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Pro-Democracy Activist Flees Hong Kong After China Passes New National Security Law

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

In Hong Kong, pro-democracy activists knew they would be in danger once China passed a national security law. That law severely cuts into Hong Kong's independence, with harsh punishments for actions that Beijing deems subversive. And so hours after the law passed on Tuesday, the leaders of the group Demosisto disbanded their political party. One of the group's founders has now announced that he has fled Hong Kong. Nathan Law is a former Hong Kong lawmaker, and he joins us now from an undisclosed location.

Thank you for speaking with us.

NATHAN LAW: Thanks for the invitation.

SHAPIRO: Why did you decide to leave Hong Kong?

LAW: Well, I think we need to understand that the national security law is tailor-made to target any person in Hong Kong to do international advocacy, which is crucial for Hong Kongers because the international pressure towards China and also the spotlight on Hong Kong are fundamental for us to really push forward changes. So I think we need to have a voice on the international level with a public figure. So I think it's time for me to carry that responsibility.

SHAPIRO: But is the fight over at this point? The law has been passed. People have been arrested under it. Beijing is aggressively implementing it. What do you see as the fight?

LAW: Well, of course not. You can see the rally on the 1 of July. There were more than a 100,000 people marching down the street with the risk of being imprisoned for more than 10 years. So we've observed the tenacity of the Hong Kong protest. But for me, I think the way out is - also, the international community should come together, a multilateral and very consistent strategy towards the Chinese expansionist authoritarianism.

SHAPIRO: You say the international community needs to respond. The United States has already passed sanctions. There have been other condemnations. What do you think needs to happen?

LAW: Well, of course, we can see that several countries are offering safe boat (ph) policies to Hong Kong people, including the U.K. and possibly Taiwan and Australia. But I think, for now, there are still countries that are willing to prioritize trade deals and interests to China, rather than placing the human rights issues as their predominant consideration when they think of their diplomatic actions.

SHAPIRO: Speaking personally, what was it like for you to leave Hong Kong, the city that has been your home?

LAW: Well, it's definitely very complicated. On the one hand, I feel like I have the responsibility and also the credibility to continue my international advocacy work outside Hong Kong. But on the other hand, of course, this is the place that you grew up with, and you spend most of your life there, and you basically have to give up a lot of things leaving there. And I don't know whether I have any possibilities of going back in the near future.

SHAPIRO: Many activists have described this national security law as the end of Hong Kong as we know it. Do you think that's true?

LAW: Well, that's definitely true. If we're talking about one country, two system - the essence of that system is the high degree of autonomy, rule of law and respect for human rights and freedom. Well, in that sense, implementing the national security law, which guaranteed the government unlimited power to prosecute individuals that they don't like, is definitely a complete destruction of that mindset. So even for the most conservative, like Democrats, they would declare that that is the last nail of the coffin.

SHAPIRO: Nathan Law is a former lawmaker who has fled Hong Kong after China passed a national security law.

Thank you for speaking with us.

LAW: Thank you very much. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.