Behind closed doors, with a unanimous vote, Beijing passed a secret law and imposed its writ on Hong Kong.
Its contents were only made public at the very moment the national security law came into effect, at 11pm Hong Kong time on Tuesday. It meets its critics most pessimistic predictions.
The four offences – subversion, secession, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces – all carry a potential life sentence.
The 66 articles of the law contain some extraordinary details. Damaging public transport can be classed as terrorism, for instance.
Beijing will set up a national security committee in Hong Kong whose work will be secret and whose decisions will not be subject to judicial review.
And acts performed by central government officials in relation to national security will not be subject to Hong Kong’s jurisdiction.
The Hong Kong chief executive will personally be able to designate judges to handle national security cases.
If a judge makes a statement “endangering national security”, they will be removed. Trials can be held without jury.
National security education, as defined by Beijing, will be taught to Hong Kong children.
There is a lot of text to pick through but the devil is not in the detail – the devil is in the ambiguity.
Offences are defined sweepingly. “Triggering hatred” towards the Hong Kong or Chinese governments is a crime.
“Interfering in, disrupting, or undermining” government activities is a crime.
Ultimately, what Beijing says goes.
The interpretation of the law is ultimately decided not by Hong Kong, but by the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress on the mainland.
Beijing has promised that Hong Kong’s autonomy will nonetheless be protected and this is ostensibly spelt out in the new law: “The rights and freedoms, including the freedoms of speech, of the press, of publication, of association, of assembly, of procession and of demonstration shall be protected.”
But only up to a point. Another provision, Article 62, states that the national security law trumps Hong Kong’s existing law when they come into conflict.
Rights will exist only if Beijing decides they are not a matter of national security.
And Beijing tends to see any sort of speech as a matter of national security – look at the number of activists, lawyers and journalists sent to mainland jails.
This is the most significant change to Hong Kong in the 23 years since its handover from the UK. It is impossible now to say exactly what its consequences will be for the city.
But it certainly tells us something about the Chinese government now.
In years past, as it enjoyed its stratospheric economic rise, China was happy to at least pay lip service to international opinion and international commitments, including the Sino-British declaration of 1984, in which the Chinese Communist Party promised to preserve Hong Kong’s autonomy until 2047.
It no longer cares to wait that long, nor does it care much what the world thinks.
That may be because it thinks other countries are distracted by COVID-19, and must seize this moment.
But it is increasingly Beijing’s general disposition, and it does not bode well.
The people of Hong Kong are the first to feel its effects.
Elephant deaths: Mystery after hundreds of animals die in Botswana | World News
Officials in Botswana are investigating the unexplained deaths of at least 350 elephants in just a few weeks.
Elephants were first reported to have died in the Okavango Delta, northern Botswana at the beginning of May.
By mid-June, the number of deaths stood at 169, but this figure has now more than doubled, with an aerial survey revealing 70% of the carcasses centred on watering holes.
The cause of the deaths is not yet known, but the government claims the two most likely possibilities – poisoning by humans and anthrax – have already been ruled out.
Dr Niall McCann, director of conservation at the UK-based charity National Park Rescue, described the situation as a “catastrophic die-off” and called for a further probe.
He told Sky News: “At least 350 elephants have died – the scale of it is astonishing.
“Botswana is home to a third of Africa’s elephants and 10% of those are in this region, so this could have a real impact on the global population.”
Locals claim both male and female elephants of all ages have died.
They have also reported seeing the creatures stumbling around in circles before they die, suggesting they may have been neurologically impaired.
Dr McCann said experts on the ground are not yet sure whether the substance behind the deaths is naturally-occurring or administered by humans.
He added: “It could make its way to humans and that’s very worrying at a time when the transmission of diseases from animals to humans is very much on people’s minds because of the coronavirus.”
People living nearby say they have seen several more elephants looking weak, which means the number of deaths could increase further.
Dr McCann said it is the “most shocking conservation event of his lifetime”.
Elephants and eco-tourism account for a huge part of Botswana’s GDP, which means this could risk an economic crisis as well as a public health one.
“We desperately need to get to the bottom of this,” he said.
The main threat to Africa’s elephant population is poaching, but in Botswana, numbers have grown from 80,000 in the late 1990s to 130,000 in recent years.
Sir Everton Weekes dies aged 95: Cricket mourns the loss of a ‘legend, hero and icon’ | World News
Legendary West Indian batsman Sir Everton Weekes has died at the age of 95.
The Barbados-born star was feted as one of ‘the three Ws’ alongside Sir Clyde Walcott and Sir Frank Worrell, with the trio representing one of the game’s most formidable batting units for more than a decade after each made their Test debuts weeks apart in 1948.
