HONG KONG — With each passing day, the boundary between Hong Kong and the rest of China fades faster.
The Chinese Communist Party is remaking this city, permeating its once vibrant, irreverent character with ever more overt signs of its authoritarian will. The very texture of daily life is under assault as Beijing molds Hong Kong into something more familiar, more docile.
Residents now swarm police hotlines with reports about disloyal neighbors or colleagues. Teachers have been told to imbue students with patriotic fervor through 48-volume book sets called “My Home Is in China.” Public libraries have removed dozens of books from circulation, including one about the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Nelson Mandela.
when antigovernment protests erupted.
Now, armed with the expansive national security law it imposed on the city one year ago, Beijing is pushing to turn Hong Kong into another of its mainland megacities: economic engines where dissent is immediately smothered.
goose-step in the Chinese military fashion, replacing decades of British-style marching. City leaders regularly denounce “external elements” bent on undermining the country’s stability.
Senior officials in Hong Kong have assembled, right hands raised, to pledge fealty to the country, just as mainland bureaucrats are regularly called on to “biao tai,” Mandarin for “declaring your stance.”
also warn of termination or other vague consequences if violated. Mr. Li had heard some supervisors nagging his colleagues to fill out the form right away, he said, and employees competing to say how quickly they had complied.
“The rules that were to protect everyone — as employees and also as citizens — are being weakened,” Mr. Li said.
purge candidates it deemed disloyal, Beijing called the change “perfecting Hong Kong’s electoral system.” When Apple Daily, a major pro-democracy newspaper, was forced to close after the police arrested its top executives, the party said the publication had abused “so-called freedom of the press.” When dozens of opposition politicians organized an informal election primary, Chinese officials accused them of subversion and arrested them.
helped lead an operation that smuggled students and academics out of the mainland.
But Beijing is more sophisticated now than in 1989, Mr. Chan said. It had cowed Hong Kong even without sending in troops; that demanded respect.
end of an era.
The rush of mainland money has brought some new conditions.
declaring that those who do not go risk missing opportunities.
Growing up in Hong Kong, Toby Wong, 23, had never considered working on the mainland. Her mother came from the mainland decades earlier for work. Salaries there were considerably lower.
promising to subsidize nearly $1,300 of a $2,300 monthly wage — higher than that of many entry-level positions at home. A high-speed rail between the two cities meant she could return on weekends to see her mother, whom Ms. Wong must financially support.
Ms. Wong applied to two Chinese technology companies.
“This isn’t a political question,” she said. “It’s a practical question.”
many signals were missed.
Mapping Out China’s Post-Covid Path: Xi Jinping, China’s leader, is seeking to balance confidence and caution as his country strides ahead while other places continue to grapple with the pandemic.
A Challenge to U.S. Global Leadership: As President Biden predicts a struggle between democracies and their opponents, Beijing is eager to champion the other side.
‘Red Tourism’ Flourishes: New and improved attractions dedicated to the Communist Party’s history, or a sanitized version of it, are drawing crowds ahead of the party’s centennial.
The Hong Kong government has issued hundreds of pages of new curriculum guidelines designed to instill “affection for the Chinese people.” Geography classes must affirm China’s control over disputed areas of the South China Sea. Students as young as 6 will learn the offenses under the security law.
Lo Kit Ling, who teaches a high school civics course, is now careful to say only positive things about China in class. While she had always tried to offer multiple perspectives on any topic, she said, she worries that a critical view could be quoted out of context by a student or parent.
accused it of poisoning Hong Kong’s youth. The course had encouraged students to analyze China critically, teaching the country’s economic successes alongside topics such as the Tiananmen Square crackdown.
Officials have ordered the subject replaced with a truncated version that emphasizes the positive.
“It’s not teaching,” Ms. Lo said. “It’s just like a kind of brainwashing.” She will teach an elective on hospitality studies instead.
Schoolchildren are not the only ones being asked to watch for dissent. In November, the Hong Kong police opened a hotline for reporting suspected violations of the security law. An official recently applauded residents for leaving more than 100,000 messages in six months. This week, the police arrested a 37-year-old man and accused him of sedition, after receiving reports that stickers pasted on the gate of an apartment unit potentially violated the security law.
most effective tools of social control on the mainland. It is designed to deter people like Johnny Yui Siu Lau, a radio host in Hong Kong, from being quite so free in his criticisms of China.
Mr. Lau said a producer recently told him that a listener had reported him to the broadcast authority.
“It will be a competition or a struggle, how the Hong Kong people can protect the freedom of speech,” Mr. Lau said.
censor films deemed a danger to national security. Some officials have demanded that artwork by dissidents like Ai Weiwei be barred from museums.
Still, Hong Kong is not yet just another mainland metropolis. Residents have proved fiercely unwilling to relinquish freedom, and some have rushed to preserve totems of a discrete Hong Kong identity.
font of hope and pride amid a resurgence in interest in Canto-pop.
