National security law cements Beijing’s authoritarian rule

01/07/2020
Press release
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(New York, Paris, Taipei) FIDH and its member organizations Human Rights in China (HRIC), Taiwan Association for Human Rights (TAHR), and Covenants Watch condemn in the strongest terms China’s unilateral adoption and promulgation of the national security law for Hong Kong. The new law is Beijing’s ultimate tool to crush dissent, shut down civic space, and erase the rule of law in the Special Administrative Region (SAR). Many of its provisions are also inconsistent with clauses of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), including those related to the rights to an effective remedy and fair trial. The SAR is bound to the ICCPR.

“The illusion of ‘one country, two systems’ has finally been exposed. With Beijing’s imposition of its national security law on Hong Kong, the assimilation of the once semi-autonomous city is nearly complete. The international community must oppose Beijing’s authoritarian rule of Hong Kong and demand respect for human rights, democratic principles, and the rule of law in Hong Kong.”

Adilur Rahman Khan, FIDH Secretary-General

On 30 June 2020, the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress in Beijing unanimously adopted the Law of the People’s Republic of China on Safeguarding National Security in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region. The text was signed into law by China’s President Xi Jinping on the same day. The law, which contains 66 articles and has been included in Annex III of Hong Kong’s Basic Law (the SAR’s highest law), took effect at 11pm on 30 June 2020. The legislation supersedes existing Hong Kong laws whenever the existing laws are “inconsistent” with the new law (Article 62).

Since coming into effect, several individuals have already been arrested under the new law. Earlier today, police arrested one man in Hong Kong’s Causeway Bay for holding a flag in support of Hong Kong’s independence. A few hours later, police invoked the new law to arrest at least seven people who participated in an anti-national security law protest, according to media reports.

This law was drafted by the National People’s Congress, without any consultation with Hong Kong’s residents and bypassing Hong Kong’s Parliament, the Legislative Council. Its text was not publicly released until it went into effect.

Articles 20 to 30 of the law list four categories of crimes against national security: secession; subversion; terrorist activities; and collusion with a foreign country or with external elements to endanger national security. The definitions of these offenses establish an overly-broad spectrum of conduct that could be punishable under this law. In addition, the vague terms used in these articles allow the Chinese government to arbitrarily interpret and implement them. For example, “serious violence against a person or persons” or “sabotage of means of transport” could be punished as terrorist activities (Article 24). Under Article 22(3), “seriously interfering in, disrupting, or undermining the performance of duties and functions” of Hong Kong’s “body of power” could amount to subversion. International advocacy on human rights and democracy concerning Hong Kong and China could be construed as “collusion with a foreign country or with external elements to endanger national security” under several clauses of Article 29. The maximum penalty for those found guilty of the four categories of crimes is life imprisonment.

The law contains provisions for its extra-territorial application. Under Article 38, the law applies to non-permanent residents of Hong Kong for acts committed “from outside the [Special Administrative] Region.”

Article 48 establishes a national security agency, the Office for Safeguarding National Security (OSNS), in Hong Kong. This agency, which is under Beijing’s direct control, is empowered with “handling cases” related to national security (Article 49(4)), and, in certain situations, exercise jurisdiction over such cases (Article 55). Officers from the agency are outside the authority of Hong Kong’s officials. Their acts do not fall under Hong Kong’s jurisdiction and they are exempt from inspection, search, or detention by law enforcement officers in Hong Kong (Article 60).

When OSNS has jurisdiction over cases that fall under the purview of this law, Articles 55, 56, and 57 authorize the OSNS and China’s judicial authorities to investigate and prosecute such cases and to use China’s Criminal Procedure Law and other “related national laws.” In cases involving “state secrets or public order”, under certain circumstances, trials can be held behind closed doors (Article 41). In addition, court proceedings related to national security offenses can be held without a jury (Article 46).

The law also allows for Beijing’s direct scrutiny of, and interference in, the operations of foreign NGOs and media in Hong Kong. According to Article 54, the OSNS has the authority to “take necessary measures to strengthen the management of and services” of NGOs and foreign news agencies.

|Press contacts
FIDH: Ms. Eva Canan (French, English) - Tel: +33648059157 (Paris)
HRIC: Ms. Mi Ling Tsui (English, Chinese) Tel: +12122394495 (New York); E-mail: hrichina@hrichina.org

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