Hongkongers eye grim future as China approves national security law

Members of Hong Kong's pro-democracy protest movement fear that the new legislation will further tighten Beijing's grip on the state


A large number of Hongkongers see a bleak future for themselves after Chinese parliament approved plans for a bill that threatens to limit freedoms in the semi-autonomous state, bypassing its legislature to punish acts that subvert state power.

According to Germany's Deutsche Welle News, the move would likely force more and more people to choose to leave Hong Kong, a former British colony. Although it has enjoyed autonomous status since the 1997 handover when China resumed control of the territory, it has witnessed a slow erosion of its freedoms in recent years, the media reported further.

Members of Hong Kong's pro-democracy protest movement fear that the new legislation will further tighten Beijing's grip on the state.

Some 50,000 people, from the financial hub of 7.5 million, emigrated in the last two quarters of 2019, a time of protests and escalating violence.

Last December, around 20,000 people applied to the Hong Kong police for a Certificate of No Criminal Conviction, which is a mandatory document for anybody hoping to emigrate. This was a 60 per cent increase over the same period in the previous year.

Josephine, a 30-year-old journalist born in Hong Kong, told DW News that she had taken part in the protests against the government and the extradition bill that was eventually retracted late last year. She said that she had intended to stay in Hong Kong despite Beijing's tightening grip. However, she changed her mind overnight after the National People's Congress' approval of the national security law for Hong Kong.

"I would never have believed that the residents of Hong Kong would one day become refugees," she said. "I want to emigrate."

She said that after the announcement there was a despondent atmosphere in the newsroom where she works.

"My colleagues and I were stumped. We had assumed that there would be a security law for Hong Kong sooner or later, but we were surprised that Beijing wanted to push it onto us like this." She said even some pro-Chinese politicians were taken aback by the move.

Chou, who works in a Chinese bank, said he is also pessimistic about Hong Kong's future and wants to emigrate, ideally with his family to Canada. He told DW he had been thinking of leaving Hong Kong for a long time and the announcement about the new law had solidified his resolve.

He also said he did not want his son, who is now only two, to be subjected to random police violence later on in life if he takes part in a demonstration. He said that he had not forgotten the violent crackdown on the student and pro-democracy movement on Tiananmen Square in Beijing in 1989.

"Beijing wants complete control," he said, expressing doubts that peaceful demonstrations or debates in Hong Kong's parliament would be tolerated in the future. Nor did he think that sanctions from the West, as some politicians have called for, would help.

Woo Hong-pong, who works for an agency that is specialised in emigration to Canada and Australia, told the German newspaper that over 20 affluent clients had contacted him in the past four days. "Many of them hesitated to leave in 2019, but now they want a quick solution. They want to get out super fast," he added further.