'The World is Watching': China's New Hong Kong Security Law Deemed Oppressively Broad
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There's now major push back against China's new security law put into place in Hong Kong. Although the chief executive there says it will not change life as the people know it, the law has led to one arrest already and there's the fear many more will follow.
Some say the express purpose of the security measure is to quell Hong Kong's pro-democracy movement. Officials argue latitude to create such a law is provided in the constitution and should have been done a long time ago to keep everyone safe.
On Tuesday, Hong Kong legislators grilled Chinese government officials about the territory's new national security law. Some went as far as to hold up blank pieces of paper, asking if that was a violation.
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Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam came to the law's defense.
"Ultimately, time and facts will tell that this law will not undermine human rights and freedoms," Lam said. "This law will restore stability to Hong Kong."
The law casts a wide net over anything that could be viewed by Beijing as anti-government.
For example, any person shouting slogans or holding up banners calling for independence is violating the law. Police may search anyone without a warrant if they deem the circumstances to be "exceptional." Restraining orders to freeze or confiscate property can be ordered if there are "reasonable grounds" to suspect it is endangering national security.
Also, the police may apply for a warrant requiring anyone suspected of violating the law to surrender travel documents so they may not leave Hong Kong.
"Using the national security law to erode fundamental freedoms and create an atmosphere of coercion and self-censorship is a tragedy for Hong Kong," said Hanscom Smith, US Consul General to Hong Kong.
"I think the world is watching now to see if one country two systems is a complete sham," said Elizabeth Larus.
As a professor of political science and international affairs at the University of Mary Washington, Larus specializes in China.
"Imagine you are someone living in Hong Kong, how you have to self-censor what you say in public," Larus said. "In the media, you have to be careful what you say. Teachers will have to be very careful in what they teach and what they say. This law has a very, very wide sweep despite Carrie Lam's argument and calming words that this affects just a tiny, tiny number of people."
It has already affected one Hong Kong resident who was arrested after driving his motorcycle through the streets and into a line of police with a banner reading "Liberate Hong Kong, Revolution of Our Times".
Pro-democracy activist Joshua Wong is calling for the world to support Hong Kong and keep the pressure on.
"With the risk of our personal safety, with the threat of life sentencing, we still hope to let the world know that now is the time to stand with Hong Kong, and now is the time for Hong Kongers to keep our momentum," Wong said.
While the US is continually evaluating its relationship with Hong Kong, so is big business. The growing social media app Tik Tok says it will move its operations out of the economic center.
"Democracy protestors have utilized technology to their benefit to share their news," said Dan Gainor with the Media Research Center. "So, what this does is it gives the Chinese the ability not just to go after tech companies, but to go after democracy protestors anywhere in the world if they plan on coming back."
Social media companies Facebook, Whatsapp, Google and Twitter are assessing the new law while balking at the possibility of providing user data to Hong Kong authorities.
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