Among the books that cannot be found are those of Joshua Wong, one of the greatest young activists in the city and Tanya Chan, lawyer, founder of the Civic Party. “Terror is spreading – wrote Wong on Facebook – and the national security law is only a tool for incriminating freedom of expression”. The new law was officially born to combat subversive actions, attempts at secession and terrorism and collusion with foreign forces, but it is evident that it aims above all to silence opponents by preventing anyone from openly manifesting their dissent.
The department responsible for cultural services in Hong Kong, which also manages the libraries, told France Presse that the books have been removed from the shelves pending the determination of whether they violate the national security law. Pending verification, they will no longer be available. Beijing claims that the new rules will involve a narrow and well-identified minority of citizens and will have no impact on freedom: they were introduced only to restore some stability after a year of protests.
In Hong Kong, however, everyone has already perceived that the climate has changed. The police stop people who have signs of independence or punish shopkeepers who do not remove protest slogans from the windows. The contents of the law have been kept hidden until its promulgation and are vague enough to allow anyone to be punished. Any appeal for independence or even for greater autonomy can lead to arrest, as well as criticism of the governments of Beijing and Hong Kong.
The new restrictions are likely to end up hitting even the teaching in the universities of the former colony, which are among the freest in Asia. Topics that are banned in Chinese universities are still being discussed freely in Hong Kong, an anomaly that Beijing has already announced it wants to end by introducing more “patriotic” forms of teaching.