Last summer, Herbert Chow, who owns Chickeeduck, a children’s clothing chain, installed a seven-foot figurine of a protester — a woman wearing a gas mask and thrusting a protest flag — and other protest art in his stores.
But Mr. Chow, 57, has come under pressure from his landlords, several of whom have refused to renew his leases. There were 13 Chickeeduck stores in Hong Kong last year; now there are five. He said he was uncertain how long his city could keep resisting Beijing’s inroads.
“Fear — it can make you stronger, because you don’t want to live under fear,” he said. Or “it can kill your desire to fight.”
HONG KONG — Nearly a year ago, a 23-year-old ramen cook rode a motorcycle through a Hong Kong neighborhood, flying a large flag emblazoned with a popular antigovernment protest slogan. He collided into several riot police officers as they tried to stop him.
In a different era, the rider, Tong Ying-kit, might have been accused of dangerous driving and assaulting a police officer. Instead, the authorities arrested him last July under a draconian national security law Beijing had imposed on Hong Kong, only hours earlier, that took aim at dissent and other political activity challenging China’s rule.
Mr. Tong stood trial on Wednesday, the first among the more than 100 people in Hong Kong who have been arrested under the sweeping new rules. His case is a test of how the city’s vaunted judicial system, based on British common law principles of fairness and independence, will interpret and enforce Beijing’s far-reaching security law, in which political crimes are vaguely defined. China says the law is necessary to root out threats to Beijing’s sovereignty, but human rights activists, opposition leaders and scholars have said the law puts the city’s judicial independence in peril.
“The national security law constitutes one of the greatest threats to human rights and the rule of law in Hong Kong since the 1997 handover,” wrote Lydia Wong and Thomas Kellogg, scholars at Georgetown Law School, in a report in February.
arrested more than 50 opposition politicians — most of the leading figures in the city’s beleaguered pro-democracy camp — for organizing an informal election primary, accusing them of trying to overthrow the government.
They have arrested Jimmy Lai, a pugnacious media tycoon, and top editors at his stridently pro-democracy newspaper, Apple Daily, accusing them of conspiring to collude with foreign forces, the first time the law has been used to target news organizations.
As part of the same investigation, the police on Wednesday also arrested one of the paper’s journalists, Yeung Ching-kee, who wrote columns and editorials under the pen name Li Ping.
The authorities have also used the security law, to a lesser extent, against ordinary protesters such as Mr. Tong. Little is known about Mr. Tong, even now, one year after his arrest. A former lawmaker who has met him said he was a cook at a ramen restaurant who took part in pro-democracy protests in 2019 and helped provide first aid.
Even before Mr. Tong’s first day in court, his case has raised questions about whether the security law has empowered the authorities to chip away at the legal protections that had until now been typically granted to defendants.
charged under the law have been released on bail.
power to do so under the new law has been seen by critics as eroding the autonomy of the courts.
How the judges parse the specific charges against Mr. Tong will be scrutinized for whether the law is being used to curb genuine threats to China’s security, or merely to stifle voices critical of the ruling Communist Party.
Mr. Kellogg of Georgetown questioned whether Mr. Tong’s act of driving into the police officers qualified as terrorism. “It’s not clear to me that Tong was engaged in the sort of organized, planned and often large-scale political violence that is the hallmark of terror attacks,” he said.
The police obtained hundreds of videos of Mr. Tong’s ride, and about 20 of those were introduced into evidence at his trial. The prosecutors and defense attorneys are likely to argue over whether Mr. Tong intentionally drove into the police officers. Three officers were injured as they moved to stop him.
The terrorism charge, and the allegation of violence it carries, makes Mr. Tong’s case unusual. But his other offense, centering on political expression, has become commonplace.
The slogan emblazoned on his flag, “Liberate Hong Kong, Revolution of Our Times,” was coined by a now-imprisoned activist, Edward Leung, in 2016. During the 2019 protests it became ubiquitous: a rallying cry that was chanted by students in schoolyards and protesters in street marches, emblazoned on banners and graffitied on walls that have since been painted over.
Mr. Tong’s lawyers are expected to argue, as have many protesters, that the phrase represents a desire to reclaim Hong Kong’s unique identity from the heavy-handed influence of Beijing. The government has said the slogan represents a call for independence, and thus violates the security law.
That a political slogan could constitute a criminal offense is still a new and unsettling idea in Hong Kong, where residents had for decades enjoyed the right to protest, freedoms largely unseen in mainland China.
“We must bear in mind the context. The words he had, we need to understand that during that period those words were quite commonly spoken and exhibited on many flags and banners in peaceful and even non-peaceful protests in Hong Kong,” said Eric Cheung, a law lecturer at the University of Hong Kong.
