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Tags Current Affairs

Hong Kong’s new security law

Date: 03 July 2020 Tags: Miscellaneous

Issue

China has unveiled a sweeping new national security law for the island city of Hong Kong, taking aim at the pro-democracy movement that had captured global attention.

 

Background

Titled ‘The Law of the People’s Republic of China on Safeguarding National Security in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region’, the legislation was “unanimously” passed by the Chinese parliament and subsequently made a part of Hong Kong’s Basic Law.

 

Details

  • The far-reaching law, which greatly expands Beijing’s power in Hong Kong, has been criticised by the United States as “draconian”. The United Kingdom has also called its passing a “grave step”.

  • The new law includes the following as offences– Secession, Subversion, Terrorist Activities, and Collusion with a Foreign Country or with External Elements to Endanger National Security. All four offences can invite life imprisonment as the maximum punishment, followed by lesser penalties.

  • The offences are widely defined. Collusion includes as an offence “provoking by unlawful means hatred among Hong Kong residents” towards Beijing or the city government.

  • Terrorism includes “sabotage of means of transport, transport facilities, electric power or gas facilities, or other combustible or explosible facilities”, and “attacking or damaging the premises and facilities” of the city government is among the definitions of subversion.

  • Taking aim at the perceived involvement of foreigners in city politics, the law also allows the prosecution of persons who are not the residents of Hong Kong for committing an offence under the law outside Hong Kong.

  • Mainland China will establish a new department in Hong Kong called the ‘Office for Safeguarding National Security’. With Beijing’s approval, the Office would be able to take over jurisdiction from the city’s independent law courts if a case is “is complex due to the involvement of a foreign country or external elements”, if “a serious situation” makes the local application of the security law difficult, or due to the occurrence of “a major and imminent threat to national security”.

  • In cases that are taken over by the Office, prosecutors, as well as adjudicators, will be appointed by mainland China, and Chinese procedural laws would apply.

  • The police will have sweeping powers to investigate offences, such as being able to search any premises, vehicles, aircraft; ordering the surrender of travel documents; confiscating property; and, upon the Chief Executive’s approval, being able to covertly investigate or tap phones.

  • Under Article 23 of the Basic Law, Hong Kong was supposed to enact the national security law on its own. But, when the city government first tried to enact the law in 2003, the issue became a rallying point for massive protests that year.

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