China’s parliament has backed security legislation for Hong Kong
that criminalizes secession, subversion, terrorism and engaging
with ‘foreign forces’. Many fear it could lead to increased prosecution of Hong Kong’s residents for exercising their rights under local
laws. The move has sparked international outrage. ‘Hong Kong
citizens want the one country-two systems principle to be upheld
so we can begin to resolve our many social ills,’ says Gina Ho.
‘The current situation is new as Beijing is getting directly involved. Using the excuse of tackling social disorder, they’re bypassing the Hong Kong government to get the security law passed. China’s narrative is to present the Hong Kong protesters as separatists, which the new law targets directly. Already, thousands of protesters have been arrested and they could be charged with rioting, which carries a prison sentence of up to 10 years. When the security law is fully implemented, anyone, not only protestors, could be accused of being a threat to national security.
‘The purpose of the pro-democracy protests has been less about achieving independence and more about demanding all the freedoms that were promised in our de facto constitution (Basic Law). Hong Kong is governed by the one country-two system principle: it allows the city to be semi-independent and grants its citizens fundamental human rights and freedoms. In 2003, half a million people demonstrated against a similar security law. 2014 saw the Umbrella Movement when universal suffrage to elect our governor was “explained away” from the Basic Law. And last year’s protests with more than a million people, successfully put paid to an extradition law, one of five demands.
‘Since China has stepped in, the tone has changed. A threshold has been crossed and some are now openly calling for independence as they believe the one country-two systems principle is broken. Many of my Cantonese friends who have the means to emigrate are planning to do so. But this creates a really sad situation. We are becoming a diaspora who have a place where we belong, but can’t go back to.’