“The meaning of these words differ from person to person,” Mr. Cheung said. “You now say that using these words carry only that meaning which amount to intention to subvert the country, I think that is a debate.”
Even if Mr. Tong is not convicted of terrorism, he faces a separate charge of causing grievous bodily harm by dangerous driving, which carries a maximum penalty of seven years in prison.
As he awaited trial, Mr. Tong was sharing a cell with 10 men, according to Shiu Ka-chun, a former lawmaker who wrote on his social media page last year that he had been visiting him regularly. Mr. Shiu declined to comment about Mr. Tong. But in his social media posts, he wrote that Mr. Tong has been reading books on history, including a memoir by Lee Teng-hui, Taiwan’s first democratically elected president.
“For those comrades who are continuing to take a stand, he says wait and be patient,” Mr. Shiu wrote. “For those who have left Hong Kong, he looks upon that calmly and thinks, ‘Hong Kong is in your hearts, everywhere is Hong Kong.’”
HONG KONG — A half year after he got out of prison, Daniel Tang has made a habit of going back. He waits in spare, crowded corridors. He greets familiar faces among the fellow visitors and guards. He brings books, postage stamps, writing paper and packets of M&Ms.
Mr. Tang is visiting people like him who were imprisoned for their role in the pro-democracy street protests that rocked Hong Kong in 2019. He travels three hours, round-trip, for a 15-minute chat through a thick plate of glass, sometimes with a total stranger. He summons a cheery, chatty demeanor, when he feels anything but.
“You owe them your best face,” he said. “If you’re not feeling right, don’t even bother going.”
Mr. Tang and many of those he meets with represent a new breed of convict in Hong Kong: activists who opposed the Chinese Communist Party’s growing power in the city. This group — often including college students or white-collar professionals — rose up two years ago in a historic campaign of public disobedience that led to clashes with police on the streets and focused the world’s attention on the future of the Asian financial capital.
tough new laws imposed by Beijing, mass arrests and the hazards of the coronavirus. Now, with dim job prospects, a fraught political future and the unending threat of another arrest, those protesters are emblematic of the uncertainties facing the city’s stricken democracy movement.
about 7,000 people. Beijing’s imposition last year of a national security law gives prosecutors greater powers to target even more.
Many of the activists are contemplating a future in exile. Others struggle to stay committed to the cause for which they sit behind bars.
“Being sentenced to jail fractures people,” said Alex Chow, a 30-year-old activist who spent a brief time in jail for his role as a leader of protests in 2014, a precursor to the 2019 demonstrations. He now lives in exile in the United States.
as well as veterans. Those sentenced to prison so far include Joshua Wong, Agnes Chow and Ivan Lam, young leaders of the 2014 protests. Wong Ji-yuet, 23, and Owen Chow, 24, activists who participated in a primary election that was organized by the pro-democracy camp, are awaiting trial in solitary confinement after they were charged with endangering national security.
For many young people in jail, the sentences have redrawn their lives.
Jackie Yeung, a 23-year-old university student serving a three-year prison sentence, said she had abandoned the “typical ambitions” she used to harbor — getting a good job and an apartment in a family-friendly district.
statement ahead of her sentencing. “And I have no way of comforting them through the glass in the visitation room in prison.”
She dreams of opening up a small business importing Taiwanese pineapples after she and a Taiwanese cellmate are released. With the profits, she would support other young people by helping to pay their legal fees and living expenses. “To do anything, you need money,” she said.
To make things easier on prisoners, Mr. Tang and some other activists have banded together to provide support. They write letters and gazettes to catch people up with protest news and raise funds to pay for better meals in jail while protesters await trials.
Mr. Tang frequently sees Ms. Yeung. During one visit to her prison near the border with the mainland city of Shenzhen, he brought pens and stamps. He left the stamps, but was unable to give her the pens, as it would have exceeded her monthly allowance of two.
For all of his dedication, Mr. Tang, who spent more than a half-year imprisoned after pleading guilty to arson charges, says it doesn’t feel like it’s enough.
“Many Hong Kongers have moved on and moved away and don’t think about how there is a group of people sitting behind bars for the movement we all fought for,” said Mr. Tang, who is in his late 30s. “It seems many have forgotten.”
Far from radicalizing during his time on the inside, Mr. Tang now struggles with cynicism and meaning in a city that suddenly seems unfamiliar. He has been disheartened by the protest movement’s stagnation and by the waves of migration out of the city. The camaraderie of protest has been replaced by dread of ever more targeted arrests. He sees it all as an abandonment of values and believes that escape is a privilege unavailable to many.
Mr. Tang’s protester friends from prison also seem to be moving on. A group chat they kept, called the “Lai Chi Kok Prisoners,” after the facility where they were detained, still lights up occasionally with holiday greetings and vague laments. But few want to talk politics. Sometimes those in prison that do speak out seem to be exaggerating their place in the movement. He rolls his eyes at one prisoner, who has taken to calling himself Mandela 2.0.
