China’s national security law imposed on Hong Kong gives the communist regime unprecedented judicial powers in the former British colony.
Five things to know about the Hong Kong National Security Law.
The text, promulgated on Tuesday, is perceived by its detractors as the most serious violation of the freedoms of the “Special Administrative Region” since its restitution to China in 1997.
It was adopted in reaction to the monster demonstrations against the influence of Beijing which shook last year the autonomous territory, a great financial metropolis.
National Security (or State Security – the same term in Chinese) law punishes four types of offenses: separatism, subversion, terrorism and collusion with foreign and foreign forces.
Perpetrators of serious offenses are liable to life imprisonment or a minimum sentence of 10 years.
Terrorism includes crimes such as sabotage of transportation.
The Chinese press frequently accused last year of Hong Kong protesters of carrying out terrorist activities, while protesters repeatedly attacked the Hong Kong underground.
In the “collusion with abroad” category, acts of “inciting hatred towards the government of Hong Kong or China” or “electoral manipulation or sabotage” will be prosecuted.
Anyone who organizes or participates in acts of separatism or subversion can be prosecuted, whether or not he has used force or the threat of force.
Convicted persons may not stand for election or be employed in the public service.
The competent Chinese courts
Article 55 of the law (which has 66) stipulates that cases can be brought to justice in mainland China, breaking a hole in Hong Kong’s judicial independence.
The cases likely to be transmitted on the Continent are those which involve “a foreign country or external elements”, which concern a “serious situation” or even a “major and imminent threat” to the security of State.
The Chinese Supreme Court will be responsible for designating the court to judge the cases in question by applying the Chinese Criminal Procedure Code.
The Chinese judicial system shines through its opacity – incommunicado detention, ill-treatment … – and by a conviction rate of over 99%.
Under section 46, the Hong Kong government can order closed trials of certain cases involving state secrets. These trials will be tried by three professional magistrates and without a popular jury.
Encroachment of political power on the judiciary, the head of the executive will directly appoint the judges responsible for deciding matters of national security. Current executive chief Carrie Lam is accused by her critics of being a puppet from Beijing.
A national security office
Beijing will be able to set up in the autonomous territory a “National Security Defense Office” which will report directly to the central government.
“The Hong Kong government has no jurisdiction (over this body) or over its personnel in the performance of their duties,” states section 60.
The new office is tasked with “gathering and analyzing intelligence and information” and “dealing with” national security offenses.
Monitoring of foreign organizations and the media
The public authorities will take “the measures necessary to strengthen the supervision (…) of foreign or external non-governmental organizations and the media of information”, specifies article 54.
This provision is of concern to the media, even if Article 4 guarantees “freedom of expression, of the press, of publication, of association, of assembly, of procession and of demonstration”.
But these freedoms are also guaranteed by the constitution of People’s China, which does not prevent the country from being in the very last ranks of the press freedom ranking of the Reporters Without Borders (RSF) association.
(ATS / NXP)