By ZEN SOO
By ZEN SOO
“The end of Hong Kong as we know it, as an international city, as a free port and with all our freedoms protected by our independent court — this could well disappear,” Lee said.
He said he hoped that Beijing will keep to its promise and abide by the so-called “one country, two systems” framework, where “Hong Kong people will rule Hong Kong with a high degree of autonomy.”
A former British colony, Hong Kong was assured that it would be allowed to maintain its freedoms, many not found on the mainland, when it was handed over to China in 1997. Last year’s protests were sparked by opposition to a proposed extradition bill that would have allowed suspects to be sent for trial on the mainland, something many saw as a violation of that commitment.
The 82-year-old Lee was arrested for the first time in April together with 14 other pro-democracy figures. They were charged with participating in and organizing several of last year’s protests.
“It’s selective prosecution,” he said, calling the charges politically motivated. “But if they want to charge 15 of us over this series of demonstrations, then so be it.”
He said they had a strong defense and expressed confidence they would be acquitted.
Lee urged Hong Kongers to protest peacefully against the national security law, even after it is enacted. The protests last year were the most violent Hong Kong has seen since the handover to China.
“I hope there’s no violence in these public demonstrations because you cannot win. Once you use weapons, how can you defeat the Hong Kong policemen, who are so well-armed?” he asked.
The controversial national security law has drawn sharp rebuke from the pro-democracy camp in Hong Kong, with activists like Lee and others saying that it erodes the “one country, two systems” framework.
The Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress is deliberating the law during a three-day meeting that ends Saturday. It is not clear if it will approve the law at this session.
Yue Zhongming, a spokesperson for the Legislative Affairs Commission of the Standing Committee, said Tuesday that the committee planned to speed up the formulation of the law.
Lee was part of the committee that helped draft the Basic Law, Hong Kong’s constitution, although he later resigned in protest over Beijing’s bloody crackdown on the 1989 pro-democracy protests in Tiananmen Square.
In 1990, he founded Hong Kong’s first pro-democracy party, and has been a champion of democracy and human rights for the past four decades.
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