Freedom House said the repressive legislation was drafted in secret and published just an hour before taking effect.
This statement was originally published on freedomhouse.org on 30 June 2020.
In response to the Chinese central government’s imposition of a repressive National Security Law on Hong Kong, Freedom House issued the following statement:
“Freedom House is appalled at China’s passage and promulgation today of a National Security Law for Hong Kong,” said Michael J. Abramowitz, president of Freedom House. “The speed and secrecy with which this law was drafted, adopted, and put into effect is reprehensible. The action amounts to a new low even for the Chinese Communist Party, which routinely flouts international standards on the rule of law.”
“Beijing has unilaterally and brazenly superseded Hong Kong’s Basic Law, stripping millions of Hong Kongers of fundamental rights that are guaranteed to them under local and international law,” Abramowitz continued. “The National Security Law represents a potent threat not just to individual Hong Kongers, but also to the status of Hong Kong as a city committed to the rule of law. We commend the US government’s announcement of sanctions against Chinese officials responsible for rights violations in Hong Kong, as well as the US Senate’s recent passage of the Hong Kong Autonomy Act. We urge other democratic governments around the world to take similar measures.”
On June 30, China’s National People’s Congress Standing Committee announced that it had drafted and passed a new National Security Law for Hong Kong that would take effect by midnight local time. The full text of the law, however, was not made public until an hour before midnight. Within China, legislation is typically open to public comment prior to adoption, and there is a substantial gap of time between promulgation and the effective date.
The full National Security Law includes six sections and 66 articles. It outlines various activities that would be considered to fall under the four main offenses of separatism, subversion, terrorism, and colluding with foreign forces, which could result in sentences as long as life in prison.
The legislation also sets up several institutional structures in Hong Kong that would be under Beijing’s close supervision and control, including a secretive national security committee, a special prosecutorial office, and a national security agency. The national security committee, tasked with overseeing the law’s implementation, will not be subject to judicial review.
The announcement has had an almost immediate chilling effect. For the first time, Hong Kong police denied permits to organizers of an annual July 1 protest marking Hong Kong’s 1997 transition from British to Chinese rule. Prominent rights advocate Joshua Wong announced his withdrawal from Demosistō, a prodemocracy organization he helped found, and the group subsequently announced that it was disbanding. Large numbers of Hong Kong Twitter users have also announced their departure from the social media platform – which is banned in mainland China – for fear of legal reprisals for their posts.
The new law has been widely condemned by foreign governments. Anticipating adoption of the legislation, US secretary of state Mike Pompeo announced on June 26 that the United States would impose visa restrictions on Chinese Communist Party officials found to have undermined Hong Kong’s high degree of autonomy and curtailed human rights. In addition, the US Senate unanimously approved the Hong Kong Autonomy Act, which imposes sanctions on individuals and entities that materially contribute to China’s failure to preserve Hong Kong’s autonomy, as well as foreign financial institutions that conduct significant transactions with such individuals or entities. The legislation must pass the US House of Representatives before being signed into law.