HK national security law: more sanctions, criticism and charges mark legislation’s fourth month in force

31-Oct-2020 Intellasia | South China Morning Post | 7:28 AM Print This Post

Since Beijing imposed its sweeping national security law on Hong Kong, police have raided a newspaper, a top foreign judge critical of the law has resigned, and numerous activists have either fled or been arrested including 12 people wanted on charges related to last year’s unrest who were intercepted at sea and detained in mainland China.

October marks the fourth month since the imposition of the Beijing-drafted law, which criminalises in broad terms any acts of secession, subversion, terrorism or collusion with external forces.

In what could be read as an implicit vote of support for the city’s judiciary, a top Scottish judge was appointed to the highest court this month.

The law’s fourth month in effect has been much of the same amid ongoing criticism from abroad and simmering concern at home. Photo: Dickson Lee

The law’s fourth month in effect has been much of the same amid ongoing criticism from abroad and simmering concern at home. Photo: Dickson Lee

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But more countries have suspended their extradition agreements with the city and criticised the security law on the world stage not to mention four local activists entering the US consulate in a dramatic but unsuccessful bid for asylum.

One more activist, who was arrested at a cafe outside the consulate, became the latest person to be charged under the security law on Thursday.

Here is a look at developments over the past 30 days.

1. City appoints Scottish judge to the top court

Australian Justice James Spigelman who was appointed a non-permanent judge of the Hong Kong Court of Final Appeal after stepping down as chief justice of New South Wales resigned from his post in the city in September. He told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation that his resignation was “related to the content of the national security legislation” a rebuke that raised questions as to whether Hong Kong would continue to attract top jurists.

But on October 5, the government announced the appointment of Scottish Justice Patrick Hodge, the deputy president of the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom, as a non-permanent judge at the city’s top court. His appointment was endorsed by the Legislative Council on Wednesday.

2. Germany and 38 other countries criticise the law at the UN

Alongside its criticisms of China’s human rights record in Xinjiang, Germany expressed “deep concerns” over the national security law in an October 6 speech before the United Nations that was supported by 38 other countries, including European Union member states, the United States and Britain.

“We have deep concerns about elements of the national security law that allow for certain cases to be transferred for prosecution to the Chinese mainland,” said Christoph Heusgen, Berlin’s ambassador to the UN. China, in return, lambasted the US for alleged violations of human rights in a speech of its own.

3. Civil servants to pledge allegiance

On October 7, Secretary for the Civil Service Patrick Nip Tak-kuen unveiled the government’s new rule requiring the city’s 180,000 civil servants to swear allegiance to Hong Kong and its mini-constitution, the Basic Law, with priority given to those employed from July 1, the first working day after the national security law was implemented. The security law demands all public servants make such a declaration, with Nip warning on a radio programme that serious violations of the oath could themselves contravene the national security law.

The new rule seen as part of a broader clampdown on dissent within the civil service prompted questions from union representatives as to what could constitute a violation, as well as whether expressing opinions on policies could land government employees in legal trouble.

4. New US sanctions

The US State Department on October 14 slapped 10 Hong Kong and mainland officials, including Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, with fresh sanctions under a recently adopted law for “materially” undermining Hong Kong’s autonomy with the adoption of the national security law.

China’s foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian hit back at the measures, threatening to retaliate, and saying that the implementation of the security law was an internal matter.

5. Police raid Apple Daily boss Jimmy Lai’s offices again

The police national security unit searched one of Hong Kong media mogul Jimmy Lai Chee-ying’s firms, Dico Consultants, on October 15, two months after they raided the offices of his tabloid-style newspaper, Apple Daily. A law enforcement source told the Post the raid was linked to an ongoing investigation into allegations of fraud, not the national security law violations Lai was previously accused of.

6. Protester flees to Germany

Germany granted refugee status to a Hong Kong opposition activist facing a rioting charge in connection with last year’s anti-government protests, it emerged on October 20. The decision prompted the city’s chief secretary, Matthew Cheung Kin-chung, to lodge a formal protest against the European state during a meeting with German Consul general Dieter Lamle a day later.

7. More countries suspend extradition treaties

Ireland, the Netherlands and Finland over the past month became the three latest countries to suspend their extradition treaties with Hong Kong. Explaining the decision, Irish Foreign minister Simon Coveney referred to concerns over the “erosion of judicial independence” in the city. Australia, Canada, Germany, Britain, the US, France and New Zealand have all also suspended their extradition agreements with Hong Kong in recent months.

8. Price tag revealed for Britain’s BN(O) deal

The British government, on October 23, elaborated on its plans to create a special visa next January for those with British National (Overseas) status, granted by the country before it handed Hong Kong back to China in 1997.

The visa’s five-year version will cost GBP 250 (HK$2,533), while its 30-month, extendable iteration will cost GBP 180. The new visa is part of Britain’s earlier announcement to create a pathway for BN(O) holders and their close family members to earn the right of abode in the country, and eventually full British citizenship, in the wake of the implementation of the security law.

9. Global social media campaign for 12 Hong Kong fugitives held on mainland

In late August, mainland authorities revealed that 12 Hongkongers had been intercepted by the Chinese coastguard as they attempted to flee to Taiwan to escape prosecution at home for offences mostly stemming from last year’s anti-government protests. One, 29-year-old activist Andy Li, had been arrested under the new national security law.

On October 24 and 25, their supporters staged demonstrations around the world calling for their release. Throughout the month, a flurry of activists and sympathisers including Swedish environmental activist Greta Thunberg also took to social media, posting photos of themselves alongside the message “#save12hkyouths”.

10. Activists seek asylum at US consulate

In an unexpected development, four activists at least one of them facing charges arising from last year’s protests raced to the US consulate on October 27 to seek asylum. The Post has learned they were turned away, although there has been no official confirmation. Another activist, Tony Chung Hon-lam, the former convenor of the now-defunct pro-independence group Studentlocalism, was arrested earlier the same morning at a cafe across the road from the consulate in Central. He was charged on Thursday with secession under the security law, among other alleged offences.

The US has also announced in recent weeks that it was including Hong Kong, for the first time, on its list of territories whose residents’ applications for refugee status would be prioritised.



Category: Hong Kong

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