HONG KONG (AP) — Hong Kong police made their first arrests beneath a brand new nationwide safety regulation imposed by China’s central authorities, arresting at the very least two protesters Wednesday for carrying flags and indicators calling for Hong Kong’s independence.
A person who had a Hong Kong independence flag was arrested at a protest within the metropolis’s Causeway Bay procuring district after police had issued a number of warnings to the group that they is perhaps in violation of the regulation, in accordance with a police assertion on Twitter.
Police later arrested a lady for holding up an indication displaying the British flag and calling for Hong Kong’s independence.
Additional particulars weren’t instantly accessible. Hong Kong police stated on Fb they’d arrested greater than 70 folks on numerous fees, from illegal meeting to violation of the nationwide safety regulation.
The regulation makes secessionist, subversive, or terrorist actions unlawful, in addition to overseas intervention within the metropolis’s inner affairs. Any particular person participating in secessionist actions, equivalent to shouting slogans or holding up banners and flags urging for the town’s independence, is in violation of the regulation no matter whether or not violence is used.
The arrests come lower than 24 hours after the nationwide safety regulation was imposed by China after final 12 months’s anti-government protests within the semi-autonomous territory. The regulation took impact on Tuesday at 11 p.m. (1500 GMT).
Essentially the most severe offenders, equivalent to these deemed to be masterminds behind the crimes, might obtain a most punishment of life imprisonment. Lesser offenders might obtain jail phrases of as much as three years, short-term detention or restriction.
Hong Kong’s chief strongly endorsed the brand new regulation in her speech marking Wednesday’s 23rd anniversary of the territory’s handover from colonial Britain.
“The enactment of the nationwide regulation is thought to be probably the most vital improvement within the relationship between the central authorities and the HKSAR since Hong Kong’s return to the motherland,” chief govt Carrie Lam stated in a speech, following a flag elevating ceremony and the taking part in of China’s nationwide anthem.
“Additionally it is an important and well timed choice for restoring stability in Hong Kong,” she stated.
A professional-democracy political celebration, The League of Social Democrats, organized a protest march in the course of the flag-raising ceremony. A couple of dozen members chanted slogans echoing calls for from protesters final 12 months for political reform and an investigation into accusation of police abuse.
The regulation’s passage Tuesday additional blurs the excellence between the authorized methods of semi-autonomous Hong Kong, which maintained facets of British regulation after the 1997 handover, and the mainland’s authoritarian Communist Celebration system. Critics say the regulation successfully ends the “one nation, two methods” framework beneath which Hong Kong was promised a excessive diploma of autonomy.
The regulation immediately targets a number of the actions of anti-government protesters final 12 months, which included assaults on authorities workplaces and police stations, harm to subway stations, and the shutdown of the town’s worldwide airport. Acts of vandalism towards authorities services or public transit could be prosecuted as subversion or terrorism, whereas anybody participating in actions deemed as secessionist would even be in violation of the brand new regulation.
Professional-democracy lawmaker Claudia Mo stated in a information convention that the brand new regulation didn’t abide by rule of regulation and was a dire warning to the free press.
“This is able to inform you that they need not simply to get us, however to intimidate us into inaction, right into a catatonic state,” Mo stated.
Hong Kong’s police drive had stated they might take into account as unlawful any flag or banner raised by protesters deemed to be selling Hong Kong’s separation from China or expressing assist for independence for Tibet, Xinjiang and the self-governing island democracy of Taiwan that China claims as its personal.
Police will use a brand new purple flag to warn protesters in the event that they show banners or shout slogans that will represent a criminal offense beneath the regulation and could possibly be arrested and prosecuted for violating it.
Issues have additionally been raised over the destiny of key opposition figures, a few of whom have already been charged for participating in protests, in addition to the disqualification of candidates for the Legislative Council elections scheduled for September.
In Beijing, the manager deputy director of the Cupboard’s Hong Kong affairs workplace Zhang Xiaoming stated Hong Kong folks had been allowed to criticize the ruling Communist Celebration however couldn’t flip these complaints “into actions.”
“What occurred lately in Hong Kong has proven a deviation from the appropriate observe of the ‘one nation, two methods’ (framework),” Zhang advised reporters Wednesday.
“To some extent, we made this regulation with the intention to appropriate the deviation … to drag it nearer to ‘One-Nation.’”
Faculties, social teams, media retailers, web sites and others unspecified will likely be monitored and their nationwide safety consciousness will likely be raised, in accordance with the regulation’s textual content, whereas China’s central authorities can have authority over the actions of overseas non-governmental organizations and media retailers in Hong Kong.
It says central authorities our bodies in Hong Kong will take over in “difficult circumstances” and when there’s a severe risk to nationwide safety. Native authorities are barred from interfering with central authorities our bodies working in Hong Kong whereas they’re finishing up their duties, in accordance with the textual content.
The laws was mandated beneath Hong Kong’s native structure however an earlier try and move it within the metropolis’s legislative physique in 2003 was shelved within the face of huge public opposition. Having misplaced endurance, Beijing lastly determined to bypass the Hong Kong legislature and have it handed Tuesday by the Standing Committee of the Nationwide Folks’s Congress, China’s rubber-stamp parliament.
President Xi Jinping signed a presidential order placing the regulation into impact and it has been added to the Fundamental Regulation, Hong Kong’s structure.
The regulation’s passage comes after Hong Kong’s legislature in early June authorised a contentious invoice making it unlawful to insult the Chinese language nationwide anthem.
The brand new legal guidelines have deepened considerations overseas about Hong Kong’s future.
The U.S. is shifting to finish particular commerce phrases given to the territory. The Trump administration has additionally stated it’s going to bar protection exports to Hong Kong and can quickly require licenses for the sale of things which have each civilian and navy makes use of.
Congress has additionally moved to impose sanctions on folks deemed related to political repression in Hong Kong, together with police officers, whereas Britain has stated it might supply residency and potential citizenship to about three million of Hong Kong’s 7.5 million folks.
China has stated it’s going to impose visa restrictions on Individuals it sees as interfering over Hong Kong.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo denounced the specter of a visa ban as an indication of “how Beijing refuses to take duty for its personal selections” and stated the regulation’s adoption “destroys the territory’s autonomy and considered one of China’s biggest achievements.”
Beijing’s “paranoia and worry of its personal folks’s aspirations have led it to eviscerate the very basis of the territory’s success,” Pompeo stated in a press release.
Taiwan on Wednesday opened an workplace to facilitate migration from Hong Kong.
The institution of the workplace is “not solely a press release on Taiwan’s assist to Hong Kong’s democracy and freedom, but additionally highlights our willpower to take care of Hong Kong folks,” stated Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council minister Chen Ming-tong at a ribbon-cutting ceremony.
AP journalists Johnson Lai in Taipei and Wayne Zhang in Beijing contributed to this report.
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