Widespread pro-democracy protests that rocked Hong Kong in 2019 have largely subsided, in part due to the outbreak of Covid-19 and the enactment of a controversial national security law last year.

Emily Lau, a former Democratic Party member of the Hong Kong Legislative Council, said some Hongkongers now fear that “we probably have lost our freedom of expression, freedom of assembly, freedom of demonstration maybe not forever, but for many, many years.”

“And that’s how distressed and how disillusioned the Hong Kong people are,” Lau told CNBC’s Martin Soong on Tuesday.

Beijing bypassed Hong Kong’s legislature to implement a national security law last year. Last month, China approved sweeping changes to Hong Kong’s electoral system that critics said would hold back pro-democracy politicians.

Those moves followed months of pro-democracy protests in 2019 that sometimes turned violent. Chinese and Hong Kong authorities have said the changes would safeguard national security and quell anti-China movement in the semi-autonomous region.

Dozens of pro-democracy activists in Hong Kong have been arrested and charged under the national security law. But Lau said: “I refuse to allow myself to be intimidated into silence.”

“We want China to keep the promises of the Sino-British Joint Declaration and the Basic Law,” she said, adding that she and other activists are not seeking to overthrow the Hong Kong government or the central government in Beijing.

The Basic Law is Hong Kong’s mini constitution that enshrines the principle of “one country, two systems” used to govern the city.

Beijing, on its part, has said that the national security law and electoral changes in Hong Kong are in line with the “one country, two systems” framework.