Hong Kong Security Law Now Effective
Hong Kong’s new national security law gives Beijing broad and ambiguous powers to deal with several political offenses—such as separatism and collusion—with harsh sentences, including life in prison for some crimes.
The legislation was approved on 30 June 2020, with the goal of weeding out opposition to China’s dominant Communist Party. In 2019, hundreds of people protested against what was seen as mainland China’s attempt to diminish Hong Kong’s civil liberties, with some protesters clashing with police, looting and vandalizing businesses, and bringing the city’s airport to a full stop.
Crafted without significant contributions from Hong Kong authorities, such as city leader Carrie Lam, the law includes 66 articles and targets antigovernment protests, many of which have recently occurred in the former British colony. The four big criminal categories are separatism, subversion, terrorism, and collusion with foreign countries, and critics of the law agree that its ambiguous wording broadens its applicability. The maximum sentence for any of the four crimes, depending on the action’s severity, is life imprisonment.
According to the security law, damaging government facilities is an act of subversion and interfering with transportation is a terrorist activity—specifically if such interference hurts people or significantly damages property.
Although the city previously maintained a judicial system independent of Beijing, mainland China can now interfere, surpassing existing Hong Kong laws. The new law allows Beijing to install its representatives into Hong Kong’s legal framework, including a national security committee and a national security office that although based in the city will be composed of mainland Chinese officers and will defer to mainland Chinese law.
Beijing can now also step in on national security cases, which leaves room for anyone arrested under the new law to be tried on the mainland.
In a recent speech, Lam praised the security law as reflective of uniting one country and restoring stability.
Although the city’s government prohibited gatherings, including protests, of more than 50 people because of concerns of the novel coronavirus, thousands of protesters still surged throughout Hong Kong, demonstrating their frustration over the security law. In fact, the first arrest under the new law was made on 1 July when a man wearing a “Free Hong Kong” shirt carried a banner of a Hong Kong flag that called for its independence during demonstrations.