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Hong Kong toughens its repressive arsenal with a new law

Natasha Kumar By Natasha Kumar Mar19,2024

Hong Kong toughens its repressive arsenal with a new law

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Elected officials adopt the law on national security which will come into force on March 23.

Agence France- Press

Hong Kong's local parliament unanimously passed a new national security law on Tuesday that provides for life imprisonment for offenses such as treason and insurrection, drawing condemnations from several Western countries.

< p class="StyledBodyHtmlParagraph-sc-48221190-4 hnvfyV">Today is a historic moment for Hong Kong, said the territory's leader, John Lee.

The text, which will come into force on March 23, complements the national security law imposed by Beijing in 2020 after major pro-democracy protests the previous year in Hong Kong.

The new law lists five categories of offenses in addition to those punished by the 2020 text: treason, insurrection, espionage and theft of state secrets, sabotage involving jeopardize national security, sedition and outside interference.

Several Western countries as well as business communities and advocates rights group had expressed concern about a law that would further restrict freedoms in Hong Kong and called on lawmakers to take more time to examine its impact.

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But Hong Kong's Legislative Council (LEGCO), which does not include an opposition representative, debated the text in an expedited manner and its 89 members approved the law, called Article 23, unanimously. .

On Tuesday, the United States said it was alarmed by these broad and imprecise measures, which will potentially accelerate the closure of the Hong Kong company , once open, according to Vedant Patel, spokesperson for the State Department.

Deeply troubled by the text's ambiguities, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Volker Türk, warned that these provisions could lead to the criminalization of a wide range of conduct protected by international law.

London has denounced a text which will further undermine rights and freedoms in the city and which undermines Hong Kong's implementation of its international obligations.

The NGO Amnesty International has called on all those who can exercise influence in Hong Kong, whether governments, businesses, the United Nations or the Union European Union, to intensify pressure on the territorial authorities so that they respect human rights.

The National Security Bureau of Hong Kong, managed by Beijing, for its part assured that an extremely small number of people risked being convicted under this article 23.

Nearly 300 people have so far been arrested in Hong Kong under the 2020 law, and dozens of politicians, activists and other public figures have been jailed or forced into exile. p>

Lee said the new legislation was necessary to fill gaps left by the 2020 law.

He also cited Hong Kong's constitutional responsibility to pass this law, as he believes is required by the Basic Law, the mini-Constitution that has governed the island since its handover by the Britain to China in 1997.

[The law] will enable Hong Kong to effectively prevent, prohibit and punish espionage activities, plots and traps set by foreign intelligence services, infiltration and sabotage carried out by hostile forces.

A quote from John Lee, head of the 'Hong Kong Executive

It will also make it possible to effectively prevent violence […] and color revolutions, he said in reference to the pro-democracy demonstrations which began in 2019.

The text provides for penalties of up to life in prison for sabotage endangering national security, for treason and for insurrection, 20 years for espionage and sabotage, and 14 years for outside interference.

The law also expands the definition of the crime of sedition to include inciting hatred against Chinese communist leaders, with an increased penalty of up to 27 ;to 10 years' imprisonment.

During the 1997 handover, Hong Kong was guaranteed certain freedoms, as well as #x27;judicial and legislative autonomy, for 50 years, as part of an agreement entitled One country, two systems.

This agreement had helped strengthen the city's status as a global financial center, thanks to a reliable judicial system and more extensive political freedoms than in mainland China.

The new text puts an end to a large part of the legal guarantees enjoyed by Hong Kong, in order to align with the legislation of mainland China.

Natasha Kumar

By Natasha Kumar

Natasha Kumar has been a reporter on the news desk since 2018. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining The Times Hub, Natasha Kumar worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my 1-800-268-7116

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