According to Communist Party-controlled media reports, the law is expected to criminalize acts such as secession, subversion against the central Chinese government, terrorism and quarrels with foreign powers. But hours after the report, the details remain unclear, encompassing a particularly opaque process that analysts and activists have speculated about.
Speaking at Sunday’s news conference on Tuesday morning, Mayor Carrie Lam initially declined to answer questions from the law, saying it was “inappropriate for me to comment”. Hours later, she defended this in a video speech to the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva, saying she would restore stability and prosperity to Hong Kong.
Its administration appears to have been almost completely thrown out of the process – but that did not stop them from predicting that the law would affect only a small minority of individuals in the city and would not harm political freedoms and judicial autonomy.
In a statement last week, Lam said the legislation would be “in line with the rule of law” and “the rights and freedoms applicable in Hong Kong”.
Such a conversation could be illegal under the new law, if it follows the model of similar legislation in China as expected. Wong, Law and Chow have also been heavily involved in lobbying the international community for pressure on Beijing over Hong Kong, which many expect to be classified as “conflicts with foreign powers”.
Two other political parties, Hong Kong’s National Front and Studentlocalism, have also said they will stop working in the city, although both groups – which fence the independence parties – have said they will continue to work abroad.
Some independence figures are known to have left Hong Kong in recent months, fearing arrests in connection with last year’s often violent anti-government protests or an upcoming law. On Sunday, Wayne Chan, a congressman of Hong Kong’s independence allies, confirmed he had jumped bail and left the city. He faced charges related to the protests.
While pro-government groups and politicians welcomed the passage of the law – former leader C.Y. Leung offered adultery for future prosecutions – there was great frustration among many Hong Kongers over the constant lack of detail and the feeling that he was almost in limbs, knowing that the law had been passed, but not what it meant.
In a letter to the city administration on Monday, Hong Kong Bar Association President Philip Dykes said the secrecy of the law was “truly extraordinary” and called on the government to clarify how minimum citizens ’rights would be guaranteed.
Such uncertainty is likely to persist beyond Tuesday night, when the bill is finally expected to be published and published. No matter how the acts are described or the penalties are prescribed, many will watch as the police and prosecutors enforce them.
The key test will come on Wednesday, when Hong Kong marks the 23rd anniversary of the city’s surrender to Chinese rule. The day traditionally takes place as an anti-government march through the city, but the protest is banned this year.
Organizers say they will move forward anyway. Yet how many people join them and for what offenses – if any – these people are thought to have committed if they do, remains to be seen.