On June 30, the Hong Kong anti-protest law passed in China. The national security law makes any expressions of secession, terrorism, subversion, or collusion with foreign or external forces punishable offenses.
After a year of protests in the region, following the proposal of a now-aborted bill that would allow China to extradite criminal cases from Hong Kong, this new policy has sparked the fires of protest once more.
Hong Kong’s government wants stability, protesters want change, and international governments have already criticized this controversial policy.
With this new national security law, Hong Kong has once again become an epicenter of political and cultural strife.
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Hong Kong’s passing of the national security law is a painful moment and represents the greatest threat to human rights in the city’s recent history. From now on, China will have the power to impose its own laws on any criminal suspect it chooses. Read more at link in bio @amnestyuk
History and workings of the national security law
As mentioned previously, Hong Kong’s national security law makes any expression of secession, terrorism, subversion, or collusion with foreign or external forces as criminal acts.
Many protesters in Hong Kong and around the world are criticizing the law for its broad definitions of what it considers to be illegal. According to the law’s full text translated by the South China Morning Post, one instance of these broad definitions is in Article 29.
This states the act of “provoking by unlawful means hatred among Hong Kong residents towards the Central People’s Government or the Government of the Region, which is likely to cause serious consequences” is considered a punishable offence.
Important Xi Jinping article declaring that CCP leads absolutely everything in Chinese society— military, academia, etc. Chinese citizens, he says, are like “stars revolving around the revered moon” — the CCP. https://t.co/N0CRHAtCsM
— Gerry Shih (@gerryshih) July 16, 2020
Yet the definition of what constitutes “hatred” towards the government is not exactly specified here.
Furthermore, breaking the law can result in imprisonment of up to a lifetime sentence.
The national security law is also unique in that it doesn’t just apply to residents of Hong Kong. Article 38 states:
“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.”
This means anyone, whether they live in Hong Kong, the United States, or anywhere else in the world, is technically able to be punished by this law. This broad reach the law possesses has also been a point of criticism.
— Nathan Law 羅冠聰 😷 (@nathanlawkc) July 11, 2020
The new national security law, from its conception to its execution, is an unprecedented instance of mainland China exerting control over Hong Kong’s affairs.
The law was passed by China’s highest legislative body, the National People’s Congress (or NPC), which bypasses Hong Kong’s own elected legislative branch. The national security law also allows for security personnel from China to freely operate in the region, which many critics say will endanger people’s freedom in Hong Kong.
Reignited criticism and protests in Hong Kong
Hong Kong is already dealing with protests that have persisted since last year. Protests that gained worldwide recognition, ever since the introduction of a now-aborted bill that would allow China to extradite criminals from Hong Kong to Beijing’s government.
The new national security law, however, seems to be just a different version of that policy but with many more stipulations, severe punishments, and widespread implications.
Hong Kong protesters, pro-democracy supporters, and even people from abroad, have cited that the law could endanger people’s desires for autonomy in Hong Kong. Not only that, but it could also potentially threaten their freedom of speech as a whole.
For example, the law has a heavy impact on the literature world alone. Bookstores and libraries are already removing books published by pro-democracy activists in Hong Kong.
I bought a copy of @KongTsungGan's new book "Liberate Hong Kong" because I feared that it'd soon be illegal to buy it. (HK govt has declared that the protest slogan “Liberate Hong Kong, revolution of our times” is seditious & illegal under the #NationalSecurityLaw) pic.twitter.com/UlAUxTNC6T
— Resilient girl 🐈😷 (@resilienthkgirl) July 12, 2020
The policy also affects the entire book publication pipeline. It’s harder for authors to find publishers, publishers can’t find printing houses to create books, and printing houses are having difficulty sourcing distributors to release those texts to the public.
Many establishments are now erasing what are called Lennon Walls, or walls of post-it notes. When protests in Hong Kong started last year, many people used these as a way to express themselves. Now where once stood tiny pieces of paper with a variety of messages on them, now there are only blank sheets.
