National security law: What is happening in Hong Kong?

By Rachel Stanley

There is a lot happening in the news currently surrounding Hong Kong and changes to the law which will see pro-democracy protestors more severely targeted by the authorities. But what does the law now actually say?

The right to a fair trial. Innocent until proven guilty. An independent jury. 

These are the hallmarks of many legal systems, but sadly, they are not reflected across all jurisdictions in the world. The controversial national security laws, drafted by the Chinese government last month, have pivoted Hong Kong further away from these ideals.

What is happening in Hong Kong?

In 1997, Hong Kong was returned to China by Britain, the former colonial power, in an agreement that ensured the territory would maintain its own political autonomy under a ‘one country, two systems rule’ outside of the Chinese Communist Party. Over the past thirty years, the agreement has been gradually eroded.

On the 21st May, the Chinese government announced that any citizen in Hong Kong deemed to threaten the Communist Party in any capacity will become subject to the party’s punishments. Weeks later, in the midst of a global pandemic and associated difficulties in holding mass protests, China has now implemented these changes in the dark.

Specifically, the security law has created new ill-defined crimes of subversion and secession, that are used to imprison rebels in mainland China. The Hong Kong government had no say in drafting this legislation.

What does the National Security law say?

The following Articles are of particular importance:

  • Article 29 creates a crime for Hong Kongers who conspire with overseas individuals to provoke ‘hatred’ of the Chinese Communist Party
  • Article 41 allows criminal trials to be conducted in private
  • Article 44 states that the jury is handpicked by the chief executive, under the Chinese government 
  • Article 56 passes the freedom over to mainland authorities in conducting entire cases, from investigation to penalties, that are thought to be ‘serious’ or ‘complex’

How will the law change life in Hong Kong?

Effectively, China has broken its promise under the Joint Declaration which should draw global condemnation. Already, Boris Johnson PM has pledged that all British Overseas Nationals currently living in Hong Kong will be given the right to remain in the UK for five years, with no minimum salary requirements. It will provide a lifeline to nearly three million eligible people within Hong Kong to come and reside in the UK. They will also be able to apply for citizenship.

The America vs China feud is also intensifying. President Trump said that as a result of the new security laws, America may strip Hong Kong of its ‘special’ trading status.

Now, with the geopolitical focus on Hong Kong, its position as an international financial hub may be compromised as the Communist Party and its unaccountable enforcers are able to impose the party’s whims. Previously, it was a secure grounding for business. Experts are now suggesting this may diminish in the coming decades as a result of its unpredictable legal system, which may not resolve business disputes impartially.

Rights of Hong Kongers

More importantly, the rights of Hong Kongers are being denied. The first arrest made under the new security law, on July 1st, was a man simply carrying a banner advocating for Hong Kong to gain back its independence. The grey area surrounding what constitutes ‘hatred’ and ‘unlawful means’ of undermining the communist system is alarming. 

Visit Amnesty International using the link below for a draft email to address the Hong Kong government, calling for action against the abuse of human rights.

Amnesty International

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