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China’s devoted, combative celebrity fan clubs

“THE UNTAMED”, a costume martial-arts drama, is one of the most-watched television series in China. Since its online release last year it has been viewed 8bn times. Its heart-throb star, Xiao Zhan (pictured), has gained a legion of fans. In October so many of them crowded an airport in Beijing to see him that they delayed a flight.

In February Mr Xiao’s devotees flooded the internet with complaints about a website hosting raunchy fiction about him. The government shut it down. In May a video went viral of a classroom full of primary-school students chanting: “Brother Xiao Zhan, you are very good!” The teacher who filmed them was suspended.

Mr Xiao’s millions of admirers belong to what are known in Chinese as fanquan, or “meal circles” (because the word for meal sounds like the English word “fan”). These are passionate and sometimes combative online groups devoted to particular celebrities. The Chinese government has long demanded patriotism and good behaviour from stars, but it has placed few limits on fans. On the internet, where debate and organising are usually tightly controlled, fanquan enjoy rare freedom to do both.

But as fanquan have grown, so too has official scrutiny of them. State media have criticised their “irrational” behaviour. Aviation authorities have pleaded with them not to stalk stars at airports. (Some fans buy information about their idol’s movements.) In May a member of China’s rubber-stamp parliament called on the government to “strictly rectify” fanquan because of the threat they posed to the “inheritance of red culture”. Mr Xiao, who is 28, has asked his fans to calm down. “I hope everyone puts their studies, work and life before chasing stars,” he said.

Members of fanquan are mainly women in their 20s. Some teenagers join the fun, too. A government report shows that 12.8m internet users under 18 frequently engaged in “fan-support” activities. These include posting praise, attacking critics and insulting devotees of other stars. After Mr Xiao’s fans turned their guns on the sexually provocative fiction website, the site’s supporters boycotted brands he represented and filled their social-media pages with furious abuse. Among defamation cases that were heard by the Beijing Internet Court between January and November last year, nearly 12% were filed by celebrities, often against fans of rival stars.

Fandom also entails spending. Nearly 15% of fans born since 2000 lavish at least 5,000 yuan ($707) on their favourite stars each month—about 40% more than the average urban disposable income. Sometimes they crowdfund shows of affection, such as adulatory billboards in New York’s Times Square. More often they help celebrities ascend online charts. Take Mr Xiao’s latest single—he is also a singer— “Spot of Light”. In the first 48 hours after its release, it notched more than 25m downloads, a record. His fans reportedly helped by buying an average of nearly 66 copies each.

Despite the unruliness of fanquan, the government may see occasional benefit in their ability to organise. After Wuhan, the city where covid-19 cases first soared, went into lockdown on January 23rd, fanquan raised and helped to distribute more than 7.4m yuan in relief money within about ten days. Last year, during pro-democracy unrest in Hong Kong, the mainland’s state media urged fanquan to praise “brother China” against critics abroad. They duly complied, and launched tirades against the protesters. The Communist Youth League called it #thefangirlscrusade.

But the fanquan are not always biddable. This year the League tried in vain to encourage their members to praise animated idols named after Mao Zedong’s writings. The idea was scrapped within hours.

This article appeared in the China section of the print edition under the headline “Star wars”

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A new national-security bill to intimidate Hong Kong

A SENIOR CHINESE official called it a “birthday gift” for Hong Kong. It was a chilling choice of words for the biggest blow to the territory’s freedoms since Britain handed it back to China in 1997. Close to midnight on June 30th, on the eve of official celebrations of the handover’s anniversary, China imposed a draconian national-security bill on Hong Kong. It gives the government in Beijing sweeping power to crush dissent in the territory using its own secret police and even its own courts.

The new law relates to crimes involving secession, subversion, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces. Hong Kong’s post-handover constitution, the Basic Law, had required the territory to pass its own legislation concerning such offences. But local opposition had stymied the government’s efforts to do so. Unrest during the past year, which Chinese officials call an attempted “colour revolution”, caused the Communist Party to lose patience. In May it announced it would do the job itself.

The law was drafted in secret by legislators in Beijing—not even Hong Kong’s government was shown its contents until it was passed by China’s rubber-stamp parliament. Mercifully, it cannot be used to charge people for things they did before June 30th, or so officials say. But otherwise it is even more intimidating than most people in Hong Kong had expected.