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Hong Kong’s cafés have been replacing pro-democracy Post-it notes with blank ones. They have to, or risk being on the wrong side of Hong Kong’s new national-security law. From the appointment of a party commissar to work with the chief executive, to the pulling of politically sensitive books from library shelves, Hong Kong is already a changed city. Censorship is spreading. A new Office for Safeguarding National Security has sweeping powers to investigate and detain people for crimes covered by the new law: subversion, sedition, secession and collusion with foreign countries. Already Carrie Lam has begun picking judges to try national-security cases. The first case involving the new law relates to Tong Ying-kit, who is accused of separatism and terrorism for allegedly riding a motorcycle on July 1st towards a group of policemen while flying a flag reading “Liberate Hong Kong, revolution of our times”. Residents have long feared that Hong Kong might turn into just another Chinese city. Now that is happening, fast. Click the link in our bio to read how China is tightening its grip on Hong Kong. Credit: New York Times/Redux/eyevine
Even though the law has only been passed recently, it’s already had a massive impact on the Hong Kong public. In the aftermath of an unofficial primary held for pro-democratic candidates, which attracted over 600,000 voters both in-person and digitally, Hong Kong’s Chief Executive Carrie Lam claimed this activity is potentially violating the national security law.
This means over 600,000 people could potentially be punished with imprisonment or other penalties according to the policy.
Many critics of the law also say it will impact the upcoming election process in Hong Kong, since candidates who have been proven guilty of violating the national security law will be unable to run for office. As a result, they believe it will reduce their chances at fighting for their freedom.
The Hong Kong government’s response
The government of Hong Kong has continually defended the law, claiming it will in fact protect people’s freedom of speech and bring stability.
“I am confident that after the implementation of the national security law, the social unrest which has troubled Hong Kong people for nearly a year will be eased and stability will be restored,” Chief Executive Carrie Lam said, “thereby enabling Hong Kong to start anew, focus on economic development and improve people’s livelihood.”
Lam has also cited that “for the past 23 years, the HKSAR government has failed to have a deep understanding of ‘one country, two systems’ in order to handle it well.” However, many protesters and pro-democracy advocates also say the new national security law actually infringes on this policy.
One key aspect of the law that has caused controversy is the influence Beijing’s government will have in Hong Kong. The law will create a new governing body known as the Committee for Safeguarding National Security of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region.
This committee will be headed by the Chief Executive of Hong Kong, consist of several higher-up government figures, led by a Secretary General appointed by the Chief Executive, and have a National Security Advisor from China’s central government.
Hong Kong’s current Chief Executive Carrie Lam is already a strong supporter of Beijing, and the inclusion of an advisor from there strengthens these connections. Another key aspect of the law that many find disturbing is the lack of transparency from the Committee and its legal affairs. Article 14 of the national security law states:
“No institution, organisation or individual in the Region shall interfere with the work of the Committee. Information relating to the work of the Committee shall not be subject to disclosure. Decisions made by the Committee shall not be amenable to judicial review.”
The national security law’s broad applications and reach has not only drawn ire locally. Multiple international countries have also spoken out against the policy.
In the wake of Hong Kong’s national security law, multiple countries including the United States, the United Kingdom, and Australia are speaking out against what they believe to be the limits the law puts on free expression.
The United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva has also expressed its concerns about the law and people’s right to freely express themselves.
Besides speaking out, members of the international community are taking their own measures against the new national security law.
The UK and Australia are offering residency to Hong Kong citizens, which has drawn immense backlash from China. President Trump also recently passed the Hong Kong Autonomy Act, which ends Hong Kong’s special trade status.
Just like last year, Hong Kong is becoming a hotbed of protests and controversy, now due to this new national security law.
Yet this policy deals with more than extraditing criminal cases. This new law has already raised concerns about free speech in Hong Kong, and as it continues, the international implications could be truly devastating.