Hong Kong activist flees city after testifying before US Congress about China’s new draconian laws, while Beijing appoints anti-protest hardliner as head of state security
- Nathan Law, a leading pro-democracy activist in Hong Kong, has left the city
- He announced his departure on Facebook hours after testifying to a United States Congress about a draconian new security law imposed by China on the territory
- Beijing has also announced the man who will lead security forces in the city
- Zheng Yanxiong is known as a hardliner with a history of eradicating protests
A prominent pro-democracy activist revealed that he fled Hong Kong from a secret overseas location after Beijing imposed draconian new security laws on the territory.
Nathan Law, a founder of the pro-democracy Demosisto party and a figurehead of the 2014 Umbrella Movement, announced the move on Facebook on Thursday evening.
It was just hours after he testified online to the United States Congress about the new security law, which criminalizes acts of “succession, undermining and cooperation with foreign powers” with maximum life imprisonment.
Law’s departure also came just hours before Beijing named the man who will lead security forces in the region, who are now allowed to operate independently of Hong Kong police with the power to arrest and prosecute people.
Zheng Yanxiong, a 56-year-old politician from Guangdong Province who borders Hong Kong, is known as a party hardliner with a history of protests.
In 2011, he led Beijing security forces to eradicate anti-corruption protests in Wukan, a village in the province.
Law announced his departure from Hong Kong and wrote, “The choices I have are grim: to remain silent or participate in private diplomacy from now on, so that I can warn the world of the threat of Chinese authoritarian expansion.
“I made the decision when I agreed to testify before the United States Congress.”
Law caught a flight out of town, but declined to reveal where he went or who he is staying with for fear of retaliation.
He acknowledged that his decision would undoubtedly be critical, but said he had few choices if he wanted to continue advocating for Hong Kong’s independence.
Joshua Wong, another prominent activist who co-founded Demosisto, will remain in the city.
The party itself has been disbanded amid fears that officials would become targets after the law.
Critics say the law effectively ends the framework of “one country, two systems” under which the city was promised a high degree of autonomy when it returned from British rule to Chinese rule in 1997.
The Hong Kong government released a statement on Tuesday evening stating that the popular protest slogan “Liberate Hong Kong, the revolution of our times” is now banned under security law.
Thousands took to the streets on Wednesday to protest the new legislation.
Police arrested approximately 370 people, 10 of whom were detained on suspicion of violating the new law.
In some cases, suspects were found to be carrying items that suggested Hong Kong’s independence, police said.
As China proceeds to assert its new jurisdiction over Hong Kong, Beijing has appointed Luo Huining – currently director of the Beijing Liaison Office in the semi-autonomous city – as national security adviser to the newly formed National Security Commission.
The committee is chaired by Chief Executive Carrie Lam, who was hand-picked by Beijing.
The State Council also appointed veteran Hong Kong official Eric Chan Kwok-ki as secretary general of the committee on Thursday.
The committee – also created by the new law – will oversee policy formulation related to Hong Kong National Security Law.
Chan previously served as the director of Hong Kong headquarters, for which he was the immigration chief of the area.