China threatens US counter measures if punished for Hong Kong law
Pro-democracy protesters are arrested by police in the Causeway Bay district of Hong Kong on May 24, 2020, ahead of planned protests against a proposal to enact new security legislation in Hong Kong. The proposed legislation is expected to ban treason, subversion and sedition, and follows repeated warnings from Beijing that it will no longer tolerate dissent in Hong Kong, which was shaken by months of massive, sometimes violent anti-government protests last year.
AFP/Isaac Lawrence
China threatens US counter measures if punished for Hong Kong law
Jerome Taylor, Su Xinqi (Agence France-Presse) - May 26, 2020 - 7:53am

HONG KONG, China — China on Monday threatened counter measures against the United States if it is punished for plans to impose on Hong Kong a sedition law, which the business hub's security chief hailed as a new tool to defeat "terrorism".

Beijing plans to pass the new security law for Hong Kong that bans treason, subversion and sedition after months of massive, often-violent pro-democracy protests last year.

But many Hong Kongers, business groups and Western nations fear the proposal could be a death blow to the city's treasured freedoms, and thousands took to the streets on Sunday despite a ban on mass gatherings introduced to combat coronavirus.

As police dispersed the crowds with tear gas and water cannon, Washington's national security advisor Robert O'Brien warned the new law could cost the city its preferential US trading status.

But China's foreign ministry said Beijing would react to any sanctions from Washington. 

"If the US insists on hurting China's interests, China will have to take every necessary measure to counter and oppose this," foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian told reporters on Monday.

Hong Kong has become the latest flashpoint in soaring tensions between the world's two superpowers which China has likened to "the brink of a new Cold War".

The refusal to grant Hong Kongers democracy has sparked rare bipartisan support in an otherwise bitterly divided Washington during the Trump administration.

Beijing portrays the city's protests as a foreign-backed plot to destabilise the motherland and says other nations have no right to interfere in how the international business hub is run.

Mainland agents?

Protesters, who have hit the streets in their millions, say they are motivated by years of Beijing chipping away at the city's freedoms since it was handed back to China by Britain in 1997.

Hong Kong enjoys liberties unseen on the mainland, as well as its own legal system and trade status.

Campaigners view the security law proposal as the most brazen move yet by Beijing to end free speech and the city's ability to make its own laws.

Of particular concern is a provision allowing Chinese security agents to operate in Hong Kong, with fears it could spark a crackdown on those voicing dissent against China's communist rulers.

On the mainland, subversion laws are routinely wielded against critics.

The proposed law, which China's rubber-stamp legislature is expected to act on quickly, will also bypass Hong Kong's own legislature.

The city's influential Bar Association on Monday described the proposed motion as "worrying and problematic" -- and warned it may even breach the territory's mini-constitution.

The proposal has spooked investors with Hong Kong's stock exchange suffering its largest drop in five years on Friday. On Monday it had yet to recover, closing just 0.10 percent up.

'Restore social order'

Hong Kong's unpopular pro-Beijing government has welcomed the law.

"Terrorism is growing in the city and activities which harm national security, such as 'Hong Kong independence', become more rampant," security minister John Lee said in a statement welcoming the planned legislation.

Police chief Chris Tang cited 14 recent cases where explosives had been seized and said the new law would "help combat the force of 'Hong Kong independence' and restore social order".

Last year's protests were initially sparked by plans to allow extraditions to the mainland but soon snowballed into a popular revolt against Beijing and the city's police force.

Beijing has dismissed protester demands for an inquiry into the police, amnesty for the 8,500 people arrested and universal suffrage.

The demonstrations fizzled at the start of the year as mass arrests and the coronavirus took their toll.

But they have rekindled in recent weeks with Sunday's rally producing the most intense clashes for months and police making at least 120 arrests.

During last year's huge pro-democracy rallies, mob attacks were common on both sides of the political divide and a video of protesters beating a lawyer at Sunday's rally was seized on by China's state media.

