Updated: Oct 26, 2020
By Kaitlyn Levine
Image via Unsplash
June 30th marked a historical event for Hong Kong: the inaction of the Hong Kong national security law. This law introduces new crimes under broad statements and extends the power already in the government of Beijings’ hands. What exactly does this law mean, and why do citizens fear it?
June 30th, 11 pm sets the tone. With escalating tensions between Hong Kong and Beijing, a new law would only further aggravate its citizens. July 1st is a national holiday, the 23rd anniversary of Hong Kong's handover to China from the British — and a day of national protest. The annual July 1st protests are attended by civil rights activists of Hong Kong, typically pro-democracy advocates. Hong Kong and mainland China have diplomatic disputes due to Hong Kong’s status. For over 200 years, Hong Kong was British territory, beginning with Hong Kong island as a colony for 150 years with the entirety ceded for 99 years. In 1997, the Sino-British Joint Declaration treaty was enacted after being signed in 1984.
This came with problems however, as Hong Kong would return to China under “one country, two systems.” Hong Kong has the liberties of a democratic system — the rights to free speech, freedom of assembly, and freedom of press. However, this is slowly changing. Hong Kong continues to have these freedoms of which are not partaken by Mainland China, but these freedoms are becoming restricted. Tensions with Beijing and Hong Kong were already growing, and this measure further exacerbates it, beginning with the protests of the extradition bill in 2019.
What does this law mean?
The definition of the law is broad and has no general consensus. The law prohibits any acts of:
Secession—breaking away from the country
Subversion—questioning or undermining the authority of the central government
Terrorism— using violence or intimidation against people
Collusion with external forces
Beijing will install its own national security agency in Hong Kong as well. The legality of it could be questioned, but, there is a loophole in the “one country, two systems” logic. The Basic Law states that Chinese laws cannot be applied in Hong Kong. However, a section entitled ‘Annex III’ can allow these laws to be passed by edict. For citizens of Hong Kong, this law was anticipated. Essentially, deploying this law is a power play. This power play gives Beijing the power to shape Hong Kong’s security system however is wanted and gives Beijing the power to interpret the laws as seen fit. Under the “one-country-two-systems” ideology, China was due to create a security system. However, due to unpopularity, it could never be passed.
In addition to this, some trials can be held behind closed doors (court cases that aren’t public), these laws will apply to partial citizens (people who are not permanent citizens of Hong Kong), and people can be wired and surveilled if suspected of violating a law. Even citizens residing in countries such as America or Australia can be persecuted for expressing their criticism of this law. This is especially concerning for academics and outspoken activists, as their freedom of speech can be punishable by law. The effects of this law have already been seen with prominent activist Wayne Chan departing China. “After the national security law is passed, we can anticipate that a large group of political figures will be arrested, and may be imprisoned immediately without bail,” he wrote on Facebook.
These laws begin a new era for Hong Kong and create a diversion between the people and the government. With growing tensions, we can expect a collision between these two forces. How this law will affect its citizens is beginning to display, but the possible outcomes are yet to be seen.
Written by writer Kaitlyn Levine