With the new Law of China, meant to Safeguard the National security of the new Hong Kong passed on 30th June, protests erupted in parts of Hong Kong. In this article, we assess how independent the new Hong Kong is when some say it’s the beginning of the death of Hong Kong’s democracy.
In the late hours of 30th June, just a day before the 23rd anniversary of the city’s handover to China from Britain, the Chinese parliament passed the law titled “The Law of the People’s Republic of China on Safeguarding National Security in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region” which was then made part of new Hong Kong’s Basic Law.
For an original copy of the new Hong Kong’s basic law, click here.
So, how independent is the new Hong Kong?
What Is the Law of the People’s Republic of China on Safeguarding National Security in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region?
Under this law, the following new activities have been categorized as offenses that can invite life imprisonment as the maximum punishment
- – Secession (achieving Independence from the country)
- – Subversion (attempt to transform established social order)
- – Terrorism
- -Collusion with a Foreign Country or with External Elements to Endanger National Security
The problem with the law is that the above-mentioned offenses are vaguely described. There is a lot of ambiguity regarding what classifies as secession, subversion, or terrorism.
For example, the law considers attacking or damaging the premises of the city as an act of terrorism. This new law hinders the Semi-Autonomous status of the new Hong Kong, which it adopted when Britain handed the island over to China and affirms to one country two system principles.
How independent will the new Hong Kong be?
Pro-democracy Hong Kong activists are calling this law the beginning of the authoritarian rule by the Chinese government. The bill was kept a secret until it passed the Chinese legislature and was immediately put to effect without taking the citizens into confidence.
The following are the powers that the law grants the Chinese government:
- Since vandalizing government properties is an act of terrorism, this gives Beijing the power to arrest anti-government protesters and punish them with life imprisonment.
- The law gives Beijing the power to prosecute Hong Kongers, who the government perceives as rebelling against them, in mainland China, without bail or fair chance to prove innocence.
- The details of the trials that the Chinese government feels to have state secrets, will not be disclosed to the public and hence the verdict will be directly released to the public.
- China has established the office for safeguarding National Security, which will have the authority to take over cases in local courts that Beijing thinks is either complex or involves foreign parties.
- In such cases, both the lawyers and the judges will be appointed by the Chinese government and will be from mainland China.
- The law also gives the police unprecedented powers like to tap the phone, confiscate personal belongings, stop and search people randomly and ordering the surrender of documents without taking the court’s permission first.
- How a law will be interpreted depends on Communist parties’ interpretation of it and not of new Hong Kong’s local judiciary
- A company in the new Hong Kong can be fined heftily by the Chinese government if it does not adhere to China’s policies.
- A new committee for safeguarding national security will be established with officials chosen by the Beijing government. The committee will be not answerable to any institution other than the Beijing government
- The committee will form laws and policies that are likely to help China strengthen its grip on new Hong Kong and will have immunity from any legal accountability.
- Any citizen suspected of involvement in an anti-national activity can be monitored or wiretapped.
- The social media of people of the new Hong Kong could be monitored as a consequence of which many people have started deleting any post that can be remotely perceived as antigovernmental.
- The laws will also apply to non-permanent residents of Hong Kong
- The law states that it will strengthen the management of external organizations and news channels.
- Therefore, the freedom of speech and press that Hong Kong’s constitution provided its citizen will be taken away and just like mainland China, the government will have substantial control overpress.
To know about weird things banned in China, click here.
All of the above laws were implemented overnight and subsequently, the Office of Central People’s Government in the Hong Kong Special Administration was inaugurated the next day.
People of the new Hong Kong also demanded a fair election to be conducted so that they can select their representative in the legislative council but the elections have been postponed by a year citing the current coronavirus pandemic as the reason.
This reason did not sit well with the people who came out on street to protest but were arrested by the police.
Since then protests have erupted in the entire city with around 511 activists (351 men and 160 women) being arrested and marches being organized with close to 500,000 turns out. Police said that the activists are detained due to illegal assembly but the truth is that several activists claim that the police have been denying them permissions for protests time and again.
In the past year, several disturbing news and images of police brutality have been reported. A 12 yrs. the old girl was seen being inhumanly tackled by police, late November protests at Hong Kong polytechnic university where police had to deploy tear gas, storming of parliament, and arrest of the media tycoon Jimmy Lai.
All of this only confirms that with China’s grip strengthening, Hong Kong is moving towards the future of autocratic rule by Beijing.
Another reason to believe that fate of the new Hong Kong is doomed because of China’s indifference to the world’s criticism and instead use its influence and power to bully other nations to stay quiet on the matter.
While the EU expressed “grave concerns” that the law undermines the city’s human rights and freedom, the United Nations human rights experts also pointed out that the law breaches international legal obligations and can be used to silence political activists.
They also urged Beijing to drop charges against fifteen pro-democracy activists who protested peacefully.
In May, eight US commissions also wrote to Chief executive Carrie Lam that the bill will damage new Hong Kong’s autonomy and protections for human rights and hence should be withdrawn.
