Thousands of Hong Kongers took to the streets yesterday, testing the new and controversial national security law that took effect late on Tuesday night. The law was passed by China's Parliament, following a year of sometimes violent anti-government protests in Hong Kong that threatened the semi-autonomous city's stability and economic well-being. China also saw the protests as being instigated by foreign forces seeking to use the financial hub as a base to subvert the mainland. Hence the law prohibits acts of secession, subversion and terrorism as well as collusion with foreign forces to endanger national security. Such acts are punishable by a minimum sentence of three years and a maximum of life imprisonment. A special office, independent of Hong Kong's government, is to be set up in the city to investigate cases and suspects may be extradited to China for trial.
The new law is seen by some Hong Kongers and Western nations alike as draconian, infringing on rights and freedoms, and eroding the high level of autonomy guaranteed by the "one country, two systems" principle. China argues that the law will strengthen "one country, two systems" - although a Chinese official in charge of Hong Kong affairs admitted in Beijing yesterday that it would bring the city closer towards "one country".