China Establishes New Law in Hong Kong

September 7, 2020
At the third session of the 13th National People’s Congress, in may this year, a preliminary decision to create and improve the legal framework and enforcement mechanism for protecting national security in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) was submitted for deliberation.
Protest against the new security law on the streets of Hong Kong.
Since the 2019 amendment bill has been passed, a lot of disturbances have occurred. The “Hong Kong independence” and the forces who believed in and supported Hong Kong’s separation from mainland China, became increasingly pervasive with violent terrorist activities escalating. Foreign forces and “Taiwan independence” forces, in an open and unapologetic manner, ramped up their interference in Hong Kong affairs

National security is a necessary condition in order for a country to be able to exist and develop, and such intervention from the outside compromises Hong Kong’s public security. It challenges the core point of Hong Kong’s “one country, two systems” principle and constitutes a real threat to the security of the country. Therefore, the National People’s Congress (NPC) made the decision to establish a national security law. The NPC believes that implementing this new security law is essential in order to maintain national sovereignty, the unity of the country, and territorial integrity: and in this way the “one country, two systems” principle will also be consolidated.

Hong Kong was always meant to have a security law, but due to unpopularity of such prospect, it has not been possible to pass one. However, this year mainland China decided it was time to step in and make sure that Hong Kong has a legal framework to help deal with the challenges it is facing. 

Nonetheless, it took a while for the law to be made widely known. The law was adopted on May 28th, but by June 29th, a day before it was officially accepted, Hong Kong’s Chief Executive Carrie Lam still did not know much about it. The details of the law was not revealed until it was officially passed and excepted on June 30th. 

The national security law contains 66 articles and it makes sure that the act of secession, along with undermining the power of the authorities and the central government, conspiring with foreign or external forces, and engaging in acts of terrorism is criminalised. People suspected of not following the law can be wire-tapped and put under surveillance, and if caught doing any of these crimes the maximum sentence is lifetime in prison. The law is even applicable to people who are not permanent residents in Hong Kong. 

One of the law’s key provisions is that Beijing will set up a national security office in Hong Kong, where law enforcement personnel from Beijing will be working, and nor the national security office or the personnel working there will have to abide by Hong Kong’s local jurisdiction. The security office can even send some of its cases to be tried in mainland China. However, Beijing made a statement that they would only be able to do that with a few cases. Hong Kong also needs to create their own their own national security commission to implement the laws, but the adviser will be from Beijing. 

Hong Kong’s chief executive will be the one in power of appointing the judges in charge of the hearings of the national security cases, which in its turn leads to fear concerning the autonomy of the judiciary. 

Another important detail, regarding the law, is that Beijing will be in power of its interpretation, it does not lay in the hands of any Hong Kong legal or policy body. If the new security law collides with any Hong Kong law, the Beijing law will be prioritized. 

The implementation of this law has instilled fear in the people of Hong Kong, and one of the reasons is that the people of Hong Kong are fearing that this law will have an impact on their freedom. Even though Beijing has made a point of that Hong Kong needs to respect and protect rights and liberties whilst at the same time protect the country’s national security, the people feel like this law will affect their freedom negatively. 

Johannes Chan, a law professor at the University of Hong Kong, stated that it is very clear that this new law will have an impact on people's freedom to express themselves, and maybe even their own personal security.

Reports state that people have been deleting facebook posts and there are concerns that anyone who goes against the national security laws will be banned from entering in the elections. 

There also exists a fear that Hong Kong’s legal independence will crumble and that its legal system will start looking more and more similar to the one in mainland China. “Effectively, they are imposing the People’s Republic of China’s criminal system onto the Hong Kong common law system” Johannes Chan states in a BBC news article. 

Around two months has now passed since the law’s initial implementation, and the news regarding how it has gone is not very positive. In a Human Rights Watch report from July 29th the law was called “Beijing’s most aggressive assault on Hong Kong’s people’s freedoms since the transfer of sovereignty in 1997”. 

Maya Wang, a senior China researcher at Human Rights Watch stated that “Overnight, Beijing robbed Hong Kong people of their human rights”. The people of Hong Kong has been used to freedom for a long time, but now possessing banners or chanting slogans that the authorities disapprove of can lead to lengthy prison terms. 

Three days ago the Guardian posted an article where it was discussed that Hong Kong’s new security law may be in breach of several international laws along with the declaration of human rights. A communique, written by seven different working groups and rapporteurs, made the Chinese government aware of that this law went against people’s fundamental rights, lacked accurateness, and may not fulfil international thresholds of “necessity, proportionality, and non-discrimination”.  

Camilia El-Sayed
Co-Founder and Head of Politics.