Local buses, recycling bins and leaflets are one of Yuan Anita’s main duties as an elected official. She was arrested and imprisoned for violating Hong Kong’s national security law.

Although it sounds absurd, this fact sums up the rapid decline of human rights in the city since a legislation was enacted a year ago today.

In the 12 months since the Chinese government implemented the National Security Law, the National Security Law has been used as an excuse to suppress — and ultimately obliterate — voices criticizing the Hong Kong or Beijing authorities.

Tiffany Yuen is just one of the victims of the law. A humble local politician with a background in promoting LGBTQI and women’s rights, in February, she bid farewell to family and friends and was placed in a correctional institution.

She stays there now and is one of 47 people accused of “conspiring to subvert state power” for participating in the list of pro-democracy candidates aimed at narrowing the 2020 Hong Kong elections. The primary election has never happened. After a four-day large-scale hearing, most people were refused bail. One of the defendants passed out due to exhaustion, and the last trace of freedom once proclaimed in Hong Kong seemed to disintegrate with every minute of hardship.

The National Security Law itself makes Yuan’s continued detention possible, which effectively stipulates that suspects should be refused bail unless they can prove that they will not “continue to commit acts that endanger national security.”

In other words, they are presumed to be guilty rather than innocent. As a result, people targeted by the National Security Law will face Chinese-style imprisonment—prior to being convicted.

Although Yuan is one of 118 people arrested under the law so far, more people have been intimidated, harassed, and eventually forced to remain silent in an attack that changed the face of Hong Kong society.

Last week, entrepreneur Li Zhiying’s outspoken democratic newspaper, Apple Daily, closed. This was a blatant attack on press freedom and a symbol of broader repression that permeated every pore in the city.

In the past year, students have deleted their social media accounts; restaurants have removed protest posters; thousands of people have made distressing immigration decisions. Many people have the same fear: being seen as a threat to national security and the possible long imprisonment that comes with it.

This is because the arbitrary application of the national security law, coupled with the imprecise definition of its so-called crime, makes no one know how and when they might violate it.

Although illegal acts are roughly divided into four categories-“secession”, “subversion”, “terrorism” and “collusion with foreign forces”-the possibility of breaking the law is almost unlimited.

People were arrested for the content of tweets or slogans on T-shirts and mobile phone stickers. A former opposition lawmaker’s chat with reporters on WhatsApp was cited as evidence against her.

As the space for free speech continues to disappear, teachers have lost their license to promote discussions on topics such as Hong Kong’s independence in the classroom. Books criticizing China and Hong Kong have been withdrawn from public libraries. Children are warned not to express political opinions in school.

With the weakening of the rule of law to protect them, Hong Kong’s opposition voices appealed to the international community for support. Forcing the Chinese authorities to confront such human rights violations in bilateral or multilateral areas (such as the United Nations Human Rights Council) depends on the world leaders of the regional committees.

In one of the most sad moments of the past 12 months, the well-respected former legislator who was sentenced to probation for participating in peaceful protests in 2019 told the court in her probation request: For Hong Kong people, This is freedom of speech and freedom of peaceful assembly. “

Although the protection of human rights in Hong Kong may be dulled by the National Security Law, the will of its people has not. When the authorities again banned the city’s annual Tiananmen Square repression night vigil earlier this month – ostensibly based on COVID-19 reasons – and deployed thousands of police officers to deal with events that have been peaceful for 30 years , A large number of people still took to the streets to light candles. People who were killed in Beijing on June 4, 1989. If they don’t remember anymore, who else will remember?

When “Apple Daily” stared into the abyss, people flocked to newsstands to buy every newspaper as much as possible.

Facing the previously unimaginable degree of government suppression, Hong Kong people will adapt and find other ways to express themselves. Tiffany Yuen continued to design flyers for her community during her detention, and she was just one of them.

Amnesty International’s new report on Hong Kong “in the name of national security” is Publish Nowadays.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial stance.

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