Be under no illusions as to what this sweepingly-drafted law means: it could catch almost any act of dissent, anywhere in the worldby Schona Jolly / July 11, 2020 / Leave a comment
The new national security law that Beijing has imposed upon Hong Kong amounts to an alarming legal and ideological takeover. If the drafting is deliberately broad, China’s aggressive ambition is wider still. The stated aim includes safeguarding the “sovereignty, unification and territorial integrity of the People’s Republic of China,” in which Hong Kong is formally a “special administrative region,” run according to its own distinct rules since the British ceded sovereignty in 1997.
But despite claims that the only target of the new law is an “extremely small minority,” within its sweeping remit, a very wide category of persons could be caught. Already, fear and self-censorship are reported among city residents. And as the handover anniversary was marked in July, the promise of autonomy through the “one country, two systems” arrangement was undermined.
It is over a year since mass, largely peaceful protests were triggered by plans to permit extradition to mainland China, which caused fear for fundamental liberties. It took months for Carrie Lam’s Hong Kong administration to U-turn, but by then protesters considered it too late. While a minority, often the young, resorted to violence, police brutality was seen as widespread. Meanwhile, the scale and power of the pro-democracy movement clearly alarmed Beijing.
Such is the fear of what the new law implies that Britain has offered up to three million Hong Kong residents the opportunity to apply for citizenship. Other governments should be under no illusion as to what this law means: it could catch almost any act of dissent—and, thanks to sweeping provisions on extraterritoriality, theoretically anywhere in the world. Hong Kong’s lawyers will need to draw their own red lines, but the scope and interpretation of the law ultimately lies in Beijing.
Today, not only is it a criminal offence in Hong Kong to shout or write slogans pertaining to freedom, but those who seek to resist by holding up blank placards, to avoid repeating the slogans themselves, will also be criminalised. Hong Kong’s Education Bureau has reportedly told schools to remove any books breaching security law. Public libraries are said to be doing the same. There is good reason to fear that Hong Kong has moved quickly towards a ban…