The bill could result in far more serious charges being laid against protesters should they engage in activities that were common during the recent upheaval. Vandalising public transport could now be treated as terrorism. Breaking into the legislature or throwing eggs at the central government’s liaison office, as demonstrators did last year, could be considered subversive. Calling for Hong Kong’s independence, as some protesters have, could invoke a charge of secession. Encouraging foreign countries to impose sanctions on China could result in prosecution for collusion. The maximum sentence for all four of these categories of crime is life in prison.

To oversee the clampdown, the central government will open a new “Office for Safeguarding National Security”. It will be the first open operation in Hong Kong involving the mainland’s civilian security forces. A separate policymaking “Committee for Safeguarding National Security” will also be set up, led by the territory’s chief executive, Carrie Lam. It will include an “adviser” appointed by the central government. Trials involving the new law will be presided over by judges hand-picked by the government. The justice secretary may allow them to dispense with juries and hear cases in secret.

Ms Lam said the new law would target only “an extremely small minority of people”. To many Hong Kongers, that is no comfort. In “complex” or “serious” cases the bill allows the mainland’s security agencies to take charge. They will not be subject to Hong Kong law. They may even take suspects to the mainland for trial. There they could face execution.

It is not only the large numbers of young black-clad protesters at the forefront of the recent unrest who need worry. The law could be applied to a wide range of peaceful activity. For example, taking part in anything “unlawful” aimed at undermining China’s communist system could be considered subversive. That could be construed to mean any anti-government rally that goes ahead without police permission. A person who “conspires” with anyone abroad to provoke “hatred” in Hong Kong towards the local or central government could be accused of collusion. The power to interpret these terms will rest with China’s legislature. The law may affect a wide range of other freedoms. It calls for stronger “regulation” of schools, universities, social organisations, the media and the internet.

It will also apply to people abroad. That may mean that if considered suspects in any of these crimes they could face arrest, should they visit Hong Kong. The bill implies that foreign firms in Hong Kong could be punished should they help a country apply sanctions against China. America is mulling some. On July 1st its House of Representatives passed a bill calling for sanctions against banks that do business with Chinese officials deemed responsible for human-rights abuses in Hong Kong. The legislation is likely to be submitted to the Senate in a few days.

Hong Kong is already feeling the chill. Just before the law was passed, Joshua Wong disbanded his party, Demosisto, which had supported self-determination for Hong Kong. “Yellow” cafés favoured by protesters began removing pro-democracy messages from their windows. Some activists closed their Twitter accounts.

Despite a police ban on protests on July 1st, and the risk of breaking the new law, thousands of people still gathered to protest. Elderly women handed out posters saying “Heaven will destroy” the Communist Party. But the number of demonstrators was far smaller than at many of last year’s protests. The police arrested 370 participants. At least ten were accused of violating the security bill, including a man caught with a pro-independence flag.

China will try to make sure that Hong Kong continues to prosper, not least by pumping up its stockmarket. Shut out of American stockmarkets amid Sino-American tensions, Chinese firms are increasingly turning to Hong Kong’s exchange to list. The share index rose by more than 2.8% on July 2nd, the first day of trading after the law was published. But the territory’s political future is bleak. The local government says it has spent $6.29m to retain a public-relations company to help a “Relaunch Hong Kong” campaign. Its choice was Consulum, a firm that has tried to help Saudi Arabia improve its authoritarian image. It will have its work cut out in Hong Kong.

This article appeared in the China section of the print edition under the headline “The evening of its days”

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The West cannot force China to read its interests differently

IN RECENT DAYS, as China prepared to turn Hong Kong into a cowed simulacrum of a world city—a shiny stage-set of modernity, run from the shadows by the mainland’s hard men—Chaguan asked Western envoys in Beijing how their countries might respond. Several chose to hear and answer a different question, namely, how might their government make China change course?

Be realistic, such diplomats sighed. China will impose this national-security law on Hong Kong. What would you have us do? Other well-placed foreigners in China are still more fatalistic about the West’s ability to influence China. That is true whether they are being asked about repression in Hong Kong or about Xinjiang, the far-western region that China has turned into a police state. It is shocking enough that over 1m members of Xinjiang’s mostly Muslim Uighur minority have been locked in re-education camps in recent years, suspected of extremism for praying or even wearing beards. On June 30th the Associated Press reported on an official campaign to force abortions and sterilisations on Uighur women, causing birth rates to plunge 24% in Xinjiang last year. Ask Westerners in Beijing about such painful subjects, and they cite forecasts that in coming years China will account for 30% of global economic growth. In a pandemic-induced recession, when millions of workers are losing their jobs, they reason, what government will sacrifice livelihoods on the altar of Hong Kong’s freedoms or Chinese human rights?