“All that we have left is our relationships with one another,” he said. “Some seem ready to let that go.”
Yet, for Mr. Tang, there is no road back — not that he’d take it. His former employer was understanding, but let him go when his absence stretched on. He has been unable to access his life savings, he said, after his bank account was frozen over automated donations he made in 2019 to a protester bail fund that police placed under investigation.
He has applied to managerial jobs like those he had worked in the past, only to be turned away because of his criminal record. Now, he’s mulling applying for a taxi license or working in construction.
He still faces four charges related to the protests that were filed just days before his release from prison. The thought of officers at his door has kept him away from the apartment he shares with his mother. He tells her he now works a night shift, and she doesn’t press him.
“I’m really tired,” Mr. Tang said. “The government has left us no room to resist and nowhere to go.”
HONG KONG — As tear gas and fiery street clashes swirled around her two years ago, the Hong Kong painter Bouie Choi wondered how she would eventually render them on canvas.
The answer, exhibited at a local gallery about a year later, was “borrowed space_borrowed time,” her suite of brooding, ethereal landscapes that evoked ancient Chinese scroll paintings and captured a city transformed by civil unrest. Specific visual references to the protests were subtly blended into layer upon layer of washed-out acrylic brush strokes.
“My previous landscape works were quite peaceful and distanced from what happened in reality; they were more surrealistic,” Ms. Choi, 33, said in an interview. “But this exhibition was quite different because the relationship between me and the city had changed.”
street art and political posters that lionized protesters as heroes or explicitly poked fun at Hong Kong’s government and its allies in Beijing. Some of that work was produced by people with established careers in fine arts.
a national security law that China’s central government imposed on the territory last summer and the mass arrests of opposition politicians, activists and lawyers that followed.
Artists, writers and filmmakers know that whatever they create could run afoul of the national security law, which criminalizes anything that the Chinese government deems terrorism, secession, subversion or collusion with foreign powers. Institutions like art galleries are wary of taking risks. One curator said privately that talking about art and politics was especially sensitive ahead of Art Basel Hong Kong, a major international fair that opens this week.
Some Hong Kong curators have been quietly asking artists to tone down certain pieces, consulting with lawyers about how to avoid prosecution under the national security law and even calling the police to discuss potentially sensitive works before exhibiting them, said Wong Ka Ying, a member of a union that represents about 400 Hong Kong artists.
“We now act like we’re in Beijing or Shanghai,” she said.
Yet several young Hong Kong artists are daring to produce work about the 2019 protests anyway, albeit with heavy doses of abstraction and ambiguity. A few talk about their artistic process in polemical terms; others, like Ms. Choi, say they are merely responding creatively to the experience of living through a once-in-a-generation trauma.
pro-democracy demonstrations that are now seen as preludes to the giant outpouring of civil disobedience in 2019.
Eight years ago, for example, the artist South Ho walled and unwalled himself with bricks that said, “Made in Xianggang,” the word for Hong Kong in Mandarin, mainland China’s dominant tongue. Photographs of his stunt were exhibited in 2017 by the Asia Society’s Hong Kong gallery, alongside other pieces that conveyed a sense of helplessness toward Beijing’s tightening grip on the city.
Now the space for expression is narrower. A government funding body recently said that it had the power to end grants to artists who promote “overthrowing the government,” and state-owned newspapers have denounced a collection by a local museum that is expected to open soon and owns works by the dissident Chinese artist Ai Weiwei.
More than a dozen Hong Kong artists and gallerists either declined to be interviewed for this article or did not respond to requests for comment.
traffic scene on wire mesh to depict fences that went up near a cross-harbor tunnel that antigovernment protesters targeted in 2019. He also used yellow tape to frame walls where the authorities had painted over antigovernment graffiti.
Unreasonable Behavior,” a mixed-media solo show by Siu Wai Hang that included photographs of the 2019 protests that the artist had punched, ripped or cut.
Teenage girls with bricks,” an abstract work with collapsing perspectives and vague pastel figures. The gallery’s curatorial statement said the work depicted female protesters who had been discouraged by male comrades from joining the front lines of street clashes.
And this spring, at the Asia Society’s Hong Kong gallery, the artist Isaac Chong Wai installed “Falling Carefully,” a mixed-media piece featuring three life-size mannequins of the artist, each suspended in a different stage of free fall. A nearby wall displayed his sketches of protesters and riot police officers during antigovernment demonstrations in Hong Kong and beyond, including Armenia, Russia and Uganda.
fell, suffering fatal injuries, as police officers clashed with protesters.
Henry Au-yeung, the director ofGrotto Fine Art, the gallery that exhibited the paintings last fall, wrote in an essay that they depicted “social unrest,” but also that “clear images do not mean clarity of event; what is veiled can well be the hidden truth.”
