The controversial “security law” has been in force in Hong Kong for a good three weeks. It becomes clear that China’s communist leadership has already changed the actually autonomous special administrative region noticeably.
By Steffen Wurzel, ARD Studio Shanghai
Shop owner Dickson would never have thought that it would happen so quickly that his hometown of Hong Kong would change so quickly in view of the Chinese “security law”. The early 30-year-old stands in his iced tea shop in Hong Kong’s Tsim Sha Tsui district and describes how things looked completely different in his shop three weeks ago.
“Since July 1st, there have been no more critical slogans to be seen. On that day we left everything behind.”
What Dickson, who doesn’t want to give his last name, means: Since the Hong Kong mass protests began a year ago, hundreds of post-it notes have been hanging in his tea shop, on the walls and in the shop window. The sticky notes were labeled by customers and by passers-by passing by. They immortalized themselves with little thoughts, drawings or slogans on the political situation in Hong Kong. Most slogans were critical of the government and China. He admits that Dickson and his team have now removed the notes: Yes, that is a typical case of self-censorship.
“But honestly, if we hadn’t left the notes behind, the Hong Kong police could have applied the new National Security Law to us and taken us away with the prospect of arrest, trial and punishment.”
The fear is not unjustified
Like tea shop owner Dickson, thousands of Hong Kong shops and restaurants redesigned in early July. Critical posters, slogans and appropriately printed items of clothing were blown out. A look at the police statistics shows that the fear of the obviously deliberately spongy Chinese law is not unfounded: Since the beginning of July, at least ten women and men have been charged in the special administrative region with the so-called security law, in part only because of the display of a banner, promoting Hong Kong’s independence from China. Those affected have to face long prison terms.
The work of the media in Hong Kong has also changed. Both domestic and foreign journalists have to face fines if they report critically about China’s state and party leadership, warns the organization “Reporters Without Borders”. Where exactly the “red lines” run is also unclear here, says Keith Richburg, head of the faculty of journalism at the University of Hong Kong.
Finding out where the new red lines run without crossing them is now one of the biggest challenges for media professionals in the financial metropolis, Richburg said at an event hosted by the Hong Kong Foreign Press Club on July 7.
Hong Kong’s head of government continues to defend the law
The head of government appointed by China’s Communist leadership, Carrie Lam, continues to fully defend the new “security law”. She wants to change the fact that, above all, many young people reject the growing influence of the Chinese state and party leadership on Hong Kong through school lessons and curricula.
Schoolchildren should learn more about the People’s Republic of China’s constitution, Hong Kong head of government said at an education conference in mid-July. She also asked her education minister to focus more on the slander of the national anthem and the new security law in class.
Meanwhile, from mainland China, China’s state and party leadership continues to spread lies about the situation in Hong Kong. So she continues to call everyone who campaigns for freedom rights and more democracy in the autonomously governed city, troublemakers, rioters or separatists. Tea shop owner Dickson is not impressed.
“The political atmosphere in Hong Kong has been depressing since the law came into force. But: Darkness will come back at some point. I encourage everyone in Hong Kong to continue to improve.”