Hu Xijin, editor-in-chief of the nationalist tabloid Global Times, posted the video on Twitter -- a platform banned in mainland China.

"Let's see what the Washington-backed Hong Kong democracy really looks like," he wrote.

CHINA EXTRADITION BILL HONG KONG PROTESTS
As It Happens
LATEST UPDATE: December 2, 2020 - 3:44pm

Millions march in Hong Kong in a powerful rebuke of an extradition law feared to expose them to China's capricious justice system.

December 2, 2020 - 3:44pm

Leading Hong Kong dissident Joshua Wong is jailed alongside two other young activists on Wednesday for leading an illegal rally outside the city's police headquarters during last year's huge democracy protests.

Wong is sentenced to 13.5 months in jail while his colleagues Agnes Chow and Ivan Lam get 10 months and seven months respectively, an AFP reporter inside the court says. —  AFP

December 1, 2020 - 12:36pm

 When Hong Kong protester Hei saw fellow activists put behind bars for taking part in last year's democracy protests, she was determined to keep the flame burning by writing them letters.

Thousands have been arrested and held in custody for a range of offences during the huge and sometimes violent protests that convulsed the financial hub last year.

The city's prison system strictly controls inmate access to information about life outside, so Hei decided to keep them up to date on the democracy movement by putting pen to paper. Her mailing list now has almost 60 people on it.

"It's a relationship between comrades-in-arms and we have trust in each other," the 22-year-old told AFP, asking to use just one name to protect her identity. 

"We share the same pain. I hope letter-writing can strengthen people's confidence in the movement." — AFP

November 27, 2020 - 2:19pm

Hong Kong prison staff were wrong to cut the hair of a veteran dissident known for his long locks, the city's top court said Friday, in the second significant ruling against authorities this month.

The decision comes as powerful establishment voices call for an overhaul of the judiciary — something opponents fear could muzzle the Hong Kong legal system's vaunted independence as Beijing cracks down on critics.

Friday's ruling by the Final Court of Appeal is the culmination of a long legal battle by Leung Kwok-hung, 64, who served a brief jail sentence in 2014 linked to his protesting.

Better known by the sobriquet "Longhair", he is one of the city's best known dissidents, beginning his career campaigning against British colonial rule and later becoming a fierce critic of Beijing. 

A panel of top judges — including Chief Justice Geoffrey Ma — unanimously ruled that Leung's rights had been breached under sexual discrimination laws when his hair was cut in jail.

Hong Kong prison authorities insist all male inmates — AFP

November 24, 2020 - 5:15pm

A Hong Kong man was dragged from a court shouting democracy slogans and remanded into custody on Tuesday after becoming the third person to be charged under a sweeping new national security law.

The man's detention is a stark illustration of how the new legislation, imposed by Beijing this summer, has created a host of speech crimes with stiff consequences for those accused of breaching the rules.

Ma Chun-man, 30, was bundled away by police as he shouted "Spread the word, democracy is cultivated with blood and sweat" after being charged with "inciting secession" — one of the new national security crimes — according to an AFP reporter in court.

Prosecutors said Ma was arrested seven times by police between 15 August and 22 November and that he had chanted slogans calling for Hong Kong's independence from China. — AFP

November 12, 2020 - 5:23pm

China warned Thursday the mass resignations of pro-democracy lawmakers in Hong Kong were a "blatant challenge" to its authority over the city.

Fifteen legislators were set to quit the chamber in protest at the Beijing-sanctioned ousting of four colleagues, leaving the assembly a muted gathering of government loyalists.

The resignations come with the city's beleaguered pro-democracy movement and avenues of dissent already under sustained attack since Beijing imposed a sweeping national security law this year.

Half of the group had made good on their pledge by Thursday afternoon, which sparked a furious response from Beijing's Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office.

"It once again showed their stubborn confrontation against the central government and a blatant challenge to the power of the central government. We severely condemn this," a statement said. — AFP

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