China, on the other hand, is touring European Union to get support for itself which is evident by the recent meeting between Chinese Foreign minister Wang Xi and his Norwegian counterpart Ine Eriksen.
Wang on his visit warned Oslo against granting the Nobel peace prize to Hong Kong activists saying it will politicize the award and hinder the stable relations between the two countries.
Though UK is offering a route to 350,000 UK passport holders and 2.6 million other eligible people to come to the UK for five years and then apply for citizenship, migration is still not the answer to the threat that the people of Hong Kong will face.
Migration is not the answer to save people from China’s tyrant behavior and indifference to human rights in pursuit of economical greed.
How can China legally do this?
A former British colony, Hong Kong was handed over to China in 1997. It became an administrative region of China but had its mini-constitution – Basic law, which gave Hong Kong its judiciary, freedom of speech, independent governance, and rights.
Under article 23 of Basic Law, Hong Kong’s government was supposed to formulate its national security law but after an initial failed attempt at it in 2003, it refrained from implementing any legislation again.
Beijing, on the other hand, used a different path by including the bill in Annexure III of basic law. Adding this law in the annexure directly allows it to be implemented immediately.
The government did not release a draft beforehand for the public because of the widespread demonstrations that occurred last year and put the law into effect as soon as it was signed off by Xi Jimping.
To know more about the drafting process and blueprint of the Basic Law, visit here.
Escalation of events, arrests, and the Chinese government’s demonstration squashing actions since then –
- After passing the bill, wide protests erupted in the entire city on July 1 with around 10 people imprisoned under the new law.
- Police raid pan-democratic offices on the new Hong Kong stating the reason as “dishonest use of computer”
- New Hong Kong disqualified pro-democracy candidates who were about to contest upcoming legislative elections.
- A month later on 31st July, the new Hong Kong government announces that the legislative council elections will be deferred by a year due to the coronavirus.
- Hong Kong education bureau on July 3 sent a notice to all schools to inculcate new national security legislation in the curriculum.
- Pro-democracy anthems banned in school
- The next day, on July 4, reports started stating that various national libraries started removing pro-democratic books from their collections.
- On July 5, while clearing the discrepancies in the English and Chinese versions of the law, the Chinese justice department confirmed that Chinese would be the official language of the new law as it is a national law.
- Article 43 came in effect on July 7, giving police unprecedented power to search anyone without a warrant and ask companies for social media details of a person.
- On July 8, the Chinese government converted a hotel into a National Security office to implement its law strictly and give Beijing stronger control over the situation.
- New York times move Asia headquarters from Hong Kong to South Korea and VPN companies shut Hong Kong servers.
- After finding out about the hidden “Liberate Hong Kong” slogan in music director Wilson Lam, China bans the game Cytus II, which had Lam as its music director.
- China (and not Hong Kong) announced that it will no longer call for judicial assistance from other countries that Hong Kong earlier used to call because of the freedom of jurisdiction that the Basic law provided it.
Yes, all of this happened in 2020.
In Conclusion –
The people of Hong Kong are stuck in a hapless situation and are up against a government indifferent to its citizen’s suffering. Though countries are showing their support by canceling extradition treaties and providing a path to citizenship but being a refuge in a different country and giving up your home is not the solution.
Hong Kongers deserve independence, freedom, and human rights that the communist party is seizing from them for economical benefits.
After reading the spine chilling actions of Xi Jimping’s government to get hold of the city, one can only imagine the plight of people once China gets complete authority over the city.
While one would wish to see the light at the end of the tunnel, to be optimistic in the case of Hong Kong, a more independent future for the state seems bleak because of the authoritarian rule the people of Hong Kong are against.
China’s growing global power allows it to violate human rights and be unaccountable to the world.
This is evident by past incidents like the crackdown of lawyers that advocate free speech in China in July of 2015. Amnesty reports that around 245 lawyers were targeted then. In the same year, feminist activists were detained for handing out domestic violence pamphlets. Nobel peace prize winner was jailed for 11 years for subversion.
Slight show of discontent with the government can get you tortured by electrocution or get you a death penalty example, the infamous crackdown on democratic protests in Tiananmen Square where hundreds of people lost their lives, government’s control over a woman’s reproductive rights, and the list goes on.
Hong Kong right now is not independent at all since the law of the People’s Republic of China on Safeguarding National Security in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region takes from the basic human rights and freedoms like freedom of expression, freedom to show dissent, freedom to disagree with a government policy that affects its citizens, the right to a fair judicial trial and the right to privacy and personal security.
Many pro-democracy activists are calling this law China’s first step to assume complete dictatorship over the state and the beginning of the doom of Hong Kong’s future and death of its democracy while the rest of the world stays tied to the diplomacy or be a victim to China’s bullying.
It’s not just about the people of new Hong Kong but also on nations to save Hong Kongers and take strong united actions against China.
Its high time that the communist party is held accountable for all the human rights violations it has done in the past and present and is deferred from further illegally asserting rule on other states and bullying other nations.
To know about different things to do in Hong Kong, click here.