On Wednesday, China opened a new office for its intelligence agents to work freely for the first time in Hong Kong under a strict new security law, in a public show of its tightening control of the finance center. The new base is situated in a fast-converted hotel overlooking Victoria Park, a venue that has hosted pro-democracy demonstrations for years, including an annual vigil marking the deadly crackdown of Beijing’s Tiananmen.
Roads around the former Metropark Hotel were blocked by police and surrounded with water-filled barriers. On a pole erected outside the building, a Chinese flag was unfurled while a plaque bearing the national emblem rose overnight. Last week, Beijing imposed a new security law on Hong Kong targeting acts of subversion, secession, terrorism and foreign collusion in response to massive and often violent protests over democracy that erupted last year.
The legislation is the most drastic shift in the freedoms and autonomy of Hong Kong after UK handed the city over to China in 1997. Similar national security laws are being used to crush dissent on Hong Kong ‘s mainland and police have already made arrests for people voicing political views that are now deemed illegal, such as advocating independence or autonomy.