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Defiance and fear as Hong Kong settles into new normal after China-backed law takes hold. If Beijing thought a new national security law would guarantee a quiet birthday for Hong Kong, it was mistaken.
As the city marked 23 years of Chinese rule Wednesday, and less than 24 hours under the new reality of the national security law — which criminalizes secession, subversion, terrorism, and collusion with foreign forces — thousands of people defied a police ban to take to the streets.
While they were nowhere near the size of previous July 1 protests, there was disruption and disorder in at least four districts, tying up thousands of police officers and causing traffic chaos. Police said around 370 people were arrested Wednesday, including 10 people under the new national security law.
In a statement, a Hong Kong government spokesman said that “some people possessed and waved flags and printed materials containing the words of ‘Hong Kong independence,’ and chanted slogans of ‘Hong Kong independence’.”
“These people are suspected of inciting or abetting others to commit secession,” the spokesman said. Such a charge could carry a term of life imprisonment, and a minimum 10 years behind bars for principal offenders, or three years for those who “actively participate” in the offense. One of those arrested was a 15-year-old girl.
What happens to those 10 people arrested could define how the law is applied in Hong Kong, and the degree of chilling effect or repercussions it has on wider society. Will prosecutors seek the harshest punishments, or even transfer the cases to Chinese jurisdiction, as permitted under the law? And what legal challenges will the law face as the cases wind their way through court?