'Hong Kong people will fight on,' councillor says after national security law arrests
New law imposed by China to quell pro-democracy protests forbids secessionist or subversive activities
It's become much more dangerous to advocate for democracy and independence in Hong Kong — but Coun. Lo Kin-hei says people won't give up fighting for their rights.
Police in Hong Kong say at least 10 people have been arrested so far under the new national security law imposed by China in response to last year's pro-democracy protests in the semi-autonomous region.
The law makes secessionist, subversive or terrorist activities illegal, as well as foreign intervention in the region's internal affairs, and allows China to set up its own national security agency in Hong Kong.
Among those arrested were a man with a Hong Kong independence flag and a woman holding a sign displaying the British flag and calling for Hong Kong's independence. Others were detained for possessing items advocating independence.
The law came into effect late Tuesday. The following day, thousands took to the streets to protest it and commemorate the 23rd anniversary of the handover — when Britain transferred sovereignty of Hong Kong to China in 1997 under the condition that the region would maintain a degree of political independence. More than 300 protesters were arrested for other offences, such as unlawful gathering.
Lo, a district councillor in Hong Kong and vice-chair of the Democratic Party of Hong Kong, spoke to As It Happens guest host Duncan McCue on Wednesday. Here is part of their conversation.
The text of this law, it was just released last night. You've had a chance to read it now. What parts concern you?
First of all, that there is a mechanism for ... the country and for the government to actually put ... the arrestee to the jurisdiction of China. And this is something very alarming because, you know, in China, the legal system is totally different than in Hong Kong.
That kind of so-called mechanism, the conditions they set, is very vague, and they can easily interpret it and make it very easy for people to be extradited to China and to be pursued under the Chinese legal system.
I think the other thing that is alarming is the setup of [China's] national security agency in Hong Kong.... Although it's said they have to follow the laws of Hong Kong ... apparently the Hong Kong police or the Hong Kong government can do nothing about it. They can't arrest them. They can't check them.
And that new security office that Beijing is setting up in Hong Kong will have its own law enforcement personnel as well. Given all of this, what was the atmosphere in Hong Kong like today as people took to the streets?
I think most of the people on the street, they want to be there. They want to show the world that we're not giving up. But you can see from their faces and you can see from their actions that everybody is taking it cautious.
The Chinese government says this law was created in response to those massive protests in Hong Kong last year. How is it meant to address some of what played out there?
They basically categorize all kinds of things that happened last year in the protests as some kind of terrorist activities.
For example, some vandalizing the traffic lights ... it can be categorized as terrorist activities. Vandalizing some public transport, it can be categorized as terrorist activities. And it will give you at least three years of imprisonment.
They want to rule by fear. They want to make sure that Hong Kong people are fearful and to be frightened and not to be able to express [themselves] so freely like in the past.
As you suggested, the law says that it could be punishable with a minimum sentence of three years, a maximum being life. Canada and other countries have signed a joint statement raising their "deep and growing concerns at the imposition of legislation" and are urging the government to reconsider this law. Apparently, the law could also affect foreigners. How could that happen?
It allows the government to arrest and prosecute anybody who did something that's so-called violating that law, even though he is not a Chinese citizen or a Hong Kong resident and he is doing that in other countries.
If somebody who tried to sanction China or they try to make sure that China is not going to crush Hong Kong, they are against the law, and if they set their foot in Hong Kong, they can be arrested.
Of course, we don't know how that will [be implemented] and how [forcefully] the Chinese or Hong Kong government would do that. But I think, theoretically, if President Donald Trump or Speaker Nancy Pelosi of the United States, if they set foot in Hong Kong, they can be arrested under that law.
China isn't backing down on this. So what is the new law going to mean for Hong Kong going forward?
I believe that [the Chinese government] will use it and prosecute somebody in Hong Kong to make sure that they can satisfy the nationalism that they provoked about Hong Kong, because they use Hong Kong to provoke the nationalism in mainland China.
It will be a long-term struggle for Hong Kong people. The time will be hard. But I believe the Hong Kong people will [continue] to have that kind of a spirit of defiance and a spirit to fight for Hong Kong's human rights and freedom and for all rule of law.
Last year there were so many protests about democracy in Hong Kong. What does this law mean for that continued struggle and fight for democracy?
Even though we are facing [a] much higher chance to pay that price, I still believe Hong Kong people will keep on to fight for Hong Kong's best interests.
Just two months ago, if I have an international interview, I'll be very free to say whatever I want to say. But nowadays ... I believe Hong Kong people being interviewed will be extra cautious because we don't know how the Chinese government will define so-called colluding with foreign forces.
So it is hard and it is more difficult, but I think Hong Kong people will fight on.
Mr. Lo, how worried are you that this interview could be grounds for arrest?
I'm not sure because, of course, I believe what I said is not violating the law. But according to [the] Chinese legal system, you don't really know what exactly can put you under certain kinds of law.
Written by Sheena Goodyear with files from The Associated Press. Interview produced by Morgan Passi. Edited for length and clarity.