Books by prominent Hong Kong pro-democracy figures have become unavailable in the Chinese-ruled city’s public libraries, days after Beijing introduced sweeping national security legislation, according to online records and one activist.
The law, which came into force on Tuesday night at the same time its contents were published, punishes crimes related to secession, subversion, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces, with punishments of up to life in prison.
A search for books by young activist Joshua Wong or pro-democracy politician Tanya Chan on the public libraries website showed the books, including “Unfree Speech,” co-authored by Wong, either unavailable or under review.
“The national security law … imposes a mainland-style censorship regime upon this international financial city,” Wong tweeted on Saturday, adding his titles “are now prone to book censorship.”
The national-security legislation has been criticised by pro-democracy activists, lawyers and foreign governments who fear it would be used to stifle dissent and undermine freedoms the former British colony was promised when it returned to Chinese rule in 1997.
The day after the law came into effect, one man was arrested for carrying a Hong Kong independence flag.
On Friday, the local government declared the slogan “Liberate Hong Kong, revolution of our times” illegal. And a man who had driven a motorcycle into police officers during a protest and carried a flag with that message was charged with terrorism and inciting secessionism.
The city’s Leisure and Cultural Services Department, which runs libraries, was quoted by local media saying books had been removed while it was being determined whether they violate the law.
Local and Beijing officials have repeatedly said the legislation would not curb freedom of speech or the media, nor any other rights in the city. The new law, they said, only targets a few “troublemakers.”
It is unclear how many books are under review. Two titles by Chinese Nobel Peace Prize-winning political dissident Liu Xiaobo were still available, according to the online search.