Hong Kong: Carrie Lam promises to ramp up national security

Beijing wants jail time for activists charged under the Security Act. Inspections of schools, associations, media and social networks are on the way. Central government praises local authorities. New US sanctions ready. Journalist Association: press freedom "in tatters".



Hong Kong (AsiaNews) - Carrie Lam announced this morning that the city executive led by her will intensify the application of the national security law, imposed by Beijing last summer to suppress the democratic movement.

Lam stressed that the local authorities want to meet the expectations of the central government. Above all, the Communist leadership wants the 64 people so far indicted under the draconian measure to be brought to justice. Most of them are leading figures of the democratic opposition, including Jimmy Lai, Benny Tai and Joshua Wong, who are being detained in prison waiting for their trial to begin. 

The Hong Kong leader also said that her administration intends to exercise greater control over schools, social organisations, media and social networks. Her remarks came just after Xia Baolong, head of the State Council's Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office, praised Lam's actions at a city forum, which she attended via video conference from Beijing.

According to Rthk, Xia praised the quick and visible results achieved with the passage of the law. Above all, he wants only "patriots" (pro-Beijing figures) to be allowed to run in the elections for the city parliament, the chief executive and the election committee.

In response to Lam's comments, Xia condemned foreign interference in Hong Kong's affairs, in particular the allegation that the Security Act is a threat to the city's continued existence as an international financial centre. He was referring to the punitive measures already imposed by the US and partly by the EU on Hong Kong and Beijing leaders accused of violating human rights in the former British colony.

In this regard, new US sanctions are expected today against at least seven officials of the Chinese Liaison Office in Hong Kong. The Biden administration will also issue a warning to US companies about the risks they face in doing business in the city as the local situation deteriorates.

That the climate has changed in Hong Kong was confirmed yesterday by the local journalists' association. In its annual report, this year entitled 'Freedom in Tatters', Hkja notes that the past year has been the worst for press freedom in the city. The organisation cites the case of the "forced" closure of Apple Daily, the independent newspaper founded by Lai, and the increasing threats from the authorities to other newspapers. Faced with the flight of journalists abroad, the organisation calls on colleagues to stay in the city to 'safeguard press freedom, because Hong Kong citizens need information and truth'.