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Pro-democracy activist Nathan Law flees Hong Kong as mainland China's draconian new rule takes hold

Pro-democracy activist Nathan Law flees Hong Kong as mainland China's draconian new rule takes hold

Just Earth News | @justearthnews | 03 Jul 2020, 01:30 pm

Hong Kong: Just days after China secretly drafted and introduced a new controversial security law for Hong Kong, a prominent democracy activist fled the region, vowing to continue the fight from foreign shores.

Nathan Law, a former student leader and one of Hong Kong's youngest legislators, took to Twitter to share his account and his take on the new National Security Law. He was involved in 2014's Umbrella Protests and even spent time in prison following the movement, which went on from September 26 to December 15.

On Wednesday, Law expressed his fear about being imprisoned in Beijing upon his return to Hong Kong, during his interaction with politicians from the United States of America, via videolink.

He said, "So much is now lost in the city I love: the freedom to tell the truth."

No Hong Konger is under the illusion that Beijing has any intention to respect our basic rights and honor its promises to us. Mass arrests have already begun on the first day of the National Security Law's implementation," Law wrote on Twitter.

He said the new law would undermine the work that was done by activists such as himself for many years.

"The international front is what Hong Kongers must still defend — in parallel to street activism — even as the risk of doing so locally are now immeasurably high. Multiple articles of the new NSL target this kind of work I have undertaken for years.

"As a global-facing activist, the choices I have are stark: to stay silent from now on, or to keep engaging in private diplomacy so I can warn the world of the threat of Chinese authoritarian expansion. I made the decision when I agreed to testify before the US Congress.

There was a lot to consider, including what can be said and what must be kept secret, with my own wellbeing and that of others always in mind. Making this announcement isn't easier either, and my responsibilities will only get heavier down the road," he said.

The activist, who is the co-founder of the now disbanded Demosisto Party- a pro-democracy political organisation founded by Law, fellow activists Joshua Wong and Agnes Chow- thanked his friends and apologised for 'ambiguities' when it came to his personal information.

"Criticisms ahead of me will stem not only from misunderstanding, disheartenment, and anxieties, but also ill intentions. These are all mine to face," he said.

Law said even with all the gloom, he was optimistic about a brighter future after seeing a massive turnout during a protest staged by locals on July 1.

The July 1 crowds show once again that the fire of Hong Kongers' determination will not be easily extinguished. We must sustain our resistance on all fronts. Should I have the fortune to ever return, I hope to still remain as I am: the same young man with these same beliefs. Glory to Hong Kong," the young activist added.

Meanwhile, the new law has invited criticism of the Chinese leadership as many have termed the former as 'Draconian'.

The law gives Beijing a free hand to carry out trials of 'potential suspects' on the Chinese mainland. It also allows officials to carry out close door trials and designate those damaging public facilities- like transport- terrorists.
Experts believe the law will curb online freedom and make user data public as companies will be forced to share information if and when requested by law enforcement officials.

Several legal experts have also pointed at the ambiguous wordings in the law, that make it difficult for citizens to fully comprehend what constitutes a criminal offence and what is exempted from it.

According to the law, the trials can be a secret affair (Article 41) and can be held without a jury (Article 46).

Article 44 also states that the judges can be handpicked by Hong Kong's chief executive, who is answerable directly to the mainland.          

Donald Clarke of George Washington University Law School said those who have said anything that might offend either the mainland or Hong Kong authorities, must stay out of the region.

Meanwhile, the legislation allows China to set up an Office for Safeguarding National Security in Hong Kong. Staff at the facility will comprise officials from the mainland, who will not be abiding by the existing rules in Hong Kong and would be exempted from any detention, inspection of search by local authorities.

Fearing the worst, Claudia Mo, a Hong Kong based politician from the opposition camp, said that citizens won't do or say anything fearing intimidation from the mainland.
Even with criticism coming from all corners, Beijing remains unmoved.

A minister was quoted in the media as saying that the new law would bring stability to the region.

Zhang Xiaoming, of China's Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office said on Wednesday that the National Security Law would form an uniformity across the two regions and bring Hong Kong in line with the mainland and its practices.

While many have been unequivocal about their dislike for the law, Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam has hailed it as a turning point, giving impression that Beijing might no longer have to be secretive about their mission in the Vertical City.