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Hong Kong cracks down on protests against national security laws

Hong Kong Security forces cracked down on protesters who opposed a new draconian national security law which threatens dissidents and Hong Kong independence activists.

During the protests, police fired tear gas and pepper spray on thousands who had taken to the streets, despite the lockdown measures intended to curb the spread of the coronavirus. Over 180 people were arrested during protests on Sunday.

 

Responses from state officials

Tam Yiu-Chung, Hong Kong's sole delegate to China's National People's Congress Standing Committee, maintains that the bill will pass through into legislation swiftly and the matter would be resolved by the end of June.

Hong Kong Secretary for Security, John Lee, has defended the proposed bill stating:

"Terrorism is growing in the city and activities which harm national security, such as 'Hong Kong independence [...]

"In just a few months, Hong Kong has changed from one of the safest cities in the world to a city shrouded in the shadow of violence,"

Hong Kong’s Financial Secretary also defended the bill stating it would only affect a minority of people and not affect the rights of the general public.

Former Hong Kong Chief Executive CY Leung claimed that whilst the bill is not designed to deter people from protesting it would combat “terrorism” and stamp out calls for independence.

 

Calls for independence

During the rally, participates were heard chanting:

"Hong Kong independence, the only way out,"

Ray Chan, a pro-democracy member of Hong Kong's Legislative Council, has responded to the government crackdown by stating on social media:

"Call us terrorists, whatever you want, after the Wuhan Virus outbreak, China has no more credibility in the world."

 

Responses from the international community

The US, Australia, Britain, and Canada have raised concerns over this new national security bill as it threatens the rights and freedoms of Hong Kong residents. The US has warned that if China continues with this new legislation it may face sanctions

Commenting on the matter, US National Security Advisor Robert O'Brien, stated:

"It looks like with this national security law they're going to basically take over Hong Kong and if they do ... Secretary [of State Mike] Pompeo will likely be unable to certify that Hong Kong maintains a high degree of autonomy".  

When Hong Kong was handed over to mainland China in 1997, it was granted the status of Special Administrative Region, which promised a high degree of autonomy.

Read more from Al Jazeera here and here.