas in the U.S.

Most notably, the United Kingdom, which used to govern Hong Kong, is offering a path towards citizenship for most Hong Kongers who were born before July 1, 1997. That's when Hong Kong went back to Chinese rule. Up to 3 million Hong Kongers could qualify for this. And, in general, you're seeing more Hong Kongers starting to choose between freedom of expression and just simple freedom. They're deleting their public social media accounts on Twitter. They're self-censoring. And I've noticed today that many people are adding me on encrypted chat accounts. So they're moving onto encrypted platforms instead.

INSKEEP: You know, it's amazing to hear talk of emigration. A lot of people in Hong Kong are in Hong Kong today because their parents or grandparents fled communist China to set up there. Now you're telling me people have to flee on again. How is China responding?

FENG: They are defiant. They are very clear that they will push towards total control over Hong Kong regardless of what the international community thinks. I went to a government presser yesterday in which they said, we will not be cowed by Western countries. And China has already threatened retaliation if the U.K. goes through with offering Hong Kongers a citizenship path. They argue this is an interference with our internal affairs because Hong Kong is a part of China.

INSKEEP: Emily, thanks for the update.

FENG: Thanks, Steve.

INSKEEP: NPR's Emily Feng is in Beijing.

(SOUNDBITE OF SOULAR ORDER'S "FORGIVENESS") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.