China is adamant in reining in Hong Kong by imposing a national security law to prohibit challenges to its authority, according to a China think tank advisor, but pro-democracy activists remain hopeful that foreign intervention can force China's hand and salvage the liberal city's freedoms.
Lau Siu-kai, vice president of the Chinese Association of Hong Kong and Macau Studies, said China was misunderstood by foreign countries to have relinquished control over Hong Kong under the "one country, two systems" policy.
"Hong Kong is part of China," Lau told Kyodo News. "China has not given up its power of legislation just because it allowed Hong Kong to have (autonomy)," he said in an interview.
China's legislation of a national security law for Hong Kong, which has drawn grave concerns about the territory's autonomous status from countries like the United States and Britain, aims to curtail collusion by internal and external forces in stirring up social unrest to overturn the local government.
The monthslong anti-government movement that was sparked by a protest against the now-withdrawn bill that would have allowed extradition of fugitives to mainland China has been dogging Hong Kong since an estimated one million people took to the streets in protest on June 9 last year.
Subsequent protests carried on, including a trashing of the Legislative Council by protesters, as irate citizens demanded the withdrawal of the extradition bill.
Over the months, some of the peaceful protests have turned violent as the police crackdown also intensified, prompting protesters to widen their demands to include a pardon for the arrested, a probe into police use of force, and more democracy.
Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam's reluctance to withdraw the bill at first and her over-reliance upon the 30,000-strong police force in crushing the demonstrations helped fan the anti-government sentiment for the months on end.
While pressing their demands, protesters were seen more often holding pro-independence flags and placards cursing the Chinese Communist Party during protests, desecrating the Chinese flag and government emblem hanging over the territory's Beijing office to show their contempt for the communist regime.
Instead of conceding to the demands, China accused foreign powers of interfering in Hong Kong affairs by backing the protesters in a bid to topple the local authorities, threatening China's sovereignty over the territory.
"It would be absurd to think that China will sit idly by when the opposition camp is picking a fight," Lau said.
The Chinese parliament's decision last month to enact a law prohibiting separation, subversion, terrorist activities and external interference in Hong Kong has prompted the strongest reaction from the United States, which moved to disqualify the city for its special trade treatment and consider sanctioning Chinese officials responsible for eroding its rights and freedoms.
Britain also said it will admit some 3 million Hong Kong people if China persists with the legislation, which it argues would be a breach of the Joint Declaration the two countries had signed to facilitate the former British colony's retrocession to Chinese sovereignty.
"The joint declaration is not an international treaty. China has fulfilled its duty by enacting the Basic Law pertaining to the content in the declaration. It is hard to believe that China will let Britain interfere in post-handover Hong Kong affairs," Lau said.
The possible sanctions by the United States, however, may also have little impact since most of the targeted officials have few ties or assets in the U.S. that could be subject to an asset freeze.
"Embargo on dual-use technology, or sanctions against red (China's) capital" are some of the possible tools the United States could use to arm-wrestle China, pro-democracy activist Joshua Wong said in an interview.
"It is important for different countries to voice their issues with China (over the national security law). Taiwan is particularly vocal. Japan is a surprise as we could not have guessed the overwhelming support from its legislators to Hong Kong," he said.
"The law could have a chilling effect, obstructing normal exchanges between Hong Kong and foreign countries. Hong Kong is not North Korea."
The priority is to force a withdrawal of the national security bill, just like what happened to the China extradition bill, Wong said.
The law could be passed by the end of June at the earliest when members of the National People's Congress Standing Committee are scheduled to meet.
Street protesters have, however, adopted a different tactic.
"Resistance needs to be comprehensive," said a radical protester identifying himself as Peter. "If we want democracy and real autonomy, we must not only rely on struggling on streets, but an all-round revolution, or as some say a long battle."
He said Beijing imposing the national security law in Hong Kong has woken up the people's sense of distinct identity as Hong Kongers, not Chinese, and provided a chance for the international community to see how different Hong Kong people are from those in mainland China.
"Because of this (legislation), Hong Kong people have become a target for the Chinese communist regime, just like the people in Xinjiang and Tibet, ones whom the Chinese authorities want obliterated," Peter said.
"We have to end the Chinese Communist Party's rule in Hong Kong. We are on a one-way street, we cannot expect to be dependent on China, or coexist peacefully anymore."