What’s in Hong Kong's new National Security Law?
Four new offences, lax interpretation . . .
Hong Kong’s National Security Law defines four types of offences: secession or undermining national unification, subversion of state power, terrorist activities, and collusion with foreign countries or entities to undermine national security. The language used to define the offences is nebulous, and Article 47 of the Law gives Hong Kong’s Chief Executive – not the courts – binding power to certify whether an act involves national security or state secrets. Article 65 states that the power to interpret the Law is vested in the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress in Beijing. The combined effect of vaguely stated offences and the lack of independent judicial interpretation could lead to a blanket criminalization of dissent. The popular slogan ‘liberate Hong Kong, revolution of our times’ has already been outlawed on national security grounds, and other protest symbols and tactics could be next.
New institutions put Beijing in the driver’s seat . . .
In addition to the four offences, the National Security Law creates new institutions with sweeping powers to carry out related mandates. Particularly noteworthy is the Office for Safeguarding National Security, which is staffed and controlled by Beijing and operates outside Hong Kong’s jurisdiction. The office exercises direct control in cases that it deems complex, serious, or imminent. Such cases would be prosecuted and adjudicated in a mainland Chinese court, effectively opening the floodgates for those charged under the Law to be tried in the Chinese legal system. For cases tried in Hong Kong, the trial judges are appointed by the Beijing-friendly Chief Executive to one-year terms, directly contravening the convention of having judges selected by the judiciary. A former chief justice has called the provision “detrimental to the independence of the judiciary.”
Canadians at risk . . .
The National Security Law’s unfettered power and harsh penalties (up to life in prison) concern not only Hong Kong residents. Articles 36 to 38 state that the Law applies to people, organizations and companies set up in Hong Kong, regardless of residence, nationality, or whether an offence was committed in Hong Kong. Anyone who has done anything that the authorities deem critical of the governments in Hong Kong and Beijing could potentially be investigated, detained, and indicted under the Law while staying in or passing through Hong Kong or other parts of China. For Canadians who are currently in Hong Kong or plan to visit in the future, this is particularly worrisome and could have a chilling effect on what they do or say.
- Initium Media: 八問港區國安法：41日急速通過的法例到底規定了什麼？
- The New York Times: Harsh penalties, vaguely defined crimes: Hong Kong’s security law explained
- The Star: What the new Hong Kong security law means for Canadians — everywhere