Hong Kong pro-democracy protesters have reacted to the passing of the national security law, vowing to protest during Wednesday’s Handover anniversary in spite of a police ban.

China’s rubber-stamp parliament National People’s Congress unanimously passed the controversial legislation on Tuesday morning, a day before the 23rd anniversary of the city’s handover from Britain.

HKCC. Photo: Rhoda Kwan/HKFP

The police force have banned the annual July 1 pro-democracy march for the first time in 17 years citing violence during previous rallies and public health concerns amid Covid-19. Organisers, the Civil Human Rights Front, appeared in court on Tuesday to appeal the ban.

CHRF convener Figo Chan told the press that they insisted the march should take place even in case of an unfavourable judgement: “We wish to bring a message of solidarity by collaborating with various councillors from different camps. Citizens must come out on July 1,” he said. He said that pro-democracy lawmakers Eddie Chu, Wu Chi-wai and several activists will co-organise a demonstration if the ban on the Front’s event is upheld.

Police barriers surrounding LegCo building. Photo: Rhoda Kwan/HKFP

The march is scheduled to take place on July 1 at 2pm from East Point Road in Causeway Bay to Chater Road in Central following a government Establishment Day ceremony and flag-raising event at 8am.

RTHK cited a source as saying that the police force will deploy three to four thousand officers from all six police regions in view of potential clashes.

Lunchtime demo

Last month, Beijing unveiled the plan to insert the national security law into Hong Kong’s mini-constitution, bypassing the local legislature. The state-run Xinhua News Agency previously revealed wording which detailed the criminalisation of acts of subversion, secession, foreign interference and terrorism – all deemed to be a threat to national security.

Critics and pro-democracy activists have said the law will put an end to One Country, Two Systems principles and Hong Kong’s promised autonomy.

On Tuesday, hours after the law passed in Beijing, police cracked down on a recurrent lunchtime demonstration in Central. A group of demonstrators gathered at the Landmark shopping mall to chant pro-democracy slogans and urged the public to take to the streets in opposition to the security law. Dozens of police officers entered the mall to seal off parts of the atrium area and conducted stop-and-search.

Int’l sanctions plea

Following the passage of the law, a group of district councillors, activist groups and international politicians issued a statement appealing to the international community to sanction China owing to alleged infringements of freedom and human rights in the city.

Police barriers near Legco. Photo: Rhoda Kwan/HKFP

“As a principled and coordinated response to the erosion of Hong Kong’s autonomy and freedoms, we call on countries to introduce Magnitsky-style targeted sanctions against Chinese and Hong Kong officials, individuals, and organisations who are complicit in human rights abuses, erosion of freedom, and undermining of the rule of law in Hong Kong,” it read.

“We also urge countries to utilize existing international mechanisms to keep China’s actions in check, such as filing a case before the International Court of Justice on the basis that China’s repeated violations of the Sino-British Joint Declaration and the ICCPR, and asking the UN to appoint a Special Envoy and/or Special Rapporteur on the situation of Hong Kong.”

Police barriers on Legislative Council Road. Photo: Rhoda Kwan/HKFP

“The destruction of Hong Kong’s autonomy must be addressed urgently alongside other atrocities such as the mass internment of Uyghurs. China must not be allowed to crack down on dissent and deflect international criticism on its treatment of Hong Kong, by definition an international issue, under the thinly veiled pretext of ‘national security’ concerns nor by calling it internal affairs and presuming that they are immune from international scrutiny.”

‘Take back the city’

Meanwhile, on Hong Kong’s Reddit-like LIHKG online forum, netizens called for protests on July 1 protests and celebrated an earlier decision by the US to revoke Hong Kong’s special trade status. Netizens said that the national security law fuelled protesters’ determination to “take back” the city.

Love going home to make love” – LIHKG user

The passage of the national security law has completely demolished the systems and establishments built in Hong Kong over a hundred years. Any other country, especially the UK and the US, now have no excuse to turn a blind eye. Hong Kong has entered the stage of mutual destruction. No one can stand aloof. There is no way back.

History nerd – rouge” – LIHKG user

Fear became the ultimate tool of this government… Why do we think we can stay away from it?… The situation may seem hostile, but it proves the success of the threats we make against the Hong Kong government, Beijing and China – and we should celebrate this. We have burst our bubbles – all fantasies – that we held about the Hong Kong SAR government, the Basic Law and One Country Two Systems. From now on, we are ready for the battle to overthrow the government…

Piatek” – LIHKG user

China is a political regime that deployed tanks to crush students. Why does anyone expect any leniency? They have always gone all out.

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Rachel Wong

Rachel Wong previously worked as a documentary producer and academic researcher. She has a BA in Comparative Literature and European Studies from the University of Hong Kong. She has contributed to A City Made by People and The Funambulist, and has an interest in cultural journalism and gender issues.