That maximalist framing of the China debate—pretending that any criticism of Chinese actions amounts to a futile call for changing China’s worldview, or even its political system—is in reality a cop-out, a convenient way to rationalise impotence. Chinese officials try a similar trick. They have spent decades accusing the West of plotting regime change, whenever democratic leaders object to any Chinese action. Actually, far from trying to contain China, for 40 years Americans and Europeans ignored endless provocations and broken promises in the hope that as the country grew richer it would open, and be more willing to co-operate on tackling climate change, nuclear non-proliferation or other global public goods.

Now America has a president, Donald Trump, who shows no interest in Chinese repression and scorns global goods, but whose administration does include true China hawks who regard Communist Party rule as inherently immoral. That has led to policies of unprecedented toughness, delivered with never-seen-before incoherence. Mr Trump mostly wants China to buy more American stuff, notably farm goods grown by Trump voters. To prise open Chinese wallets, Mr Trump has imposed punitive tariffs on Chinese goods and allowed hawkish underlings to enact offensive policies aimed at constraining China’s rise. America has banned exports of semiconductors and other sensitive goods to China, and formally declared such technology giants as Huawei to be a threat to national security. Visas for Chinese students and journalists have been limited and sanctions promised on Chinese officials responsible for abuses in Hong Kong and Xinjiang.

Bluster from Trump administration hawks, undercut by a president who cares little for principles, did nothing to slow China’s rush to impose authoritarian rule by law on Hong Kong. Fatalistic Westerners may feel vindicated, muttering that nothing can be done to change China’s ways. But changing China is not the only marker of success. A new paper by François Godemont of the Institut Montaigne in Paris describes Europe and America’s poor record of agreeing on, let alone imposing, policies that force China to do things. Mr Godemont is pitilessly clear-eyed about how China has fobbed Europe off with unkept promises and empty dialogues.

Yet if Europe is bad at offensive moves, it is doing better at defence. No player matters more than Germany. It accounts for almost 43% of the European Union’s exports to China, and is duly wary of confrontation (German officials shun EU language calling China a “systemic rival”). Still, Germany has joined EU institutions, France and others in tightening investment rules to shield covid-battered tech firms from being snapped up. New EU rules on procurement and scientific co-operation stress transparency and the protection of intellectual property. The European Commission is to ask EU countries to approve curbs on foreign subsidies. Such defences against Chinese predations give the EU leverage.

Calling China out for its abuses is a good first step

A second reason to eschew fatalism is that next year America may have a new president, Joe Biden, committed to repairing transatlantic relations. Though Mr Biden spent years engaging with China, as a senator and vice-president, America has changed. Both parties see China as a strategic competitor. Highlighting their differences with Mr Trump, Democrats are keen to challenge autocrats and speak up for political freedoms.

Shared concerns about China could be a catalyst for renewed transatlantic co-operation, argues a new paper, “Dealing with the Dragon, China as a Transatlantic Challenge”, produced by the Asia Society Centre on US-China relations, the Bertelsmann Foundation in Germany and George Washington University. Differences remain. Broadly, Europeans see China’s rise as an economic threat, while Americans see a national-security challenge. Europeans are wary of offensive policies like export controls on high-tech goods. The Trump era has left a legacy of deep distrust. Still, the paper notes, America and Europe would gain by co-ordinating defences. A joint agenda could include sharing intelligence about cyber-security, Chinese investments and technological standard-setting, as well as about tireless Chinese attempts to co-opt or control international organisations, from the UN to the Arctic Council.

China is convinced that its interests are served by iron-fisted repression at home and bullying abroad. The West will not browbeat China into reading its interests differently. But democracies can build joint defences. That is already a worthy goal.

