At 1:20 pm on May 24, people begin a march to oppose the national security law and the national anthem bill but are dispersed by police after 10 minutes. Photo: Asia Times

Hong Kong is bracing for a fresh round of protests in June as top officials of China’s National People’s Congress (NPC) get ready to discuss the national security law for the city.

Protesters gathered on Friday in shopping malls in Kwun Tong and Central, singing Glory to Hong Kong and chanting slogans to demand democracy and an independent investigation into police misconduct. Riot police stood by outside. 

Lee Cheuk-yan, chairman of the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements in China, said he was disappointed that the police had refused to say whether the alliance would be allowed to hold an annual candlelight vigil to commemorate the June 4, 1989 Tiananmen Square Incident, at Victoria Park in Causeway Bay.

To mark the 1st anniversary of the anti-extradition protests, some Hong Kong protesters are organizing a march on Hong Kong Island on June 9 and an assembly at Tamar Park in Central on June 12. However, the details have not been announced.

Beijing and Hong Kong protesters will also focus on whether the G7 will make a decision regarding Hong Kong’s national security law when it meets on June 10.

On June 16, people plan to march from Victoria Park to Central to honour a Hong Kong man surnamed Leung who committed suicide a year ago to oppose the extradition law. 

Members of the NPC standing committee will meet in late June. Tam Yiu-chung, the sole Hong Kong member of the committee, said on Friday that dropping the planned new security law now would amount to a dereliction of duty.

On Thursday, the NPC passed a resolution by 2,878 votes to one with six abstentions to grant its standing committee the power to discuss and approve the proposed national security law.

The draft of the law has not been unveiled but it will ban both “behavior and activities” that endanger national security, according to media reports.

Tam said the overwhelming NPC support for the law shows it has the backing of the 1.4 billion people of China.

The law will mainly target an extremely small group of people whose behavior and activities endanger national security, he said, adding, that it will not affect freedom of speech in the city. He said the prospect of US sanctions showed that Washington has continuously intervened in Hong Kong’s affairs.

Tam added that if people have concerns about the law, they can convey them on the NPC website and he will relay them to the panel when it meets to draft the exact wording of the legislation.

Dennis Kwok, a Civic Party lawmaker, said on a radio program on Friday that he was worried that freedom of speech in Hong Kong will be undermined. Kwok said many people in the mainland, including Nobel Peace Prize laureate Liu Xiaobo, were arrested and charged with treason and subversion for making benign statements.

Hundreds of police are deployed to disperse the crowd in Causeway Bay on May 24, 2020. Photo: Asia Times

Kwok said the definition of “behavior and activities” is too broad because signing a petition or sharing a post on Facebook can be defined as activities. He said Hongkongers will be living in fear after the national security law is implemented.

On Thursday, a Hong Kong government spokesman said Hong Kong’s “separate customs territory” status is enshrined in the Basic Law and that the city will continue to pursue its free trade policy. As a separate member of the World Trade Organization, it expects to be fairly treated by its trading partners.

“The threat of sanctions to achieve the purpose of interfering with the policy of another place is a violation of international law and international practice. Practically, in the Hong Kong-US relationship, any sanctions are a double-edged sword that will not only harm the interests of Hong Kong but also significantly those of the US,” the spokesman said.

“In the past decade, the US trade surplus with Hong Kong has been the biggest among all its trading partners, with merchandise trade surplus totaling US$297 billion from 2009 to 2018.”  

“In 2019, that surplus had come down to US$26.4 billion from US$31.4 billion in 2018 as a result of the US-China trade tensions. Should any sanctions be contemplated in other areas like services and investment, the interests of the 1,300 US corporations based in Hong Kong might further be affected,” the spokesman added.

The Hong Kong government said it hopes the US government adopts a pragmatic attitude, and, bearing in mind American interests in the territory, refrains from interfering in its internal affairs, and maintains its Hong Kong economic and trade policy.

The Hong Kong Legislative Council on Thursday passed the National Anthem Bill in a second reading debate. The bill will be voted on in a third-reading session, which will involve no debate, on June 3.