Thousands upon thousands of protestors have been marching through the centre of Hong Kong. Police say 180 have been detained.
Earlier, 200 senior politicians from around the world issued a joint statement in which they heavily criticized China’s plan.
Speaking in Beijing, China’s foreign minister, Wang Yi, said enacting the introduced law to prevent anti-government protests that have endured for the past year had grown into a “pressing obligation”.
“We must get it done without the slightest delay,” he said.
Wang said a lawmaking process to formulate the specifications of the legislation would start after a proposed resolution is confirmed next week at China’s National People’s Congress (NPC).
China is trying to decree a law that would outright criminalize “treason, secession, sedition and subversion” in the territory.
Activists fear that this is an attempt to limit freedoms and silence Beijing’s opponents.
Minister Wang tried to reassure them and insisted on party’s neutral position.
“The decision targets a very narrow set of acts that seriously jeopardize national security,” Wang said. “It has no impact on Hong Kong’s high degree of autonomy and the rights and freedoms of Hong Kong residents or the legitimate rights, interests of foreign investors in Hong Kong.”
Hong Kong’s representative Carrie Lam, who is regarded as a key member of the pro-Beijing political establishment, has sworn full support for the proposed bill and declared that the city’s rights would remain unchanged.
China has rejected concerns that the law would hurt outside investors in Hong Kong and struck out at “meddling” nations. The citizens of Hong Kong remain pessimistic as their city is a major financial center and many are afraid it will lose its position.
The Latest Protests In Hong Kong
Demonstrators rallied in the busy Causeway Bay and Wan Chai areas of the city on Sunday, chanting slogans against the government and flying flags.
Riot police discharged tear gas, pepper spray, and water cannons at the protestors, who were wearing face masks to guard against the spread of coronavirus. Of course, gas masks were also present as a symbol of the resistance movement, even before the pandemic.
The demonstration emanates against earlier advice from officials against unauthorized assembly and a prohibition of large public gatherings to enforce the rules of social distancing.
Some demonstrators hurled objects like umbrellas and water bottles at the police officers, and used trash cans and other debris to set up roadblocks.
Reports say that Sunday’s rally developed in a similar pattern to many of the last year’s marches, many of which unfortunately turned violent.
More than 8,400 people have been arrested in Hong Kong since pro-democracy protests erupted last year.
“A large number of community facilities were damaged, multiple traffic lights were destroyed, road rail fences removed, and a large number of drainage covers and bricks on the road were crowded,” Hong Kong police said in a statement.
Although demonstrations on the smaller scale have occurred in recent weeks, Sunday’s was the biggest since protests over a now-suspended extradition law disturbed the city last year. Those protests climaxed in a standoff at a major university that brought the world’s attention.
Sunday’s gathering came just days following Beijing’s planned security measures that “could make any secessionist activity seen as critical and subversive illegal, effectively ending Hong Kong’s limited autonomy,” NPR’s Emily Feng reports.
Reaction From The United States
On Sunday, White House national security adviser Robert O’Brien said the bill could US sanctions as a consequence. Legislation passed last year by Donald Trump demands the US to sanction officials as undermining Hong Kong’s autonomy. It also requires the US to withdraw favorable trade status awarded to Hong Kong.
“It looks like, with this national security law, they’re going to basically take over Hong Kong,” O’Brien told NBC. “And if they do… [secretary of state Mike] Pompeo will likely be unable to certify that Hong Kong maintains a high degree of autonomy and if that happens there will be sanctions that will be imposed on Hong Kong and China,” he said.
O’Brien said the city’s appeal as a business and finance center would also endure severe detriments.
“It’s hard to see how Hong Kong could remain the Asian financial center that it’s become if China takes over,” he said, adding that global business enterprises would have no reason to linger in the city.
Last week, in a concerning turn of events, Hong Kong’s main stock index dropped 5.6% as portions of the imminent law were published while nations around the world condemned the resolution. The laws, which are to be added into Hong Kong’s constitution without consideration by the local legislature, would allow Beijing to establish “national security agencies” in the city.
Regarding the questions about investor confidence in the Asian financial hub, Chinese foreign minister Wang said: “Instead of becoming more worried, people should have more confidence in the future of Hong Kong.”
Wang stated that the laws “will improve Hong Kong’s legal system, bring more stability, stronger rule of a law and a better business environment”.