China’s proposed national security law for Hong Kong is a devastating assault on human rights and must be abandoned, a group of 86 civil society organizations including Amnesty International told Chinese authorities ahead of a key meeting of Beijing lawmakers on Thursday.
The proposed national security legislation is likely to be discussed at this week’s National People’s Congress Standing Committee (NPCSC) session, which starts tomorrow. The proposed law could come into force as early as this month and quickly be used to crack down on Hong Kong’s freedoms.
“Although China has revealed few concrete details about the national security law, everything we know about it so far suggests it will threaten the basic rights and freedoms of people in Hong Kong,” the groups wrote in a letter to the NPCSC.
“It criminalizes broad, vague ‘offences’ that can encompass any criticism of the government and be used against people peacefully exercising and defending their human rights.”
The decision to draft a national security law, passed by the National People’s Congress at its last session in late May, proposes to outlaw acts of “splittism, subversion, terrorism,” and activities of “foreign and overseas intervention in Hong Kong affairs”.
It is anticipated that the legislation will be debated at a special NPCSC session next week – after which it could come into force.
The vague terms in the proposed law leave it open to abuse by authorities to crack down on a wide range of rights and freedoms.
Hong Kong’s security minister, John Lee Ka-chiu, has said the law will be enforced by police on the “very first day” the legislation comes into effect. Meanwhile, NPCSC member Elsie Leung said she could “not rule out” the law being used retroactively.
“China must abandon plans to introduce national security legislation for Hong Kong. No government should invoke national security as a justification for measures that perpetrate repressive practices against its population,” the letter said.
The NPC’s decision says the law will allow the Chinese government to set up institutions to protect “national security” in Hong Kong “as needed”.
This could mean the establishment of agencies such as the Ministry of State Security and the National Security Bureau of the Ministry of Public Security – long known for serious rights violations in China, including arbitrary detention and torture of activists and members of non-governmental organizations.
“Allowing these agencies to operate in Hong Kong, or having similar agencies set up by the Hong Kong government, poses an imminent threat – not only to human rights defenders, the independent media and dissidents, but essentially to everybody in the city.” the letter said.
The Hong Kong Secretary of Justice Teresa Cheng has said a separate “special court” may be established to handle national security cases to “help the judiciary navigate uncharted territory”.
“The proposal of a ‘special court’ for national security cases is deeply concerning and suggests that suspects may not enjoy the same fair trial rights as others in Hong Kong’s judicial system,” the letter said.
The draft law will be introduced to Hong Kong through promulgation, bypassing the city’s Legislative Council and without any meaningful public consultation.
“The NPC’s decision to directly insert the national security legislation into Annex III of the Basic Law raises serious concerns about human rights protections,” the letter said.
“Without the requirement to comply with international human rights law, the vague terms in the proposed law leave it open to abuse by authorities to crack down on a wide range of rights and freedoms.”
The following 86 organizations signed the letter:
2047 HK MonitorAmnesty International
Asia Monitor Resource Centre
Australia Hong Kong Link
Beyond the Boundary-Knowing and Concerns Intersex
Brisbane International Student Solidarity with Hong Kong
Canadian Friends of Hong Kong
Canberra Hong Kong Concern Group
China Criticism Society of Denmark
China Labour Bulletin
Chinese Human Rights Defenders
Chinese Human Rights Lawyers Concern Group
Christian Social Workers
Christians for Hong Kong Society
Citizen Power Initiatives for China
Civil Human Rights Front
Civil Rights Observer
Civil Society Development Resources Center
Forum Worlds of Labour / Forum Arbeitswelten e.V.
Friends of Conscience
General communication worker union
Grassroot Cultural Centre
Hong Kong Affairs Association of Berkeley
Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China
Hong Kong Christian Fellowship of Social Concern
Hong Kong Christian Institute
Hong Kong Committee in Norway
Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions
Hong Kong Forum, Los Angeles
Hong Kong Human Rights Monitor
Hong Kong Sheng Kung Hui Welfare Council Workers Trade Union
Hong Kong Unison Limited
Human Rights in China
Human Rights Network for Tibet and Taiwan
Human Rights Watch
International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute
International Human Rights Council – Hong Kong
International Service for Human Rights
Justice and Peace Commission of the HK Catholic Diocese
Kwai Chung Estate Christian Basic Community
Labour Education and Service Network
McMaster Stands With HK
Netherlands for Hong Kong
New School for Democracy
New Yorkers Supporting Hong Kong
Northern California Hong Kong Club
One Body in Christ
Open Data Hong Kong
Power for Democracy
Progressive Lawyers Group
Queer Theology Academy
Reclaiming Social Work Movement
Reporters Without Borders
Retail, Commerce and Clothing Industries General Union
Right of Abode University
Scholars’ Alliance for Academic Freedom
Sheng Kung Hui Lady MacLehose Centre Staff Social Movement Concern Group
Sounds of the Silenced (SOS)
SRACP Staffs Union
Taiwan Alliance to End the Death Penalty
Taiwan Association for Human Rights
Taiwan East Turkestan Association
The Academic Staff Association of The Education University of Hong Kong
The Association for the Advancement of Feminism
The Hong Kong Society for Asylum-seekers and refugees
The Norwegian Taiwanese Friendship Association
The Norwegian Tibet Committee
The Rights Practice
Torontonian HongKongers Action Group
TWGHs Staff Social Movement Concern Group
United Nations ECOSOC NGO International Career Support Association
Uyghur Human Rights Project
Vancouver Society in Support of Democratic Movement
World Uyghur Congress
浸信會愛羣社會服務處同工社會行動關注組 (Chinese list)