This article appeared in the China section of the print edition under the headline “The great unifier”

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Apple supplier Foxconn, others said to be disrupted by India’s greater scrutiny of imports from China

India’s additional scrutiny of imports from China has disrupted operations at plants owned by Apple supplier Foxconn Technology Group, three sources told Reuters, and other foreign firms are also facing delays as tensions between the two countries build.Customs officers at Indian ports have held back shipments from China and sought additional clearances, following a deadly clash by the two countries’ troops at the disputed Himalayan border last month. The checks have been imposed without any…

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Schroders buys control of Hong Kong’s property manager Pamfleet, in a vote of confidence amid city’s frayed nerves

Schroders, the 216-year old UK-based multinational asset manager, has bought control of a Hong Kong real estate investment manager, in a vote of confidence of the city’s role as a regional hub for financial and professional management services, even as it finds itself caught in the escalating rivalry between the US and China.Schroders has taken over Pamfleet, with 19 properties in Hong Kong, Singapore and China valued at US$1.1 billion under management, according to a press statement that did…

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How a Chinese pharmaceutical firm has leapt to the front of the global race for a vaccine while the pandemic rages on

When a group of Chinese scientists gathered over barbecue and beer in a Toronto backyard a decade ago, talk drifted to their homeland’s vaccines, which had long lagged the developed world on quality and safety. Four of them decided to act.They left top positions at global pharmaceutical companies in Canada to set up a biotechnology firm half a world away in Tianjin, China, hoping to produce vaccines on par with Western countries. Now, that company, CanSino Biologics, is vaulting into the global…

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Hong Kong: US passes sanctions as nations condemn new law

The US House of Representatives has approved new Hong Kong-related sanctions, after Beijing imposed a security law that was condemned by countries around the world.

The measure, which was passed unanimously, penalises banks that do business with Chinese officials.

It will have to be approved by the Senate before going to President Trump.

Critics say China’s law ends freedoms that were guaranteed for 50 years when British rule ended in 1997.

“The law is a brutal, sweeping crackdown against the people of Hong Kong, intended to destroy the freedoms they were promised,” said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the passing of the law was a “clear and serious breach” of the 1985 Sino-British joint declaration.

Under this declaration, Hong Kong was handed back to China in 1997, with certain freedoms guaranteed for at least 50 years under the “one country, two systems” agreement.

The UK has offered residency, and then citizenship, to up to three million Hong Kongers.

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But on Thursday China threatened “corresponding measures” to block the citizenship plan.

“If the British side makes unilateral changes to the relevant practice, it will breach its own position and pledges, as well as international law and basic norms,” said the Chinese Embassy in the UK.

Meanwhile, a 24-year-old man from Hong Kong – suspected of stabbing a police officer during Wednesday’s protests – has been arrested on a plane while trying to flee to London.

The suspect, known only as Mr Wong, was detained on the plane moments before it set off.

China said the security law was necessary to stop the type of protests seen in Hong Kong during much of 2019.

And despite widespread international condemnation from leading powers, more than 50 countries, led by Cuba, supported China at the UN this week.

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What does the US law say?

The Hong Kong Autonomy Act imposes sanctions on banks that do business with Chinese officials who are involved in cracking down on pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong.

Ms Pelosi said the law was an “urgently needed response to [China’s passing] of its so-called ‘national security’ law… which is purpose built to dismantle democratic freedoms in Hong Kong”.

Before the bill was signed, the US had already begun eliminating Hong Kong’s special status – halting defence exports and restricting the territory’s access to high-technology products.

Last year, the US also signed into law the Human Rights and Democracy Act, supporting pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong.

What have other countries said?

The UK said it would offer up to three million Hong Kong residents the chance to settle there and ultimately apply for full British citizenship.

Australia is also “actively considering” offering safe haven to Hong Kong residents – with Prime Minister Scott Morrison saying there were proposals that will “soon be considered by cabinet”.

Meanwhile a senior Taiwanese official said its citizens should now avoid unnecessary transits through or visits to Hong Kong.

Chiu Chui-Cheng, deputy head of Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council, said the new security law was “the most outrageous in history”. Taiwan’s de facto consulate in Hong Kong would continue to operate, he said.

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Japan was among the other countries that spoke out against the law, calling it “regrettable”.

“It will undermine trust for the principle of ‘one country, two systems’,” said Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi.

European Council President Charles Michel said it “deplored” the law, which he said had a “detrimental effect on the independence of the judiciary and rule of law”.

And Canada changed its travel advice to Hong Kong, saying the new law “increased the risk of arbitrary detention on national security grounds and possible extradition to mainland China”.

Yesterday, a senior Chinese official hit back at foreign critics, saying Hong Kong’s affairs were “none of your business”.

Have all countries been critical?

No. At the United Nations this week, Cuba – on behalf of 53 countries – welcomed the law.

Speaking at the 44th session of the United Nations Human Rights Council, it said: “Non-interference in internal affairs of sovereign states is an essential principle enshrined in the Charter of the United Nations.

“We believe every country has the right to safeguard its national security through legislation, and commend relevant steps taken for this purpose.”

