Joshua Wong talks to reporters during a protest on May 24, 2020. Photo: Asia Times

Hong Kong activist groups said on Tuesday they will disband and continue their struggle overseas as Beijing passed the anticipated National Security Law for the territory.

On Tuesday morning, the National People’s Congress (NPC) standing committee voted for the law which was due to take effect from Wednesday. The wording of the law has not yet been unveiled.

At 2pm, the central government’s Liaison Office held a briefing session about the law with NPC members and Chinese People Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) standing committee members in Hong Kong.

Henry Tang, former Chief Secretary and one of the 18 standing committee members representing Hong Kong, said after the meeting that he firmly supports the national security legislation though the wording has not yet been made available. 

Michael Tien Puk-sun, an NPC member, said that the law will not be retrospective as far as he understands. He said there will be a jury for ordinary cases, otherwise three judges will handle a case together. He said if a defendant in a rare and serious case is sent to the mainland, the maximum penalty will be life imprisonment instead of the death penalty. 

Citing an unnamed source, RTHK reported that 99% of the cases related to the law will be tried in Hong Kong, unless the special administrative region fails to handle it. It said the court will admit as evidence the activities of a defendant over the previous two years if that person violates the law after it is implemented.

On Tuesday, Demosisto secretary-general Joshua Wong, who has met many foreign officials over the past few years, announced he is leaving the party and will carry on his political activities as an individual.

Other leaders of Demosisto, including Nathan Law, Agnes Chow and Jeffrey Ngo, also said they were quitting the group. In the afternoon, the group said it had been disbanded. 

Demosisto originated from a student movement called Scholarism which had started a campaign against the introduction of the national education topic in Hong Kong schools in 2012. The group emerged as a political group soon after the 2014 Occupy protests.

Studentlocalism, a pro-democracy student group, said they will also cease to function as the new law comes into effect. Group convener Tony Chung said on his Facebook page that he “had no choice but to make a decision based on the political reality.”

He said he would “continue to walk with Hong Kong people” while the affairs of the group will be handed over to overseas members in Taiwan, the United States and Australia.

Hong Kong National Front, a pro-independence group led by ousted lawmaker Sixtus Leung, also announced that it was immediately dismissing all its members in Hong Kong. It said its branches in the United Kingdom and Taiwan will take over the work of its Hong Kong office, and continue to promote Hong Kong independence.

On Sunday, Wayne Chan Ka-kui, convener of the Hong Kong Independence Union, said he had already left Hong Kong because Beijing was going to pass the law. He said his departure did not mean he had given up promoting independence.

He added implementation of the law had clearly proved the illegitimacy of the Sino-British Joint Declaration and opened a door to the idea of Hong Kong independence.

On June 26, Anson Chan, former Chief Secretary, who had met many foreign officials for Hong Kong’s democratic development and autonomy in the past, said she had decided to step down from all civil and political engagement because she had reached the age of 80 and was grieving the recent death of her daughter.