HONG KONG (Reuters) – Newspaper salesman Man, 60, was speechless when she saw the headline that Beijing is planning to introduce national security legislation in Hong Kong and worried about the future of young people in the Chinese-controlled city.
FILE PHOTO: Hong Kong skyline lights up on Christmas Eve in Hong Kong, China, December 24, 2019. REUTERS / Lucy Nicholson / File Photo
The Communist Party rulers in Beijing on Friday revealed details of legislation that critics see as a turning point for the former British colony, which enjoys many freedoms, including an independent judiciary and right to protest, not allowed on the mainland.
“I was very upset when I kept the newspaper with the headline that the National Security Act has arrived in Hong Kong,” said Man, who declined to give her her full name because of the sensitivity of the issue.
“I feel upset for the young generation … What can they do now, where can they go?” said the man, who has been selling newspapers in the vibrant working-class district of Mong Kok for nearly five decades.
Lok, 42, a clerk at an investment firm and the mother of two children aged 16 and nine, shared his sense of despair over the prospects for Hong Kong’s younger generation.
“There are no prospects for them anymore,” Lok said, adding that she hopes her children can leave town.
“I think Hong Kong is halfway dead. I didn’t think Hong Kong would deteriorate so quickly. ”
Lui, 22, who works with marketing, told Reuters he felt scared when he heard the news, but said Hong Kong people must be persistent and continue to fight what many see as Beijing’s tightening grip on the city.
“Whether Hong Kong is still Hong Kong, it depends on us, Hong Kong people,” Lui said.
“We should not give up easily because of the legislation of the National Security Act. Being persistent is Hong Kong’s spirit. ”
Others hope that the proposed laws can help calm a city weakened by months of often violent protests against the government, showing signs of rising again when anger is built over Beijing’s move to assert its authority over the city.
Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam says her government will “fully cooperate” with the Chinese parliament to protect national security, which she said would not affect rights, freedoms or legal independence.
“We are not rich people and not financially sound. Making money is of the utmost importance for feeding my family, says Ben Ip, 45, a mechanic and owner of a car painting shop in the city’s Tai Hang district.
“As a regular citizen of Hong Kong, we want to have a stable life in a safe environment. The law can speed up some people to leave … it can be good in the long run, leading to a calmer Hong Kong. ”
Reporting by Jessie Pang and Donny Kwok; Writing by Anne Marie Roantree; Editing of Lincoln Feast.