hong kong security law
July 6, 2020

Hong Kong's new national security bill alone has many residents and much of the international community concerned that China is severely limiting the city's freedoms, but some experts think the law's new implementation rules are what's really alarming.

Under new regulations settled Monday during the first meeting of Hong Kong's Committee for Safeguarding National Security, police will, in "exceptional circumstances," be able to enter premises without a warrant, order internet firms to remove content — although several tech giants like Facebook and Twitter said they've suspended processing requests for user data from Hong Kong law enforcement — and demand information from political groups operating outside the city, The South China Morning Post reports.

"The new rules are scary, as they grant power to the police force that are normally guided by the judiciary," said Anson Wong Yu-yat, a practicing barrister. "For example, in emergency and special circumstances police do not need a warrant under one rule, but it never explains what it means by special circumstances."

Alan Wong Hok-ming, a solicitor, also noted that even if these rules do provide for some limits on police power, there's nothing stopping the government from expanding the policies to bypass "scrutiny, checks, and balances by other institutions like the Legislative Council." Read more at The South China Morning Post. Tim O'Donnell

July 5, 2020

Despite China's assurances that freedom of speech would be protected in Hong Kong under the recently-passed national security law, there are already signs of censorship.

Online records show books written by prominent Hong Kong pro-democracy activists like Joshua Wong or pro-democracy Tanya Chan are no longer available in the city's public libraries. Hong Kong's Leisure and Cultural Services Department said Sunday it will "review whether certain books that violate the stipulations" of the law, which aims to root out secessionist activity, subversion, terrorism, and collusion with foreign forces following several months of anti-government, pro-democracy protests in the city. It's not clear how many books are under review, and Reuters notes two works by Chinese political dissident and Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo were still available.

While China has maintained the legislation will only target a "very small minority" of "troublemakers," critics believe it will lead to widespread censorship and severely limit Hong Kong's autonomy. The removal of books from the library isn't the only example of those fears coming true — the day the law came into effect, a man was arrested for carrying a Hong Kong independence flag and on Friday the government declared the slogan "Liberate Hong Kong, revolution of our times" illegal. Read more at Agence France Presse and Reuters. Tim O'Donnell

July 1, 2020

Hong Kong police announced Wednesday that they had made their first arrests for violations of China's new national security law, CNBC reports. The law, which China's top legislative decision-making body passed on Tuesday, says that anyone "undermining national unification" between Hong Kong and mainland China faces up to life in prison. The law would have covered many of the pro-democracy protests that have been taking place in Hong Kong since last year. Still, demonstrators chanted slogans such as "Fight for freedom, stand with Hong Kong" in the streets on Wednesday, marking the 23rd anniversary of the former British colony's 1997 handover from the U.K. to Chinese rule. Police said more than 70 people were arrested for participating in "unauthorized assemblies." Harold Maass

June 30, 2020

The full details of China's new national security law aimed at Hong Kong are out, and the early consensus is that it's as worrisome for the city's autonomy as feared, if not more so.

The released draft lacks an English-language companion, but several journalists independently translated the articles. As expected, the bill targets people who participate in or plan activities considered to be secessionist, state subversion, terrorism, or collusion with foreign forces, all of which are defined fairly broadly. Participants will face a sentence of three to 10 years, while orchestrators face a maximum sentence of life in prison.

Trials are reportedly expected to remain public, but they can go behind closed doors, barring journalists, and even juries depending on the circumstances.

The law will also apparently apply to non-permanent residents who allegedly commit crimes in foreign countries.

The most striking element of the law, though, appears to be that decisions made by the newly established state security commission won't be subject to review from judicial institutions, suggesting it has what amounts to unchecked authority on the matter. Read many more details in the sweeping law in these Twitter threads. Tim O'Donnell

June 30, 2020

The passage of China's new national security law has quickly prompted several of Hong Kong's leading activists to delete their social media profiles and resign from their political groups, while pro-independence organizations announce their closure.

High-profile activists like Joshua Wong, Nathan Law, and Agnes Chow resigned from their political group Demosisto, which then announced its closure. So did the pro-independence organization Hong Kong National Front, though it still plans to operate in Taiwan and the United States. Members of the city's opposition movement are going off the grid because of the penalties for violating the new law, which include a maximum life sentence. Beijing has maintained the bill will only target a small group of people who threaten China's sovereignty over Hong Kong, but pro-democracy activists and the international community are doubtful and instead fear Hong Kong's autonomy will essentially be diminished.

That said, some activists are still encouraging people to take to the streets Wednesday and defy a police ban on a march to protest the law, though they're also warning that demonstrators could face tough charges. Opposition sources told The South China Morning Post that activists will suggest people march in their personal capacities rather than as members of organizations to make it more challenging for police to crack down on the event. "If nobody comes out on July 1, the new law would have succeeded in making people silence themselves," said independent district councilor Nigel Lee Ka-wai, who plans to attend the march despite the risks. Read more at The South China Morning Post. Tim O'Donnell

June 30, 2020

China's National People's Congress Standing Committee unanimously approved a security bill Tuesday that will give Beijing authority to crack down on political dissent in Hong Kong, which has enjoyed significant legal and civil autonomy since being handed over by Britain in 1997, The New York Times and Chinese media in Hong Kong report. The U.S., Britain, and European Union have criticized the law and the U.S. placed limits on exports of U.S. defense equipment and some technology, stripping some of Hong Kong's special trade status.

The approval process in the elite arm of China's party-run legislature "drew criticism for its unusual secrecy," the Times reports. "Breaking from normal procedure, the committee did not release a draft of the law for public comment. Hong Kong's activists, legal scholars, and officials were left to debate or defend the bill based on details released by China's state news media earlier this month."

Beijing says the new law, which will allow the Communist Party central government to set up a security apparatus in Hong Kong to collect intelligence and investigate special cases, will make Hong Kong safer. But it is not popular in Hong Kong, and critics warn it will be used to quash protests, Hong Kong's limited democracy, and dissent among pro-democracy advocates directly and through intimidation.

Chinese President "Xi Jinping is looking at more comprehensive control over Hong Kong, and the national security law will go a long way to achieving that control," Willy Wo-Lap Lam, a longtime commentator on Chinese politics at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, told the Times. "It will be a new ballgame, affecting schools, affecting the media, and many other arenas of Hong Kong life." Beijing passed the law one day before the anniversary of Britain's handover, and for the first time in decades, Hong Kong has banned the usual July 1 protest march. Peter Weber

June 22, 2020

Details are slowly emerging about what potentially could be in Hong Kong's forthcoming national security law, but the full draft reportedly won't be revealed to the public until after it's passed by China's legislature, which is a foregone conclusion.

It's clear the law aims to crack down on crimes of secession, terrorism, subversion, and collusion with foreign countries and institutions that Beijing believes could threaten China's national security. But Hong Kong's opposition movement has been left in the dark about what specific cases will be illegal and what kind of penalties should be expected, which has many people in the autonomous city worried that Beijing's new measure will severely curtail their freedom despite promises to the contrary.

The South China Morning Post reported Monday that one idea under consideration is the establishment of separate detention centers for those suspected of breaching the new law, rather than holding them in police stations after arrest. "Depending on the new law requirement, the subjects will be detained for a certain period of time as the authority sees fit for legitimate processing, before putting the case to the designated law courts," one source said, while another compared the notion to Singapore's Internal Security Act that allows for indefinite detention without trial. Read more at The South China Morning Post. Tim O'Donnell

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