HONG KONG — The glossy pamphlet from the police, delivered to newsrooms in Hong Kong, declared: “Know the Facts: Rumors and Lies Can Never Be Right.” With it was a letter addressed to editors, decrying the “wicked and slanderous attacks” against the police.
The 12-page magazine, distributed Wednesday to news outlets including The New York Times, described the police’s efforts to push back against misinformation. In one instance, the department countered rumors that officers had attended a banquet with gang members, saying the police had held their own private dinner. In another, it accused a local TV station of smearing the police in a parody show.
“Fake news is highly destructive,” read one graphic carrying the hashtag #youarewhatyousend.
Officials in Hong Kong are increasingly seizing on the label of “fake news,” a common authoritarian refrain. The city’s leader, Carrie Lam, said on Wednesday that the government was looking at laws to tackle “misinformation, hatred and lies.” The city’s police chief has said a fake-news law would help fight threats to national security.
The rhetoric is raising fears among activists that the label could be used as a new tool to muzzle dissent.
traditionally unfettered news media, known for coverage that has been critical of the establishment, has been under attack for months. The national security law, which calls for increased regulation of the media, has given the police and local officials powerful tools to constrain the press, but they are seeking more.
Mrs. Lam, the city’s chief executive, has said that the government was exploring legislation to curb fake news, which she said spread online during the protests and the pandemic.
“We have seen the internet, especially social media, flooded with doxxing, hateful and discriminatory remarks and fake news,” she said in remarks to lawmakers in February. Mrs. Lam has said that the proposed legislation had yet to be drafted because the government was still examining how such laws were handled elsewhere.
a 14-month prison sentence for protesting in 2019, and is accused of fraud and colluding with a foreign country.
The police have also bristled at coverage by RTHK, a government-funded public broadcaster with a tradition of independent coverage. The police complained about a parody program that portrayed officers as trash, with an actor portraying an officer in a garbage can.
The government has moved to rein the broadcaster in, replacing its top editor with a civil servant with no journalism experience in February. Under the new leadership the broadcaster has cut two radio programs known for sharp political commentary and added a new show hosted by Mrs. Lam, the city’s leader, discussing an electoral overhaul imposed by Beijing that critics say would cripple the opposition.
The broadcaster was also at the center of a closely watched court case last month in which a former freelance producer for RTHK was convicted of making false statementsto obtain public records for a report that was critical of the police. The journalist, Choy Yuk-ling, used the records for a documentary that examined how the police were slow to respond to an attack by a mob on protesters at a train station in 2019.
On Thursday, Ms. Choy’s documentary was honored in Hong Kong with a human rights award. “Chasing the smallest clues, interrogating the powerful without fear or favor,” wrote the judging panel, which called it an “investigative reporting classic.”
The broadcaster has said that it would not accept the award.
HONG KONG — Hong Kong’s police chief warned journalists they could be investigated for reporting “fake news.” A newspaper controlled by the Chinese government called for a ban on the city’s biggest pro-democracy news outlet. Masked men ransacked the offices of a publication critical of China’s Communist Party and smashed its presses.
Hong Kong’s reputation as a bastion of press freedom in Asia, home to journalism that is far more aggressive and independent than that found next door in mainland China, has been under sustained pressure for years. Now, as Beijing moves to stamp out dissent in the city, the news media is under direct assault. Traditional pressure tactics, such as advertising boycotts, have been eclipsed by the sort of bare-knuckles campaign that could leave prominent journalists silenced and their outlets transformed or closed.
Recent targets include the freewheeling pro-democracy newspaper Apple Daily, whose founder was sentenced to 14 months in prison last week, and RTHK, a public broadcaster known for its deep investigations. On Thursday, one of the network’s prizewinning producers, Choy Yuk-ling,was found guilty of making false statementsto obtain public records for a report that was critical of the police. She was ordered to pay a fine of 6,000 Hong Kong dollars, about $775.
“We seem to have turned some sort of a corner fairly recently,” said Keith Richburg, director of the University of Hong Kong’s Journalism and Media Studies Center. “Self-censorship is still an issue and not knowing where the red lines are, but now we see what seems to be more of a frontal assault on the media in Hong Kong.”
imposed a tough national security law last year, criminalizing many forms of antigovernment speech. Then it made changes to Hong Kong’s election system, tightening the pro-Beijing establishment’s grip on power.
removed from office. The protest movement was silenced. Activists were jailed. And journalists found themselves in the government’s cross hairs.
On Thursday, a Hong Kong court found that Ms. Choy, a freelance producer, had broken the law when she used a public database of license plate records as part of an investigation into a July 2019 mob attack at a train station, in which 45 people were injured. Activists have accused the police of turning a blind eye to the violence.
She was arrested in November and charged with making false statements about why she had used the publicly accessible database.