How has the new law been used so far?

Just hours after the law was passed, Hong Kong police made their first arrests.

Ten people were accused of violating the new law, including a man with a pro-independence flag. About 360 others were detained at a banned rally.

Under the new law, inciting hatred of China’s central government and Hong Kong’s regional government are offences.

Acts including damaging public transport facilities – which often happened during the 2019 protests – can be considered terrorism.

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Xinjiang: US seizes ‘forced labour’ Chinese hair imports

The US has seized a shipment of human hair products from China, that it says was made by forced labour from children or prisoners.

The products came from Xinjiang in the far west of China – where it’s thought a million Muslims have been detained in “re-education” camps.

“Production of these goods constitutes a very serious human rights violation,” said US customs official Brenda Smith.

China said the “forced labour” accusation was false and malicious.

The US did not say whether the hair itself came from children or prisoners – merely that the products were made by them.

What was seized?

The products were detained by the US Customs and Border Protection at the Port of New York and New Jersey.

The goods came from a company in Xinjiang, which, the agency said, indicated “potential human right abuses of forced child labour and imprisonment”.

The products were part of 13-ton shipment of hair products worth more than $800,000 dollars.

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Last month, the agency issued a “detention order” for all products from the Lop County Meixin Hair Product Company in Xinjiang.

A long-standing US law bans the importation of any products made by “convict labour” overseas.

“The detention order is intended to send a clear and direct message…that illicit and inhumane practices will not be tolerated in US supply chains,” said Ms Smith.

The US embassy in China told Reuters: “The lawful labour rights and interests of the Chinese citizens of all ethnic groups, including those in Xinjiang, are protected by law.”

What else is the US doing about Xinjiang?

In October last year, the US imposed visa restrictions on Chinese officials “believed to be responsible for, or complicit in, the detention or abuse of…Muslim minority groups in Xinjiang”.

The Department of Commerce has warned Americans against doing business with 37 companies in Xinjiang, that it suspects of “forced labour and other human rights abuses”.

And last month, President Trump signed the “Uyghur Human Rights Act” into law, which allows for sanctions and increases US agencies’ reporting on Xinjiang.

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But Mr Trump recently said he held off on stronger sanctions because “we were in the middle of a major trade deal” with China.

“When you’re in the middle of a negotiation and then all of a sudden you start throwing additional sanctions on… we’ve done a lot,” Mr Trump told Axios.

What is the situation in Xinjiang?

China says the detention camps are to counter extremism – but the US, and others, believe more than a million people, almost all Muslims, have been detained without trial.

Last year, the BBC saw leaked documents that showed 15,000 people from southern Xinjiang were sent to the camps in one week alone.

The same documents showed inmates can be released only when they “understand deeply the illegal, criminal and dangerous nature of their past activity”.

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Ben Emmerson QC, a human rights lawyer and adviser to the World Uighur Congress, said the camps were “a mass brainwashing scheme”.

“It’s a total transformation that is designed specifically to wipe the Muslim Uighurs of Xinjiang as a separate cultural group off the face of the Earth,” he said.

A year ago, the BBC found that China was separating Muslim children from their families, faith and language.

In one township alone, more than 400 children lost both parents to internment – either the “re-education” camps or prison.

And earlier this week, a report by a scholar of China said women were being sterilised or fitted with contraceptive devices to limit the Muslim population.

More about the treatment of Muslims in Xinjiang:

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Hong Kong: First arrests under ‘anti-protest’ law as handover marked

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Hong Kong police have made their first arrests under a new “anti-protest” law imposed by Beijing, as crowds marked 23 years since the end of British rule.

Ten people were held accused of violating the law, including a man with a pro-independence flag. About 360 others were detained at a banned rally.

The national security law targets secession, subversion and terrorism with punishments up to life in prison.

Activists say it erodes freedoms but China has dismissed the criticism.

Hong Kong’s sovereignty was handed back to China by Britain in 1997 and certain rights were supposed to be guaranteed for at least 50 years under the “one country, two systems” agreement.

The UK has now said up to three million Hong Kong residents will be offered the chance to settle in the UK and ultimately apply for citizenship.

On Wednesday, thousands gathered for the annual pro-democracy rally to mark the handover anniversary, defying a ban by authorities who cited restrictions on gatherings of more than 50 people because of Covid-19.

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Police used water cannon, tear gas and pepper spray on demonstrators. Seven officers were injured, including one officer who was stabbed in the arm by “rioters holding sharp objects”, police said. The suspects fled and bystanders offered no help, they added.

