Hong Kong tensions simmer over anthem law

Hong Kong residents are planning an exodus to the UK, if China's security bill goes through.
Hong Kong residents are planning an exodus to the UK, if China's security bill goes through.

Hong Kong lawmakers are set to resume a debate over a controversial bill that would make disrespecting China's national anthem a criminal offence, as the city ramps up for fresh protests amid simmering anti-government tensions.

An annual vigil to mark the June 4, 1989, anniversary of Chinese troops opening fire on pro-democracy students in and around Tiananmen Square has been cancelled for the first time ever due to the coronavirus but activists still plan to rally.

The ban comes on the heels of China's plan to directly impose national security laws on Hong Kong, a move that has drawn international condemnation and revived anti-government demonstrations in the former British colony.

On Wednesday, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Beijing's decision would "dramatically" erode Hong Kong's autonomy and the United Kingdom is prepared to change its immigration rules to accommodate Hong Kong residents.

Even before China announced its plan for the security law, there was a surge in renewals of British National Overseas Passports by Hong Kong residents, while immigration consultants have reported a rush of inquiries from people looking to move overseas.

Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam accused foreign governments on Tuesday of "double standards" in their reaction to Beijing's plans. Lam, along with officials from the justice and security departments, arrives in Beijing on Wednesday to discuss the new legislation.

On Wednesday, Jardines Group, one of Hong Kong's original foreign trading houses, published a full-page statement in pro-Beijing newspaper Ta Kung Pao saying it was important to enact a legal framework to safeguard the city's national security.

"It can ensure that Hong Kong continues to absorb investment, increase job opportunities and guarantee people's livelihood," Jardines said in the statement.

Australian Associated Press