Ms. Choy said her case showed how the authorities were trying to crack down on the news media and restrict access to information that was once publicly available.
“I realized since my arrest it’s not my individual issue,” she said in an interview. “It’s a bigger issue of press freedom in Hong Kong.”
Press freedom groups have denounced Ms. Choy’s arrest and described it as part of a campaign of harassment. The Committee to Protect Journalists called the government’s case an “absurdly disproportionate action that amounts to an assault on press freedom.”
The case against Ms. Choy is the latest move against RTHK, Hong Kong’s leading public radio and television network, which for years offered hard-hitting reports critical of the government. The outlet’s charter grants it editorial independence, but as a government entity, it has little protection from officials who want to see it brought under stricter control. Regina Ip, a pro-Beijing lawmaker, said last week that the government should consider closing it altogether.
Just months after the national security law was passed, the Hong Kong government called for RTHK to be more tightly supervised by government-appointed advisers.
The head of RTHK, a veteran reporter and editor, was replaced in February by a civil servant with no journalism experience. Under that new leader, Patrick Li, two radio programs known for their lively political commentary were suspended.
International news outlets have also come under pressure in Hong Kong. An editor for the Financial Times was forced to leave the city in 2018, in apparent retaliation for his role in hosting a talk by a pro-independence activist. The New York Times has moved a number of editors from Hong Kong to Seoul, in part because of problems with securing work permits.
Epoch Times, a newspaper linked to the Falun Gong spiritual movement, which is banned in mainland China, has dealt with even blunter attacks. On April 12, four men stormed the paper’s printing plant, smashing presses and computers. The newspaper said no one was injured and it was able to resume publication soon after.
raided by the police last year, and Mr. Lai faces charges related to the national security law for allegedly calling for American sanctions against Hong Kong. Under the law, crimes “of a grave nature,” an intentionally ambiguous term, carry sentences of up to life imprisonment.
The authorities have not been shy about threatening journalists. They have made their opinions known in the pages of state media, on the floor of the local legislature and from police headquarters.
State-controlled newspapers in Hong Kong have escalated their criticism of Apple Daily, calling for it to be regulated or even closed under the national security law.
“If Apple Daily is not removed, a gap still exists in Hong Kong’s national security,” Ta Kung Pao, a newspaper owned by Beijing’s liaison office in Hong Kong, said in a commentary last week.
Ms. Ip, the pro-establishment lawmaker, made clear to RTHK journalists what she believed their role was. In a legislative session last week, she said that a reporter for the outlet should be willing “to be a government mouthpiece.”
Chris Tang, Hong Kong’s police commissioner, last week warned that publications which produce “fake news” could face investigation, and he called for new laws to help regulate the media.
Nevertheless, many reporters say they will not be cowed by the government’s efforts to stifle their reporting.
“Some are disillusioned,” said Gladys Chiu, the chairwoman of the RTHK Program Staff Union. “But some feel there is still space to fight for.”
HONG KONG — Jimmy Lai, a pro-democracy media figure, and several of Hong Kong’s most prominent opposition campaigners were sentenced on Friday to prison terms of eight months to 18 months for holding an unauthorized peaceful protest.
Supporters of the defendants say the prosecutions are the latest sign of the fundamental transformation that Beijing has sought to impose on Hong Kong. Until recently, the city had long been a bastion of free speech. Now, the sentences send an unmistakable message that activism carries severe risks for even the most internationally recognized opposition figures.
The court sentenced Mr. Lai, 73, a media tycoon who founded Apple Daily, an aggressively pro-democracy newspaper, to 12 months in prison. Martin Lee, an 82-year-old lawyer, often called Hong Kong’s “father of democracy,” was handed a suspended 11-month prison term, meaning he would avoid being put behind bars if he is not convicted of another crime in the next two years.
overhauled Hong Kong’s electoral system to cement the pro-Beijing establishment’s grip on power. Protests have been largely barred during the pandemic, and self-censorship in the media and arts, which are under intense official pressure, is a growing concern.
Over a period of months in 2019, hundreds of thousands of people joined antigovernment demonstrations in one of the greatest challenges to the Communist Party in decades. The sentences imposed on Friday, added to the measures already taken against dissent, are likely to chill participation in such protests in the future.
“It’s very clear that the approach has changed radically, not just by courts and police,” said Sharron Fast, a media law lecturer at the University of Hong Kong. “The emphasis is on deterrence; the emphasis is on punishment. And with large-scale assemblies, the risk is very high.”
a march on Aug. 18, 2019, that followed a gathering in Victoria Park on Hong Kong Island. The rally in the park had been permitted by the police, but the authorities, citing the violence at earlier protests, had not approved plans for demonstrators to march about two miles to government headquarters afterward.
He has traveled the world, including many trips to Washington, to lobby for that cause. Such internationally focused activism is now banned under the national security law.