One of the 10 arrested under the new law, adopted in the wake of last year’s widespread unrest, was holding a “Hong Kong Independence” flag. However, some Twitter users said the picture appeared to show a small “no to” written in front of the slogan. The man has not been identified, and it was not clear whether he would be prosecuted.

The legislation has been condemned by numerous countries and human rights activists.

UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab called the measures a “flagrant assault” on freedoms of speech and protest.

The UK has also updated its travel advice on Hong Kong, saying there is an “increased risk of detention, and deportation for a non-permanent resident”.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said China had broken its promise to Hong Kong’s people.

But in Beijing, foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian urged countries to look at the situation objectively and said China would not allow foreign interference in its domestic affairs.

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What does the new law say?

Crimes of secession, subversion, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces are punishable by a minimum sentence of three years, with the maximum being life. It also says:

  • Damaging public transport facilities – which often happened during the 2019 protests – can be considered terrorism
  • Beijing will establish a new security office in Hong Kong, with its own law enforcement personnel – neither of which would come under the local authority’s jurisdiction
  • Inciting hatred of China’s central government and Hong Kong’s regional government are now offences under Article 29
  • The law can also be broken from abroad by non-residents under Article 38, and this could mean that foreigners could be arrested on arrival in Hong Kong
  • Some trials will be heard behind closed doors

Beijing will also have power over how the law should be interpreted, and not any Hong Kong judicial or policy body. If the law conflicts with any Hong Kong law, the Beijing law takes priority.

Zhang Xiaoming, executive deputy director of Beijing’s Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office said the law would not be applied to offences committed before it was passed and that suspects arrested in Hong Kong on charges of violating the law may be tried on the mainland.

Chief Executive Carrie Lam, Hong Kong’s pro-Beijing leader, said the law would “restore stability” and that it was “considered the most important development in relations between the central government and Hong Kong since the handover”.

Hong Kong’s new security law

What is happening with the protests?

Demonstrators in the Causeway Bay district chanted “resist till the end” and “Hong Kong independence”, with police using a flag to warn protesters that certain slogans and banners might now constitute serious crimes.

Ahead of the protest, pro-democracy activist Tsang Kin-shing, of the League of Social Democrats, warned there was a “large chance of our being arrested”, saying: “The charges will not be light, please judge for yourself.”

A man who gave his name as Seth, 35, told Reuters: “I’m scared of going to jail but for justice I have to come out today, I have to stand up.”

A turning point

By Michael Bristow, BBC World Service Asia-Pacific editor

The law gives Beijing extensive powers to shape life in the territory that it has never had before. It not only introduces a series of tough punishments for a long list of crimes, it changes the way justice is administered.

Trials can be held in secret – and without a jury. Judges can be handpicked. The law reverses a presumption that suspects will be granted bail. There appears to be no time limit on how long people can be held.

Crimes are described in vague terms, leading to the possibility of broad interpretation, and the right to interpret lies only in Beijing. Foreign nationals outside of Hong Kong face prosecution.

Most cases will be handled in Hong Kong, but the mainland can take over “complex”, “serious” or “difficult” cases. Whether or not you think the legislation was necessary, it is impossible to deny its significance. As Hong Kong’s leader Carrie Lam put it: this is a turning point.

What reaction has the new law drawn?

Minutes after the law was passed on Tuesday, pro-democracy activists began to quit, fearful of the punishment the new law allows.

Ted Hui, an opposition legislator, told the BBC: “Our freedom is gone, our rule of law, our judicial independence is gone”.

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The EU expressed “grave concerns” that the law could “seriously undermine” the city’s independence.

In the US, lawmakers from both parties have launched a bill to give refugee status to Hong Kong residents at risk of persecution, reported local media outlets.

Taiwan’s government has said it will set up a special office to help those in Hong Kong facing immediate political risks.

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US clothing retailer Gap to close some Hong Kong stores after sales sink due to coronavirus-induced slowdown

US clothing and accessories retailer Gap Inc will close two out of its eight stores in Hong Kong, becoming the latest international brand in Hong Kong to succumb to the coronavirus-induced economic slowdown, the Post has learned.An employee at the Gap store in Hysan Place said that the retailer will close the stores in the next few weeks. Gap Inc’s China media office did not reply to emails seeking comment on the planned closures.A notice posted on the door of its soon-to-close outlet in Albion…

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