“Liberate Hong Kong, revolution of our time” was one of the most commonly chanted slogans during last year’s anti-government protests. Now, it might be illegal.
A government spokesperson said late Thursday that the phrase “nowadays connotes” Hong Kong independence, suggesting that repeating it could constitute a violation of the national security law.
“The HKSAR Government strongly condemns any acts which challenge the sovereignty, unification and territorial integrity of the People’s Republic of China,” the spokesperson added.
The day after the statement was made, a motorbike driver who rammed into police officers during the July 1 protests was charged with one count of terrorism and one count of incitement to secession—his motorbike was fitted with a “Liberate Hong Kong, revolution of our time” flag. The 23-year-old is the first person to be charged under the new legislation.
A total of 10 people were arrested on suspicion of violating the national security law during the Wednesday demonstrations, which were the most violent protests the city had seen in months. At least two were apprehended for waving Hong Kong independence flags.
Three females were arrested respectively for showing materials with #HKIndependence slogans in #CausewayBay, violating #NSL. Anyone who organises, plans, commits or participates in committing secession or undermining national unification shall be guilty of an offence. pic.twitter.com/SB3vYQyiha
— Hong Kong Police Force (@hkpoliceforce) July 1, 2020
Offenders of the law can face a maximum penalty of life imprisonment.
“Liberate Hong Kong, revolution of our time” was first chanted by localist activist Edward Leung, who coined the refrain as his campaign slogan when he ran for a Legislative Council seat in 2016. Last July, it was heard during the anti-government protests for the first time.
Maria Tam, the vice chairperson of the Basic Law Committee, backed the government’s condemnation of the chant on Friday. She fixated on the implication of the word “liberate” in the slogan, adding that “Hong Kong belongs to China.”
Pro-establishment lawmaker Priscilla Leung said that any Legislative Council election candidates who chant the refrain should be barred from running in the September race.
“Liberate Hong Kong, revolution of our time” is often chanted in protests alongside other slogans like “five demands, not one less” and “fight for freedom, stand with Hong Kong.” The government has not commented on other chants, but the vague language of the law has many worried that Beijing could arbitrarily criminalize other protest acts.
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