A Christian religious freedom activist has expressed concern over Hong Kong.
Friday marked 25 years since the UK handed the former colony back to China. China's President Xi Jinping visited Hong Kong in his first trip outside of mainland China in more than two years to mark the anniversary.
Xi said the "one country, two systems" formula was successful under China's "comprehensive jurisdiction."
"For this kind of good system, there is no reason at all to change it. It must be maintained over the long term," Xi added.
"After experiencing wind and rain, everyone can painfully feel that Hong Kong cannot be chaotic, and must not become chaotic again ... Hong Kong’s development cannot be delayed again, and any interference must be eliminated."
His speech was criticised by Christian co-founder of Hong Kong Watch Benedict Rogers.
He told Premier Christian News: “I think it was probably the kind of speech and the kind of propaganda that one would have expected from him. The Chinese side are still trying to stick to the veneer of one country, two systems and Hong Kong, having autonomy and China honouring its side of the Sin/o British Joint Declaration, which was the treaty on which Hong Kong was returned to China. And of course, none of that is true. Now, China has totally dismantled Hong Kong's freedoms and autonomy, but they're still trying to pretend that all as well.”
China's critics accuse authorities of trampling on freedoms, unavailable on the authoritarian mainland, with a sweeping national security law imposed by Beijing on the city in 2020 after mass pro-democracy protests the year before.
Rogers told Premier Hong Kong has now become a police state because of the national security law.
“In terms of the major media, there's no independent media left. There's no freedom to protest. Academic freedom is under increasing pressure. There are now textbooks changing accounts of history to give the Chinese Communist Party's version of history in schools. And Hong Kong has gone very rapidly from being one of the freest and most open societies in Asia, to being a full police state.”
Prime Minister Boris Johnson and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Thursday that China had failed to meet its handover commitments.
China and Hong Kong reject the accusations, saying the law "restored order from chaos" so that the city could prosper.
In light of the national security law, Britain introduced an immigration route for holders of British National (Overseas) passports last year, with Johnson saying there had been 120,000 applications under the scheme by Hong Kongers.
Rogers also said there could be “dark days ahead” as former police chief John Lee was sworn in as Hong Kong's new chief executive, replacing Carrie Lam.
“He has basically had no experience of government, other than policing and security. For 35 years he was a serving police officer and then in government, the positions he held were in the Security Bureau, only in the last 12 months has he served as the number two in the government as chief secretary.”
Rogers urged Christians to pray for Hong Kong, as he predict religious freedoms are next to go.
“I think we should be praying for wisdom and courage for the people of Hong Kong, and for their safety. Pray for those who are in prison, there are almost 800 political prisoners, many of whom are Christians. They're not necessarily jailed, because they're Christians as such, but many of them are Christians, and so we should be praying for them.
“And I do think that freedom of religion or belief is likely to be the next target in Hong Kong. Now that they've dismantled press freedom, freedom of expression, freedom of protest, and assembly. And there are early signs that the Church is becoming an increasing target. So I think pray for those issues and pray that something perhaps miraculous would change. I think it would have to change in the hearts and minds are in the situation of the regime in Beijing in order for Hong Kong to change.”