Hong Kong public libraries have placed certain books under review to see whether they "violate the stipulations" of a new national security law that China imposed on the financial hub.

Anti-national security law protesters march at the anniversary of Hong Kong's handover to China from Britain, in Hong Kong, China July 1, 2020.
Anti-national security law protesters march at the anniversary of Hong Kong's handover to China from Britain, in Hong Kong, China July 1, 2020. (Reuters)

Books by prominent Hong Kong anti-Beijing figures have become unavailable in the Chinese-ruled city's public libraries as they are being reviewed to see whether they violate a new national security law, a government department said on Sunday.

The sweeping legislation, which came into force on Tuesday night at the same time its contents were published, punishes crimes related to secession, subversion, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces, with punishments of up to life in prison.

Hong Kong public libraries "will review whether certain books violate the stipulations of the National Security Law," the Leisure and Cultural Services Department, which runs the libraries, said in a statement.

"While legal advice will be sought in the process of the review, the books will not be available for borrowing and reference in libraries.”

A search for books by young activist Joshua Wong or anti-Beijing politician Tanya Chan on the public libraries website showed the books, including "Unfree Speech," co-authored by Wong, either unavailable or under review.

"The national security law ... imposes a mainland-style censorship regime upon this international financial city," Wong tweeted on Saturday, adding his titles "are now prone to book censorship."

National security law

The national-security legislation has been criticised by anti-Beijing activists, lawyers and foreign governments who fear it would be used to stifle dissent and undermine freedoms the former British colony was promised when it returned to Chinese rule in 1997.

The day after the law came into effect, one man was arrested for carrying a Hong Kong independence flag.

On Friday, the local government declared the slogan "Liberate Hong Kong, revolution of our times" illegal. And a man who had driven a motorcycle into police officers during a protest and carried a flag with that message was charged with terrorism and inciting secessionism.

Local and Beijing officials have repeatedly said the legislation would not curb freedom of speech or the media, nor any other rights in the city. The new law, they said, only targets a few "troublemakers."

Hong Kong has some of Asia's best universities and a campus culture where topics that would be taboo on the mainland are still discussed and written about.

But Beijing has made clear it wants education in the city to become more "patriotic" especially after a year of huge, often violent and largely youth-led anti-Beijing protests.

It is unclear how many books are under review. Two titles by Chinese Nobel Peace Prize-winning political dissident Liu Xiaobo were still available, according to the online search.

READ MORE: Activist leaves Hong Kong after new law to advocate abroad 

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Source: TRTWorld and agencies