Weekes continues to hold the record for consecutive Test centuries, making five in a row in his first year of international cricket – four against India and one against Sir Gubby Allen’s England.
His famous streak might have been extended to six had he not been run out somewhat controversially for 90 in Madras.
He played a total of 48 Tests, scoring 4,455 runs with an average of 58.61, hitting 15 hundreds.
Worrell and Walcott, who died in 1967 and 2006 respectively, are both buried at the 3Ws Stadium just outside Bridgetown and a plot has long been left vacant for their long-time teammate should his family choose to accept it.
Announcing the news, Cricket West Indies (CWI) tweeted: “Our hearts are heavy as we mourn the loss of an icon. A legend, our hero, Sir Everton Weekes.
“Our condolences go out to his family, friends and many fans around the world. May he rest in peace.”
The West Indian Players’ Association added its voice to a chorus of condolences, tweeting: “We salute a great West Indies icon; Sir Everton made an invaluable contribution to the sport, his country and the region, we were blessed to have him among us, may his soul rest in peace.”
England, who are currently playing host to the West Indies Test squad, posted: “A true great of the game. Our thoughts and condolences go out to Sir Everton Weekes’ family and friends.”
Weekes was awarded his knighthood in 1995, following his two friends in earning the honour, and the Caribbean’s four-day tournament is played for the Headley/Weekes Trophy – honouring him alongside another master batsman, George Headley.
Among his four children, one – David Murray – followed his lead by turning out for the West Indies and earned 19 Test caps as a wicketkeeper between 1978 and 1982.
Hong Kong: UK summons Chinese ambassador over ‘deep concern’ for new security law | UK News
The Foreign Office has summoned the Chinese ambassador to make clear the UK’s “deep concern” over the new Hong Kong national security law.
Sir Simon made clear the UK’s “deep concern” over the new law, which was proposed a month ago and came into law at 11pm in Hong Kong on Monday – without the details being published first.
He reiterated that the law breaches the Sino-British Joint Declaration which was signed in 1984 and gave Hong Kong almost full autonomy for 50 years after Britain handed the territory back to China in 1997.
It is only the second time a Chinese ambassador has been called to the Foreign Office about Hong Kong since 1984.
The new security law drawn up by Beijing makes secessionist, subversive, or “terrorist” activities illegal in Hong Kong – as well as foreign intervention in the city’s internal affairs.
Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab offered 2.9 million people in Hong Kong citizenship rights on Wednesday as police in Hong Kong started arresting peaceful protesters for carrying leaflets supporting Hong Kong independence on the 23rd anniversary of the handover.
Accusing China of a “grave and deeply disturbing” breach of the joint declaration, he said the “bespoke” visa route would let British Nationals Overseas – people who were Hong Kong citizens before 1997 – and their dependents come from Hong Kong to work or study in the UK for five years.
They will then be able to apply for settled status and – if successful – can apply for citizenship one year later.
But Victor Gao, who was former Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping’s translator, said he “seriously doubts” the British government will follow through on its promise.
He told Sky News: “They didn’t do it in 1997 and I don’t think they’ll do it now.
“If you compare Hong Kong to Britain, lots of people in HK love living there because it’s a good place to do business, very low taxes, people won’t choose to leave.”
He said that anybody who cares for Hong Kong’s future would support the new law and claimed lots of Hong Kongers do because they are fed up of the past 12 months of “violence, anarchy and an attack on the rule of law”.
Mr Gao insisted the right to protest and demonstrate and the freedom of speech and assembly are “fully protected” under the new law, despite 370 people being arrested on Wednesday – including 10 for “breaching” the new law.
Emily Lau, a former chair of Hong Kong’s Democratic Party, said she thinks some people will be “very keen” to take Mr Raab up on his offer, but “certainly not millions” as she hopes other allies such as Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the US will also help.
She told Sky News: “Certainly, I hope there will be an international lifeboat scheme to help the very frightened people of Hong Kong.”
Chris Patten, Hong Kong’s last governor under British rule, said the new law was a “complete overturning of One Country, Two Systems” – the principle under which the declaration was formed.
He called the law “Orwellian”, said it will damage Hong Kong’s economy, and said that the UK and its allies need to stand up to China.
Lord Patten told Sky News: “We should work with them, make clear that when China behaves reasonably that’s fine and we’ll work with them, when they behave badly we’ll call them out, there will be consequences.
“There has to be, otherwise the 21st century will become increasingly unstable, increasingly less prosperous and increasingly dangerous.”
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