Hong Kong’s pro-Beijing government said the new National Security Law will only target “an extremely small minority.” As with most things Beijing directed, that may be a borderline lie.
Reminiscent of Nancy Pelosi’s “But we have to pass the [health care] bill so that you can find out what’s in it …,” an elite group unanimously voted to pass the HK national security legislation even before they had seen a draft of it! (Perhaps politicians the world over all do things backwards?) The National Security Law was passed in the morning of June 30, but the full text of the legislation was not made public until just before midnight July 1, just in time “as a birthday present for Hong Kong,” as one mainland Chinese official said, in reference to the July, 1997 return of Hong Kong to China. How utterly tactless and classless!
Already, one heavy-handed move since the law came into effect included withdrawal from circulation books authored by activists from public libraries. “The book collection must comply with the law of Hong Kong,” a government spokeswoman said.
Following its passage on June 30, the global community immediately reacted. They voiced concern over “the starkest changes for the former British colony since its return to China,” as Singapore’s The Straits Times put it. The law gives Beijing powers it never had before to control Hong Kong beyond the legal system.
The National Security Law allows Beijing to assert extrajudicial powers over virtually anyone deemed to have committed the vaguely defined acts of secession, subversion of state power, terrorism and foreign collusion.
Article 29 of the legislation says that individuals can be charged for cooperating with a “foreign country or an institution, organization or individual” outside of China for, among other things, “imposing sanctions or blockade, or engaging in other hostile activities against the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region or the People’s Republic of China.”
Under Article 38, (“This Law shall apply to offences under this Law committed against the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region from outside the Region by a person who is not a permanent resident of the Region.”) anybody — regardless of whether (s)he is a Hong Kong citizen or not, or even if (s)he is located in the city — could be in violation of the law. This is tantamount to establishing planetary jurisdiction!
The new law also allows mainland agencies to monitor foreign media, which, no doubt, will lead to further self-censorship in reporting.
An economist at an international investment bank in Hong Kong said they were concerned about stepping “on a landmine” in the views they express on China. Given Article 38, every person on earth is liable for inadvertently stepping on a landmine of sorts!
“All eight billion people in the world should familiarize themselves with the Hong Kong National Security Law to avoid falling into the legal trap,” said a law professor at the University of Hong Kong.
In London, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said passing of the [national security] law was a “clear and serious breach” of the 1985 Sino-British joint declaration — which set out how certain freedoms would be protected for the 50 years after China assumed control of the colony in 1997. Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said Britain will decide what action to take once it has seen the full security legislation. “Despite the urging of the international community, Beijing has chosen not to step back from imposing this legislation,’ he said in a statement.
Raab further added, “China has ignored its international obligations regarding Hong Kong. This is a grave step, which is deeply troubling. We urgently need to see the full legislation, and will use that to determine whether there has been a breach of the Joint Declaration and what further action the UK will take."
Japan’s Foreign Minister said he shared the "deep concern" of the international community and the people of Hong Kong over the measure, which undermined the credibility of the “one country, two systems” China had touted in accordance to Hong Kong’s Special Administrative Region status.
Taiwan, no surprise, strongly condemned Beijing’s new law. The Cabinet stated, "The move severely impacts Hong Kong society's freedom, human rights and stability." Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen said she was "very disappointed" by China's move, adding that it showed the "one country, two systems" formula "was not feasible.”
Given the pervasiveness and vagueness in definition of the law, countries around the world are updating their travel advisories to warn their own citizens of “increased risk” when traveling to the city.
Canada, who by 2014 estimates, had approximately 300,000-500,000 citizens living in Hong Kong, was the first country to update its travel advisory to reflect the new law. It warned: “National security legislation for Hong Kong came into effect on July 1, 2020. You may be at increased risk of arbitrary detention on national security grounds and possible extradition to mainland China.”
Furthermore, in protest of the new law, Canada suspended its extradition treaty with Hong Kong. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said his country was “extremely concerned” about the situation in Hong Kong under the new law, and would examine measures to “ensure the safety of its citizens.” On July 4,
China accused Canada of “grossly meddling” in China’s internal affairs and expressing “unwarranted comments” on the new law.
Australia’s travel office spelled out the reality bluntly in its travel advisory: “This law could be interpreted broadly. You can break the law without intending to. The maximum penalty under this law in Hong Kong is life imprisonment.” In addition, Australian Prime Miister Scott Morrison announced July 9 that its extradition agreement with Hong Kong will end and temporary visas for Hong Kongers in Australia will be extended for five years, with a path to permanent residency.
The UK issued a similarly ominous warning. There is “a risk of heightened tension” due to the passing of the security law, and “Mainland authorities could under certain circumstances detain individuals under the terms of this law, with maximum penalty of life imprisonment,” the UK’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office said.
On July 1, when thousands of angry, defiant Hong Kongers protested the law, police arrested close to 400 people, with 10 on suspicion of violating the new legislation.
Two women who were apprehended were found to be in possession of fliers with the words “One Nation, One Hong Kong,” while at least two others were waving Hong Kong independence flags. How will they be handled? Will the new law be implemented in their cases?
Activist Joshua Wong was spot on about the law, “It marks the end of Hong Kong that the world knew before.”
Be sad. Be very afraid.