china

Hong Kong protests: collusion with foreign forces has dropped since national security law adopted, security chief says

John Lee points to police intelligence showing protesters were highly organised in communication and division of labour
Beijing will be less likely to take over exceptional cases given work of force’s dedicated unit, he says
Some people who had colluded with external force have quit the movement, security chief John Lee says. Photo: May Tse
Some people who had colluded with external force have quit the movement, security chief John Lee says. Photo: May Tse

The level of collusion with external forces and foreign interference in Hong Kong has dropped since the national security law took effect in late June, according to security minister John Lee Ka-chiu.

Lee said he was confident that given the efforts of the police unit dedicated to handling national security cases, the likelihood of Beijing taking over exceptional ones would decrease.

“We hope violent activities will decrease significantly,” the secretary for security said during a television interview set to air on Friday night. “Of course, we must keep up our vigilance as external forces are still operating in Hong Kong.”The government, including Lee, maintains that external forces were involved in the social unrest that erupted in June last year. The minister, who served as deputy police commissioner from 2010 to 2012, said intelligence the force had gathered showed violent protesters were highly organised in their communication and division of labour.

“These were not protests and demonstrations which involved ordinary people,” he said.The initially peaceful marches against the now-withdrawn extradition bill morphed into a broader anti-government movement focused on political reform and police conduct. The controversial legislation would have allowed for the transfer of fugitives to mainland China and other jurisdictions with which Hong Kong lacks a formal agreement. Rallies often descended into violent clashes between radical protesters and officers that continued through the year.Lee told thePostin June that interference by the United States and Taiwan had fanned the flames of the protests and played a role in the evolution of the anti-government movement.

The minister said during the television interview the new law had helped safeguard national security.

“Collusion with external forces and foreign interference in the city has been on the wane since the national security law came into force,” he said. “Some people who previously colluded with external force have quit the movement or disbanded their organisations. Some of these people have left Hong Kong.”

The opposition Demosisto group broke up just hours before the Beijing-decreed law took effect on June 30, along with a few other groups with pro-independence leanings. Days later, prominent activist Nathan Law Kwun-chung, a former Demosisto chairman, revealed he had left the city for Britain.The sweeping national security law tailor-made for Hong Kong outlaws acts of secession, subversion, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces, charges that carry a maximum penalty of life imprisonment.

But legal scholars and opposition politicians have warned the law, with its vaguely defined offences and broad powers for police and mainland Chinese agents, posed a threat to freedom in the city and undermined the “one country, two systems”

Beijing can exercise jurisdiction over “complicated” cases such as ones relating to foreign interference, or when local authorities cannot enforce the new law effectively or the nation’s security is under major threat. Lee said he was confident that given the efforts of the dedicated police unit, the likelihood of Beijing taking over exceptional cases would decrease.

On July 1, the anniversary of the city’s handover from British to Chinese rule in 1997, only 2,000 to 3,000 people caused “trouble”, compared with more than 10,000 who took to the streets in the past, he said.

SOURCE SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST

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