Hongkongers waving independence flags or chanting slogans risk arrest under national security law – report

©Hong Kong Free Press

Hong Kong protesters who wave pro-independence flags and chant relevant slogans will reportedly be seen as violating the newly-enacted national security law. It came ahead of online calls for a mass demonstration on the 23rd anniversary of the city’s handover to China.

According to local media citing police sources, displaying flags and banners and belting out slogans that advocate Hong Kong independence would be seen as subversive or secessionist, which are both prohibited under the national security legislation promulgated by Beijing on Tuesday.

Hong Kong independence flags. Photo: May James/HKFP.

Incriminating slogans will include “Hong Kong independence, the only way out” and “Hongkongers, build a nation” – commonly chanted by demonstrators at recent protests against the controversial law. Police will reportedly enforce the law at public gatherings and processions by giving out warnings. But the force can also make immediate arrests under “serious circumstances.”

InMedia reported that police cited the new legislation when they stopped and searched people at a protest staged by the League of Social Democrats in Wan Chai, before the Establishment Day ceremony on Wednesday morning. Officers were seen carrying a purple warning flag, which cautions against arrest and prosecution for breaking the national security law.

The law also criminalises terrorism and collusion with foreign forces to endanger national security. The four offences are widely-defined, with regular cases attracting penalties of a minimum of three years behind bars and a maximum of 10 years. In “serious cases,” offenders could face life imprisonment.

Police warning flag. Photo: Internet.

HKFP has reached out to police for comment.

At the reception in celebration of the HKSAR establishment, Chief Executive Carrie Lam said the implementation of the national anthem law and national security law signified the fulfilment of the Hong Kong government’s constitutional responsibility. The laws also brought One Country and Two Systems “back on the right track,” she said.

“The enactment of the National Security Law in Hong Kong is a turning point to take Hong Kong out of the current impasse and to restore stability and order from the chaos,” Lam said.

Carrie Lam (centre). Photo: GovHK.

Police have rejected an application by the Civil Human Rights Front to organise the annual July 1 march, citing coronavirus fears and threats to public order. But pro-democracy lawmakers and activists have called on citizens to take to the streets on Wednesday afternoon, in opposition to the new national law.

On Tuesday, pro-democracy group Demosisto and several pro-independence organisations announced they will disband or cease local operation hours before the law was officially enacted in the city. High-profile activists including Joshua Wong and Nathan Law also resigned from Demosisto before its disbandment, expressing concerns over “political imprisonment” and fears for personal safety.