Mr. Lai, the media mogul, was smuggled into Hong Kong from mainland China as a child and worked his way up from factory laborer to clothing company tycoon. He then put his wealth into crusading, tabloid-style publications that have been sharply critical of the authorities in Beijing and Hong Kong.
Mr. Lai also faces a fraud case and charges of collusion with a foreign country under the security law for allegedly calling for sanctions against Hong Kong. In a separate hearing on Friday, prosecutors added two more national security charges, accusing Mr. Lai of conspiracy to commit subversion and obstructing justice.
In the illegal assembly case, the court rejected defense arguments that the procession after the rally was necessary to help protesters safely clear out of the crowded park, or that potential imprisonment for a nonviolent march would infringe on the rights to free speech and assembly that have traditionally been protected in Hong Kong.
protests did devolve into widespread violence.
in a letter this week to his colleagues at Apple Daily, told them to be careful because “freedom of speech is dangerous work now.”
“The situation in Hong Kong is becoming more and more chilling,” he wrote. “The era is falling apart before us, and it is therefore time for us to stand with our heads high.”
HONG KONG — Teddy bears clad in black police riot gear, on sale for more than $60 apiece. Messages of gratitude to the authorities, pasted by children onto the walls of their schools. Uniformed police officers goose-stepping in formation, accompanied by a counterterrorism drill complete with a helicopter and hostage simulation.
This is National Security Education Day in Hong Kong, the first since the central Chinese government imposed a wide-ranging security law on the territory last year.
The law, a response to months of fierce and sometimes violent antigovernment protests that began in 2019, has become synonymous with the authorities’ efforts to clamp down on dissent and ensure staunch loyalty. And the panoply of activities on Thursday indicated how they plan to do so: with a mixture of cutesy cajolery and overt shows of force, for a law that an official once said should hang over Hong Kongers like a “sword of Damocles.”
“Any ‘hard resistance’ that undermines national security will be struck down by the law. Any ‘soft resistance’ will be regulated by the law,” Luo Huining, the central government’s top official in Hong Kong, said at a ceremony kicking off the day’s events.
arrest around 100 people, gut the political opposition and remake Hong Kong’s electoral system.
frequently deployed in 2019.
show of goose-stepping. Traditionally, many of the disciplined services in Hong Kong, a British colony until it was returned to Chinese rule in 1997, had marched in the British style. But the Chinese Army is known for the distinctive goose-step, in which the leg does not bend at the knee.
“After enjoying this wonderful performance,” an official website for National Security Education Day promised, viewers would be led inside to view armored vehicles, the explosives disposal team and recruitment information.
riot-gear-clad teddy bear, a pair of zip ties strapped to its chest ($62); key chains engraved with crowd-control phrases like “Disperse or we fire” and “Warning: Tear smoke” ($4 each); and a set of 18 three-inch figurines, clutching rifles and shields and bearing police warning flags about illegal assembly (“festive special offer”: $114).
It seemed unlikely that any sort of protest would break out in such a heavily fortified location. Still, officials seemed eager to forestall even a hint of the so-called soft resistance Mr. Luo had singled out in his speech. As journalists waited to enter the open house, security officers asked some who were wearing yellow or black face masks — colors associated with the pro-democracy movement — to swap them for blue ones the authorities provided.
four pro-democracy activists tried to march through parts of downtown, bearing a poster that said “Without democracy and human rights, there is no national security.” They were followed by dozens of police officers.
In other parts of the city, schoolchildren — including those in kindergarten — were enlisted in the promotion of national security. Education has been a particular focus for the authorities, who have blamed what they call biased curriculums for turning Hong Kong’s youth against the government.
On Thursday morning, many schools hosted ceremonies to raise China’s national flag and sing the national anthem (which the Hong Kong government last year made a crime to disrespect).
At the Wong Cho Bau middle school, which is run by a pro-Beijing teachers’ union, the principal told students during a morning assembly that national security should be incorporated into every part of their curriculum, including geography and biology classes, as well as weekly flag-raising ceremonies.
“These daily accumulations can help us construct our own national concept and identity, so as to achieve prosperity and glory for the country,” said the principal, Hui Chun-lung. “So everybody should study hard. If the youth are strong, then China is strong.”
Afterward, school officials showed off colorful slips of paper that students had filled out and pasted onto a “community mosaic wall.” “Please express your opinion toward the idea of ‘Support national security, guard our home,’” the prompt said.
In response, the students expressed their gratitude to the government and their relief that the pro-democracy protests had subsided. “Those people who protest everywhere are intolerable, destroying public places and hurting our home,” one student wrote.
Other students’ responses were even more effusive.
“I think the idea of supporting national security and guarding our home is extremely without problems! Support! Support! Extremely support!” one student wrote. “Whatever the national security law says, goes! I very much have no opinion!”
