1 July 2020 will go down in history as a memorable day for the people of Hong Kong. Not only does it mark the 23rd anniversary of Hong Kong’s return to China, it is also the day after the national security law for Hong Kong was passed unanimously at the 20th session of the Standing Committee of the 13th National People's Congress on 30 June at 11pm.
While officials of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) celebrated the return with ceremonies, parades and songs, pro-democracy activists and their supporters continued to take to the streets for the annual handover anniversary march and to protest against the implementation of the law. The authorities had earlier barred the rally and march, citing a ban on gatherings of more than 50 people in a bid to curb coronavirus. Local media reported that up to 4,000 police officers would be deployed to stamp out any protests. Amid the chaos, a first arrest was made under the national security law.
"A man was arrested for holding a #HKIndependence flag in #CausewayBay, Hong Kong, violating the #NationalSecurityLaw," the Hong Kong police tweeted, sharing a picture of the arrested man and the flag.
The Western world has reacted strongly to the passing of the law, while across the strait, Taiwan opened a new office in Taipei to assist Hong Kongers wanting to move to the island.
The first morning
At 8am, the flags of China and the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) were raised and the national anthem was played at a ceremony at the Golden Bauhinia Square in Hong Kong.
Speaking at a reception following the flag-raising ceremony, HKSAR Chief Executive Carrie Lam said that the law is “an inevitable and prompt decision to restore stability in the society”.
“This legislation is considered the most important development in the relationship between the central and Hong Kong governments since the handover, and is a historic step in improving the mechanisms to safeguard the country’s sovereignty, territorial integrity and security,” she said.
The media briefing
According to a Bloomberg report, Zhang Xiaoming, deputy director of the Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office, called the legislation a “sword of Damocles” at a briefing held by the State Council Information Office in Beijing that lasted nearly two and a half hours. “The law is a ‘sword of Damocles’ hanging above extremely few criminals who are severely endangering national security,” he said.
Zhang added that he believes the law will deter foreign forces who try to interfere with Hong Kong affairs, and will be a turning point to put Hong Kong back on its track.
Zhang also told reporters that the law "is a birthday gift to [Hong Kong] and will show its precious value in the future", said a Reuters report. He added that the law would not be applied retroactively, and the mainland's national security office in Hong Kong could exercise jurisdiction over "complex" or "serious" cases of offence.
In response to Western governments' criticisms of the law, Zhang is quoted by AFP to have said, “What's this got to do with you?" He then added, "It's none of your business."
Demonstrators gathered in Causeway Bay today and tried marching toward Admiralty — the neighbourhood home to the city’s legislature and central government offices that saw some of last year’s biggest protests — but were stopped after police blocked the road.
There was a heavy police presence in the area. Officers also fired water cannon and tear gas at demonstrators to break up the protest.
More than 180 people have been arrested today, including some suspected of violating the national security law.
Across the strait, Taiwan opened a new office to assist Hong Kongers wanting to move to the island. According to an AFP report, around 5,000 Hong Kongers moved to Taiwan last year amid massive anti-government protests.
Taiwan's government said it would cover "necessary expenses" for those who come to the island for political reasons because their freedom and safety are under threat. Such applications would be considered on a case-by-case basis.
Chen Ming-tong, head of Taiwan's China-policy making Mainland Affairs Council said that the new office is "not a rescue" project and would also deal with requests from Hong Kongers seeking to study or work and companies looking to invest in Taiwan.
The tribute to mark the day
The following tribute is penned by Hong Kong columnist Chip Tsao to mark the transition from 30 June to 1 July:
Today is 30 June 2020. Some say it is truly Hong Kong's last day.
But I believe that Hong Kong's fate is determined by the Hong Kongers themselves. If you give up, Hong Kong ends. If you persevere, Hong Kong lives on.
But when the situation changes, you have to change as well. Because the meaning of "change" is very rich. Do you still remember the "be water" philosophy from a year ago?
To "be water" is to change in some aspects but remain unchanging in others. Its chemical structure of two hydrogen atoms and an oxygen atom remains unchanged, but as the season changes from one to another, its form can change — from liquid, to solid, and then to gas — and should change.
Water is space, paths, and life. Once we understand this, we would know that Hong Kong does not have a deadline — the year 1997 was not its deadline, and the year 2020 should not be its deadline as well. The year 2047 in the future would not be its deadline either.
Take a look at the current interdependent world. No matter who stays, or who temporarily leaves, it is a bright and wide world out there. As long as people stay, the heart remains, and justice endures. Even if people leave, they will come back someday.
We only part to meet again. The best we can do is to remain calm while helping others without claiming credit — just like water that brings life but does not compete. Tomorrow is just another day. Hong Kong is not dead. As long as you live, the heart and soul find their homes even from the furthest corners of the earth.
This photo story is put together by ThinkChina with reports from Reuters, Bloomberg and AFP.
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