World

Sweeping national security law imposed as Hong Kong marks handover anniversary

The law got here into impact in Hong Kong within the lead-up to July 1 — the 23rd anniversary of the handover of Hong Kong from British rule to China — and dramatically broadens the powers of each native and mainland authorities to analyze, prosecute and punish dissenters.

In imprecise language, the law criminalizes secession, subversion, terrorism, and collusion with overseas powers. People who’re convicted of such crimes can face sentences as much as life in jail.

On Wednesday, Hong Kong police said they’d arrested a person for carrying an independence flag — the primary such arrest below the national security law.

The night time earlier than, police commanders have been instructed in a coaching session that anyone seen waving an independence flag or chanting for independence shall be arrested, a police supply mentioned. In addition, the supply mentioned anyone searched and located to have independence flags of their possession shall be arrested.

Despite a heavy police presence and risk of stricter penalties, a whole lot of individuals turned out within the busy buying district of Causeway Bay on Wednesday, handing out flyers and waving posters. Riot police fired pepper spray into the group at one level, and unfurled a purple flag warning protesters of being in violation of the brand new law.

July 1 is historically a day of protests within the metropolis however for the primary time since handover, police didn’t give permission to protesters to carry peaceable demonstrations.

Speaking after the annual flag elevating ceremony on Wednesday, Hong Kong’s prime official, Chief Executive Carrie Lam, mentioned the law is a “crucial step to ending chaos and violence that has occurred over the past few months” within the metropolis.

“The national security law is the most important development in securing ties between China and the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region since the handover,” she mentioned, framing criticism of the law as “vicious attacks.”

The stringent new laws and its 66 articles have been saved secret from the general public till the law went into impact and seem to supply the federal government, courts, police and authorities a roadmap to quash any trace of the mass anti-government protests that rocked town final 12 months.

Here are a few of the key takeaways of the law, in response to a translation from Chinese state information company Xinhua.

  • The law establishes 4 new offenses of secession, subversion, terrorism, and collusion with overseas powers. The most penalty for every is life imprisonment.
  • The Chinese central authorities will set up its personal law enforcement presence in Hong Kong, labeled the “Office for Safeguarding National Security.”
  • A secretive national security committee for Hong Kong may also be established, comprised of Hong Kong authorities officers and an adviser appointed by the Chinese central authorities. According to a abstract printed by the Hong Kong authorities, this group’s work “shall not be disclosed to the public,” and “decisions by the Committee shall not be amenable to judicial review.”
  • Activities such as damaging public transport and public companies “in order to pursue political agenda” may be thought-about terrorism — a provision that seems to focus on protesters who final 12 months disrupted visitors and town’s infrastructure.
  • A terrorism cost may also embrace the vaguely worded provision of “other dangerous activities which seriously jeopardize public health, safety or security.”
  • The law targets perceived overseas interference in Hong Kong. Throughout the protests, the Chinese authorities blamed “foreign forces” for interfering within the metropolis’s affairs. The law states that anybody who “steals, spies, obtains with payment, or unlawfully provides state secrets or intelligence” to a overseas nation, establishment, group or particular person shall be responsible of an offense below collusion with overseas powers.
  • The law additionally makes it an offense for individuals to name on a overseas nation, establishment, group or particular person to impose sanctions or blockades on Hong Kong. The US mentioned it might impose visa restrictions on present and former Chinese officers over Hong Kong.
  • Working with a overseas authorities, establishment, group or particular person to incite hatred towards the Hong Kong or Chinese Central authorities is now a offense.
  • The law may also be utilized to non-permanent residents in Hong Kong and people who are in violation of the law shall be deported, no matter conviction. It additionally applies to non residents abroad who violate the national security law whereas overseas. This raises the prospect of overseas nationals being charged for suspected crimes dedicated whereas abroad ought to they go to the territory.
  • Those convicted of a national security crime in courtroom can’t stand for elections or maintain public workplace.
  • Hong Kong’s Chief Executive now has the facility to nominate judges to deal with circumstances associated to national security. National security circumstances involving state secrets and techniques may be tried and not using a jury.
  • Hong Kong courts will oversee national security circumstances however Beijing can take over prosecution in sure circumstances, making use of Chinese law and prosecution requirements.
  • In these circumstances, Beijing can select which prosecuting physique will hear the case and which courtroom it will likely be heard in, which means that circumstances might probably be held within the mainland. The anti-government protests final 12 months have been sparked over a proposed law that will permit extradition to mainland China.
  • Trials shall be held in an open courtroom however when the case entails “state secrets or public order” it may be moved behind closed doorways.
  • A brand new national security unit shall be arrange within the Hong Kong Police Force that can have the facility to look properties, intercept info and carry out covert surveillance and not using a warrant. It may also recruit members from outdoors of Hong Kong — probably permitting mainland officers to function within the metropolis.
  • The law additionally directs the Hong Kong authorities, together with the brand new fee, to strengthen its administration over overseas information businesses and non-government organizations.
  • Ultimately, the national security law trumps native legal guidelines: the brand new laws states that if there’s a battle with present Hong Kong law, the national security law will prevail.

Reactions

The laws has been extensively criticized by opposition lawmakers in Hong Kong, human rights teams and politicians worldwide. Many fear it will be used to target political dissidents, activists, human rights attorneys and journalists amid the central authorities’s persevering with crackdown on civil society below Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Opponents of the law say it marks the top of the “one country, two systems” — a precept by which Hong Kong has retained restricted democracy and civil liberties since coming below Chinese management.

Crucially, these freedoms embrace the fitting to meeting, a free press, and an impartial judiciary, rights that aren’t loved on the Chinese mainland.

On Wednesday, the Chinese authorities staunchly defended the law, calling it an ideal embodiment of the “one country, two system” coverage.

“If we want to implement ‘one country, one system,’ things would have been much simpler,” mentioned Zhang Xiaoming, govt deputy director of China’s Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office. “We could have directly applied Chinese criminal code, prosecution law and national security law to Hong Kong. Why would we go to such lengths to tailor-make a national security law for Hong Kong?”

Despite the short passage of the law, officers mentioned it was rigorously written, and took into consideration opinions and suggestions from Hong Kong. They additionally brushed apart issues and fears over the law’s impression on freedom of speech, judicial independence and political range, reiterating that it targets solely a tiny minority of people that intend to do actual hurt to Hong Kong.

Shen Chunyao, director of legislative affairs fee of the National People’s Congress Standing Committee, China’s prime lawmaking physique that handed the brand new law, mentioned solely below “very rare” circumstances would Chinese state security brokers and judicial authorities become involved in Hong Kong circumstances.

“We don’t want to see (such occurrences), but we must set up a system that take such risks and factors into consideration,” he mentioned.

But Jimmy Lai, a Hong Kong media tycoon identified for his outspoken assist of town’s pro-democracy motion, mentioned the law “spells a death knell to Hong Kong because it supersedes our law and our rule of law.”

Rights group Amnesty International mentioned the laws “represents the greatest threat to human rights in the city’s recent history.”

On Wednesday, Canada updated its travel advice for Hong Kong, warning its residents that they “may be at increased risk of arbitrary detention on national security grounds and possible extradition to mainland China.”

United States Secretary of State Mike Pompeo mentioned it was a “sad day for Hong Kong, and for freedom-loving people across China” with the imposition of the national security laws in Hong Kong.

He mentioned the law “destroys the territory’s autonomy and one of China’s greatest achievements.”

CNN’s Steven Jiang, James Griffiths, Roger Clark, Karina Tsui, Jadyn Sham, Vanesse Chan, Chermaine Lee, Kylie Atwood, Philip Wang contributed.

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