HONG KONG — The Hong Kong government on Tuesday introduced the final details of a push to drastically overhaul the city’s election system, including a proposal that would make it illegal to encourage voters to cast blank ballots or boycott elections.
The electoral changes are the latest effort by the central Chinese government to stamp out political opposition in Hong Kong, after months of fierce antigovernment demonstrations in 2019. Last month, the National People’s Congress Standing Committee, an arm of China’s Communist Party-run legislature, unanimously approved a plan that would give national security bodies the authority to select candidates for political office.
That proposal, which followed the enactment last year of a harsh national security law, dictated that less than a quarter of Hong Kong’s legislature would be directly elected, compared to half before. It also created a candidate vetting committee with the power to unilaterally bar anyone deemed insufficiently loyal to the government. And it reshuffled the membership of another election committee that selects Hong Kong’s top leader, stacking it with more Beijing loyalists.
But some details of the new system, including exactly who would sit on the reconstituted election committee, remained unclear until Tuesday, when the Hong Kong government published a bill of more than 500 pages. The bill made clear that the election committee — already tilted in favor of the central government — would be filled with even more pro-establishment business and interest group leaders, as well as members of pro-Beijing political bodies.
entirely of pro-establishment figures after the mass resignation of the opposition last year.
“We all want elections to be very fair, so any manipulation to jeopardize or sabotage an election should not be permitted,” Carrie Lam, the city’s chief executive, said at a news conference.
The bill also laid out dates for upcoming electoral contests. The 1,500 members of the election committee are scheduled to be elected on Sept. 19.
Ma Ngok, an associate professor of government at the Chinese University of Hong Kong.
“The key issue is who in the pro-democracy camp will still run and who will be allowed to run,” Professor Ma said. “If you have already built in a very stringent screening system, then I don’t think it is actually necessary for the government to change” the system.
In the weeks since Beijing approved the electoral plans, the authorities have repeatedly said that Hong Kong’s residents had broadly embraced the changes.
But in moving to criminalize protest voting, Professor Ma said, the government seemed to be acknowledging that the changes were in fact unpopular, at least among some segment of the population.
“It seems that the government thinks that actually a lot of people will try to boycott or cast a protest vote,” he said.
HONG KONG — Seven of Hong Kong’s leading veteran democracy campaigners were found guilty on Thursday of unauthorized assembly, as Beijing’s campaign to quash the city’s opposition ensnared some of its most senior and well-recognized figures.
Martin Lee, an 82-year-old barrister known as the “father of democracy” in Hong Kong, Jimmy Lai, 73, a media tycoon and founder of the staunchly pro-democracy Apple Daily newspaper, and Margaret Ng, 73, a respected barrister and columnist, along with four others, were convicted of participating and organizing an unauthorized march in 2019.
The prosecution of veteran pro-democracy figures in Hong Kong has been held up by their supporters as a severe assault on the freedom of speech and other civil liberties that once were core to the city’s identity. Hong Kong’s authorities have overseen an expansive crackdown on the pro-democracy movement since the city was engulfed by antigovernment protests in 2019. More than 2,400 people have been charged as the authorities sought to quash the movement that had posed the greatest challenge to Beijing’s rule in decades.
Beijing has sought to depict several of the opposition figures in court on Thursday as subversive elements working with hostile foreign forces to undermine Chinese sovereignty. Critics of this view say the ruling Communist Party is only deflecting the true democratic aspirations of the Hong Kong people.
denounced in Chinese state media as being part of a “Gang of Four” who stirred unrest in 2019, an accusation at odds with the largely leaderless movement in the streets.
The case centered on a rally on August 18, 2019 when hundreds of thousands of people gathered in an antigovernment protest.
dropped the case after coming under sharp criticism at home. Dominic Raab, the British foreign secretary, had said Mr. Perry was “pretty mercenary” and was giving the Chinese government a public relations win.
The State Department, in an annual report on Hong Kong issued Wednesday, said that the Hong Kong government “did not respect” the right to free assembly provided under local law, and that by imposing a national security law last year, China had “dramatically undermined rights and freedoms in Hong Kong.”
The trial took 20 days, twice as long as had been scheduled initially.
The defendants, who also include the labor organizer Lee Cheuk-yan and the former lawmakers Cyd Ho and Leung Kwok-hung, face up to five years in prison. Sentences will be handed down at a later date.
Another former lawmaker, Au Nok-hin, 33, had previously pleaded guilty to both charges, while Leung Yiu-chung, 67, had pleaded guilty to a single charge of participating in the protest.
The verdict could set expectations for several trials on similar charges of illegal protests set to take place this year.
In addition, 47 pro-democracy politicians and activists have been charged with subversion under the new security law for participating in an election primary that prosecutors say was part of plan to subvert the government.
Mr. Lai, the media tycoon, has been charged in a separate national security case for allegedly lobbying for American sanctions against Hong Kong and Chinese officials.