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HK protests: Who's listening?

By Willy Wo-Lap Lam, CNN Senior China Analyst

The protest was the biggest in Hong Kong since one million people turned out to oppose the Tiananmen Sqaure crackdown in 1989.
The protest was the biggest in Hong Kong since one million people turned out to oppose the Tiananmen Sqaure crackdown in 1989.

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A new anti-subversion bill in Hong Kong has many worried about political repression. CNN's Mike Chinoy reports (July 2)
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Under the proposed legislation, anyone found guilty of acts of treason, sedition, secession or subversion against mainland China could be jailed for life. Treason: instigation of foreign invasion, assisting a public enemy at war with the People's Republic of China (PRC), or joining foreign armed forces at war with the PRC.
Secession: use of war, force or serious criminal means to split the country.
Subversion: use of war, force or serious criminal means to overthrow or intimidate the Central People's Government, or to disestablish the basic system of the state
Sedition: inciting others to commit treason, subversion or seccession, or inciting others to engage in violent public disorder that would seriously endanger the stability of the PRC.

HONG KONG, China (CNN) -- Organizers of the huge rally against Hong Kong's national security bill are calling on supporters to put more pressure on the government next Wednesday, when the bill is expected to become law.

On Tuesday, organizers say at least 500,000 residents from all walks of life took to the streets to oppose the impending legislation, seen as putting limits on civil liberties as well as religious and press freedom.

Since the Tung Chee-hwa administration has a comfortable majority in the Legislative Council (LegCo), the bill's passage is a foregone conclusion.

Lee Cheuk-yan, a pro-democracy legislator and an organizer of Tuesday's march, urged Hong Kong people to put more pressure on the Tung government in the run-up to the July 9 legislative session.

While final strategies are still being fine-tuned, anti-national security bill politicians say they expect a big demonstration outside the LegCo chambers in central Hong Kong Island.

The Tung administration has given no indication that the record number of protesters will either delay or change the contents on the legislation.

In a statement late Tuesday, Tung said he understood the feelings and aspirations of the demonstrators and vowed to listen more closely to the people.

However, he stressed that "enactment of the national security bill is a constitutional duty" of the Special Administration Region (SAR), adding that "the rights and freedoms enjoyed by the people of Hong Kong will not be affected."

Jasper Tsang, head of a large bloc of pro-Beijing legislators, also said the big anti-government rally would not affect the votes next Wednesday.

"The protestors have been misled," Tsang said.

In reaction to the protests on Tuesday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Kong Quan reiterated that the legislative process conducted by the SAR government had been "democratic, transparent and open" and that the bill will not affect Hong Kong's freedoms.

Sources close to Beijing's Hong Kong policy establishment said the Chinese leadership, including Premier Wen Jiabao, who left Hong Kong on Tuesday after a three-day tour, would reappraise the situation in light of Tuesday's unexpectedly vehement protests.

The sources said, however, that it would be extremely unlikely Beijing would make any concessions to public opinion in Hong Kong.

The national security bill fleshes out Article 23 of Hong Kong's Basic Law, or mini-constitution, which calls for legislation to counter subversion, secession, sedition and other anti-state policies.

Legal, religious and journalistic groups in Hong Kong, however, have pointed out the bill will hurt the "one country, two systems" framework by clamping down on civil and other liberties.

For example, a clause in the bill against SAR organizations that are tied to mainland units already declared "subversive" or "anti-government" may hurt the activities of Catholic and Christian churches in the territory, which have close links to underground churches in China.

The Hong Kong Journalist Association has also expressed opposition to the bill's stipulations against "leakage of state secrets."


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