[Photo story] Hong Kong national security law: A different birthday for Hong Kong

Hong Kong returned to China 23 years ago today. Little would it have known then that as it marks this milestone today, a contentious national security law that punishes crimes of terrorism, secession, subversion and collusion with foreign forces with sentences as long as life imprisonment has just been passed. With the law in effect, the city has already made its first arrests. ThinkChina brings you on a photo journey through a Hong Kong that will never quite be the same again.
A man wearing a protective mask walks by the waterfront as a barge sails past with a message celebrating the passage of the new national security law in Hong Kong, China, 1 July 2020. (Roy Liu/Bloomberg)
A man wearing a protective mask walks by the waterfront as a barge sails past with a message celebrating the passage of the new national security law in Hong Kong, China, 1 July 2020. (Roy Liu/Bloomberg)

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 

An employee proofreads a copy of the Apple Daily newspaper, published by Next Media, at the company's printing facility in Hong Kong, early on Wednesday, July 1, 2020. The headline reads: Birth of evil law, death of two systems. Photographer: Lam Yik/Bloomberg
An employee proofreads a copy of the Apple Daily newspaper, published by Next Media, at the company's printing facility in Hong Kong, early on 1 July 2020. The headline reads: "Birth of Evil Law, Death of Two Systems." (Lam Yik/Bloomberg)
A stallholder reads a copy of the Ta Kung Pao newspaper showing a report on the passage of the new national security law in Hong Kong. The headline reads: The magic ballast -- National security law for Hong Kong implemented. Photographer: Paul Yeung/Bloomberg
A stallholder reads a copy of the Ta Kung Pao newspaper showing a report on the passage of the new national security law in Hong Kong. The headline reads: "The Magic Ballast — National Security Law for Hong Kong Implemented." (Paul Yeung/Bloomberg)
A barge with banners that read “Celebrate the National Security Law” sails in Victoria Harbour. (Photo by Anthony WALLACE / AFP)
A barge with a banner reading “Celebrate the National Security Law” sails into Victoria Harbour. (Anthony Wallace/AFP)
An employee scrapes off stickers and posters with messages in support of the pro-democracy movement from a wall outside a restaurant in Hong Kong. Photographer: Lam Yik/Bloomberg
An employee scrapes off stickers and posters with messages supporting the pro-democracy movement from a wall outside a restaurant in Hong Kong. (Lam Yik/Bloomberg)
The remnants of a sign reading "Hong Kong people enjoy a high degree of freedom" sits on a wall as messages in support of the pro-democracy movement are scraped. Photographer: Lam Yik/Bloomberg
A sign reading "Hong Kong People Enjoy a High Degree of Freedom" is still visible behind messages supporting the pro-democracy movement that have been scraped off. (Lam Yik/Bloomberg)
Over in Shenzhen, a child introduces the Hong Kong flag to her classmates at a kindergarten, ahead of Hong Kong's handover anniversary on July 1. (Photo by STR / AFP) 
Over in Shenzhen, a child introduces the Hong Kong flag to her classmates at a kindergarten, ahead of Hong Kong's handover anniversary on 1 July. (STR/AFP) 

The ceremony 

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.

A Hong Kong Police Force Guard of Honor raises the flags of China, front, and the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) during a ceremony to mark the 23rd anniversary of Hong Kong's return to Chinese rule in Hong Kong, China, 1 July 2020. (Roy Liu/Bloomberg)
A Hong Kong Police Force Guard of Honor raises the flags of China. (Roy Liu/Bloomberg)
Members of a brass band prepare to perform at a ceremony to mark the 23rd anniversary of Hong Kong's return to Chinese rule in Hong Kong, China, on 1 July 2020. (Paul Yeung/Bloomberg)
Members of a brass band prepare to perform at a ceremony to mark the 23rd anniversary of Hong Kong's return to Chinese rule in Hong Kong on 1 July 2020. (Paul Yeung/Bloomberg)

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.

Carrie Lam, Hong Kong's chief executive, speaks during a ceremony to mark the 23rd anniversary of Hong Kong's return to Chinese rule in Hong Kong, China, on 1 July 2020. (Paul Yeung/Bloomberg)
Carrie Lam, Hong Kong's chief executive, speaks during a ceremony to mark the 23rd anniversary of Hong Kong's return to Chinese rule in Hong Kong, China, on 1 July 2020. (Paul Yeung/Bloomberg)

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 Xiaoming, executive deputy director of the Hong Kong and Macao Affairs office of the State Council, speaks to journalists at the end of a press conference about the new Hong Kong national security law in Beijing on 1 July 2020. (Greg Baker/AFP)
Zhang Xiaoming, executive deputy director of the Hong Kong and Macao Affairs office of the State Council, speaks to journalists at the end of a press conference about the new Hong Kong national security law in Beijing on 1 July 2020. (Greg Baker/AFP)

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." 

The march 

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.

Pro-democracy protesters march during a demonstration near a flag-raising ceremony on the anniversary of Hong Kong's handover to China. REUTERS/Tyrone Siu
Pro-democracy protesters march during a demonstration near a flag-raising ceremony on the anniversary of Hong Kong's handover to China. (Tyrone Siu/Reuters)
Police search a pro-democracy protester during a demonstration on the anniversary of Hong Kong's handover to China in Hong Kong. REUTERS/Tyrone Siu
Police search a pro-democracy protester during a demonstration on the anniversary of Hong Kong's handover to China in Hong Kong. (Tyrone Siu/Reuters)

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.

Riot police use water cannon to disperse anti-national security law protesters. REUTERS/Tyrone Siu
Riot police use water cannon to disperse anti-national security law protesters. (Tyrone Siu/Reuters)
Riot police detain a man as they clear protesters taking part in a rally against a new national security law in Hong Kong on 1 July 2020. (Dale De La Rey/AFP)
Riot police detain a man as they clear protesters taking part in a rally against a new national security law in Hong Kong on 1 July 2020. (Dale De La Rey/AFP)
A motorist is enveloped in smoke after riot police deployed flash bangs to clear protesters from a road during a rally against a new national security law in Hong Kong on 1 July 2020. (Dale De La Rey/AFP)
A motorist is enveloped in smoke after riot police deployed tear gas to clear protesters from a road during a rally against a new national security law in Hong Kong on 1 July 2020. (Dale De La Rey/AFP)

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.

Chen Ming-tong and Katharine Chang, chairwoman of Taiwan–Hong Kong Economic and Cultural Co-operation Council, attend the opening of the Taiwan-Hong Kong Services and Exchanges Office in Taipei on July 1, 2020. REUTERS/Ann Wang
Chen Ming-tong and Katharine Chang, chairwoman of Taiwan–Hong Kong Economic and Cultural Co-operation Council, attend the opening of the Taiwan-Hong Kong Services and Exchanges Office in Taipei on 1 July 2020. (Ann Wang/Reuters)

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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