Hong Kong woke up to a new reality on Wednesday. China’s central government imposed a sweeping national security law late the night before that critics say has stripped the city of its autonomy and precious civil and social freedoms, and cements Beijing’s authoritarian rule over the territory.
What We Know:
- Hundreds turned out to protest the legislation in the busy shopping district of Causeway Bay but were met with a heavy security presence. Riot police fired pepper spray into the crowd, kettled and dispersed protesters, and deployed water cannons.
- During the protest, Hong Kong police made the first arrests under the new law, including a man who was holding a black independence flag, and soon afterward, a woman with a sign reading “Hong Kong Independence.”
- At least 300 people were arrested on Wednesday, with nine arrests of five men and four women on suspicion of violating the national security law, according to police. Police said in an earlier tweet that one officer was injured after being stabbed in the arm.
- The new law came into effect in Hong Kong in the lead-up to July 1, the 23rd anniversary of the handover of Hong Kong from British rule to China, and dramatically broadens the powers of local and mainland authorities to investigate, prosecute and punish dissenters.
- Hong Kong is about to be governed by a law most residents have never seen. The legislation criminalizes secession, subversion, terrorism, and collusion with foreign powers. People convicted of such crimes can face sentences of up to life in prison.
This move has also sparked international condemnation. The British government said Wednesday it would offer a path to citizenship for eligible Hong Kong residents, calling the new law a threat to the city’s freedom.