Hong Kong is no longer free. Beijing’s new National Security Law is out and it could not get worse than this.
Before reading about how the National Security Law affects Hong Kong it is important to understand that Hong Kong functions in a significantly different manner as compared to the other cities in China with regards to its principles, legal and political systems. This is called as One Country Two Systems Policy.
The British acquired Hong Kong after a war with China in 1892. In 1898, China and Britain entered into an agreement about which Britain got the lease to control Hong Kong for 99 years. The lease came to an end in 1997 and Hong Kong became a part of communist China. A mini-constitution called the Hong Kong basic law was designed for Hong Kong, the validity of which was 50 years i.e until 2047.
July 01, 2020 marked the 23rd anniversary of the day when the United Kingdom handed over Hong Kong to China and the Chinese Communist Party lets say celebrated with the National Security Law which practically threatens everyone in Hong Kong.
As per the law, permanent and non-permanent residents of Hong Kong can now face life imprisonment for crimes of secession (breaking away from the country), subversion (undermining the authority of the Central Government), terrorism and collusion with foreign forces. To enforce the above measures, a new Security Agency has been set up which is not under the jurisdiction of the Local Government. It will be the first official presence of the mainland security and intelligence agents whose powers will go beyond local laws. It also allows for serious and complex cases to mainland China courts for trials. Not to miss, these people are most likely to be punished since courts in China have more than 99 per cent conviction rate and they could end up in jail for the rest of their lives.
Also, there can be secret trials in Hong Kong without a jury where judges can be handpicked by the Hong Kong’s Chief Executive.
Article 38 of the new law also appears to apply to offences committed outside of Hong Kong by non-residents of Hong Kong. That means this article applies to anyone anywhere in the world. This is outrageous and an affront to all nations.
According to article 29 of the National Security Law, “Anyone who conspires with foreigners to provoke hatred of the Chinese Government or the authorities in Hong Kong, could have committed a criminal offence”.
As per a China law expert, “If you have ever said anything that might offend the People’s Republic of China or Hong Kong authorities, stay out of Hong Kong.”
This new law is totally against freedom of expression and freedom of peaceful assembly and an alarming sign to the masses of Hong Kong that they are no more free to voice out their opinions against the decisions of the Government especially when North Korea has praised the security law.
“Free Hong Kong was one of the world’s most stable, prosperous and a dynamic city. Now it will be just another communist-run city where people will be subject to the party elites wimps”.Mike Pompeo, US Secretary of State.
Hong Kong has seen several months of pro-democracy protests since June 2019 over plans that would have allowed extradition from Hong Kong to China. The riot police then had exercised a bit of restraint comparatively. As a result, China appeared to be tightening its grip and this year, Hong Kong authorities took it up a notch where the police arrested more than 300 people as protesters took to the streets in defence of sweeping the security legislation introduced by China. The riot police fired pepper pellets before arresting protesters. The arrests as per the Hong Kong Police were made on account of illegal assembly and other offences with nine involving suspected violations of the new law. This time the Police were even armed with a banner warning people that displaying banners or shouting slogans might be a crime under the National Security Law.
For the most part, the International Community has expressed its dislike towards the National Security Law. The Trump administration is rolling back Hong Kong’s trade privileges with the United States whilst also imposing visa restrictions on Chinese officials over the Hong Kong Security Law. U.S.A has also passed the Hong Kong Autonomy Act. It sanctions Chinese officials responsible for undermining Hong Kong’s freedom and also sanctions banks that perform business with those officials. The United Kingdom is now officially offering a path to citizenship for three million Hong Kong citizens. Taiwan has opened a government office to help people fleeing Hong Kong in the wake of National Security Law.
According to the New York Times, “A museum that commemorates the 1998 Tiananmen Square massacre is rushing to digitize its archives, afraid its artefacts could be seized. Booksellers are nervously eyeing customers, worried they could be government spies. Writers have asked a news site to delete more than 100 articles, anxious that old posts could be used against them.”
The Chinese Communist Party is doing its best to strangle Hong Kong. In fact, the Chinese Communist Party has not been at its best behaviour throughout this whole pandemic. This bill along with Hong Kongers affects the rest of the world by taking away the freedom of speech, expression and the right to peaceful protests. The world needs to decide.