Hong Kong’s National Security Law May Endanger Foreign Nationals

Hong Kong’s National Security Law May Endanger Foreign Nationals
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What you need to know

Beijing has granted itself extraterritorial power with Hong Kong's draconian national security law, which may endanger foreign nationals who offer any form of assistance to Hongkongers.

Both Hong Kong residents and foreigners could be subject to the city’s new sweeping national security law imposed by China. People who are convicted with crimes of secession, subversion, terrorism, and collusion with foreign forces could face life imprisonment. 

The law states that it would apply to persons committing criminal offenses outside of Hong Kong regardless of their residency. People who provide any form of assistance to “terrorist organizations” or “terrorist personnel” could also face up to 10 years in jail, according to Article 26 of the law. 

Critics say Beijing has granted itself extraterritorial power over any person under Article 38, in which foreign nationals assisting pro-democracy protesters may be persecuted. Taiwanese offering assistance to or exchanging messages with fleeing Hongkongers, for example, could be accused of committing a criminal act under the law. 

“Article 38 suggests broad extraterritoriality,” said Jessica Drun, non-resident fellow at the Project 2049 Institute. “I can see it being used to put pressure on Taiwan for supporting Hong Kong activists or as grounds for detaining Taiwanese nationals on Hong Kong or Chinese soil.” 

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Photo Credit: AP / TPG Images

Since the Chinese government considers Taiwan and Tibet as territories under the People’s Republic of China, persons advocating for Taiwan or Tibet independence could be charged for the crime of secession. 

Eric Cheung Tat Ming, director of Clinical Legal Education at Hong Kong University, wrote on Facebook that the text of the national security law was worse than expected. "The legal text was filled with China's socialist legal system's characteristics and it was vastly different from the legal language and spirit in Hong Kong's Basic Law," Cheng said.

It is unclear how Article 38 would be enforced on those outside of China. Bonnie Glaser, director of the China Power Project at Center for Strategic and International Studies, said the clause “appears to be a warning to foreigners to not cause trouble.” 

Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen said on Sunday that her administration might consider invoking Article 60 of the Laws and Regulations Regarding Hong Kong and Macao Affairs, which can suspend Hong Kong’s preferential status. Opposition parties criticized Tsai’s suggestion, saying it would only further isolate Hongkongers in need. 

Coincidentally, the Taiwan-Hong Kong Services and Exchanges Office opened in Taipei today. The office, funded by the Taiwanese government, will provide humanitarian assistance for Hongkongers seeking asylum on a case-by-case basis. 

Beijing pushed through the new law in less than two months without revealing any details until it took effect at 11 p.m. on Tuesday.

This legislation allows Beijing to exercise jurisdiction over Hong Kong’s local court, which in effect spells the end of “One Country, Two Systems.” 

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Photo Credit: Reuters / TPG Images
Riot police patrol at a shopping mall during a protest after China's parliament passes national security law for Hong Kong, June 30, 2020. 

In cases related to national security and public order concerns, China retains the power to keep trials private. Hong Kong’s chief executive is also granted the power to appoint judges for the cases, and a jury may not be mandated. 

Hours after the release of the security law details, the U.S. Congress launched a bipartisan bill seeking to grant refugee status to Hongkongers at risk of political persecution, the Wall Street Journal reported. 

The proposed legislation, if passed, could extend U.S. residency to people who have organized protests, journalists who were injured while providing news coverage, lawyers who provided legal services for the arrested, and others who were convicted for participating in the protests. 

The annual demonstration on July 1 in Hong Kong, which marks the anniversary of the 1997 handover, is banned by authorities for the first time

While activist groups have vowed to defy the police ban, some Hongkongers have taken an alternative approach to “go shopping” today. Protesters are encouraged to purchase from the pro-democracy “yellow shops” to avoid being accused of conducting “illegal assembly.”


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TNL Editor: Nicholas Haggerty (@thenewslensintl)

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