AP Interview: Martin Lee sees end of the Hong Kong he knows

HONG KONG (AP) - The man nicknamed "Father of Democracy" in Hong Kong said Beijing is trying to take control of the semi-autonomous city with an upcoming national security law, but violent protest is not the answer.
"This is clearly an excuse for Beijing to take full control of Hong Kong, as they announced six years ago," longtime activist and former legislator Martin Lee said in an interview on Friday.
The national security law, which could be passed this weekend in Beijing, aims to curb secessionist, subversive, terrorist, and foreign interference that Beijing has fueled months of protests against the Hong Kong government. The law would be passed by the central government, bypassing the city's legislature.
"The end of Hong Kong as we know it, as an international city, as a free port and with all of our freedoms protected by our independent court, could well go away," said Lee.
He hoped Beijing would keep its promise and adhere to the so-called "One Country, Two Systems" framework, in which "Hong Kong people rule Hong Kong with a high degree of autonomy."
Hong Kong, a former British colony, was assured that it would be able to maintain its freedoms that many on the mainland had not found when it was handed over to China in 1997. Last year's protests were triggered by the rejection of a proposed extradition law that allowed suspects to be brought to justice on the mainland, which many viewed as a violation of this obligation.
Lee, 82, was arrested for the first time in April along with 14 other democracy-friendly figures. They were accused of participating in and organizing several protests last year.
"It is selective law enforcement," he said, calling the charge politically motivated. "But if you want to blame 15 of us for this series of demonstrations, it should be so."
He said they had a strong defense and were confident that they would be acquitted.
Lee urged the Hong Kong people to peacefully protest the national security law even after it came into force. The protests last year have been the most violent in Hong Kong since the handover to China.
"I hope there is no violence in these public demonstrations because you can't win. How can you defeat the armed Hong Kong police force once you've used weapons?" He asked.
The controversial national security law was sharply criticized by the Hong Kong Democracy Camp. Activists like Lee and others said it undermines the "one country, two systems" framework.
The Standing Committee of the National People's Congress discusses the law during a three-day session that ends on Saturday. It is not clear whether the law will be approved at this session.
Yue Zhongming, a spokesman for the Standing Committee's Legislative Affairs Commission, said Tuesday that the committee intends to speed up the process of drafting the law.
Lee was part of the committee that was involved in drafting the Hong Kong Constitution, although he later resigned from Tiananmen Square to protest Beijing's bloody crackdown on the 1989 democratic-friendly protests.
In 1990 he founded Hong Kong's first democracy-friendly party and has been committed to democracy and human rights for four decades.

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