Last week the Chinese Government introduced a controversial security law in Hong Kong, the piece of legislation represents another step in China’s violation of the territory’s sovereignty. Importantly, it includes an article which attempts to make the law applicable to any region outside of Hong Kong.
China had agreed to respect Hong Kong’s democracy for at least 50 years after Britain’s transfer of the former colony in 1997. Initially the Chinese government seemed to respect the agreement with the “One China Two Systems” policy.
However, over the past 10 years the Chinese Communist Party has slowly worked towards the erosion of Honk Kong’s rights, threatening its democracy and the freedoms of its people.
The law facilitates the prosecution of residents that are found to be challenging or even questioning the Chinese government. It poses a threat to the freedom of the people of Hong Kong, allowing the Chinese government to interpret the law and even trial suspects behind closed doors in mainland China.
Another effect of the legislation is the enabling of the CCP’s control over Hong Kong’s citizens data if suspected of breaking the security law. De facto extending the Great Chinese Firewall to the territory of Hong Kong.
This time however, the CCP seems to be working to prevent individuals abroad from supporting the democratic movements in the city.
For people abroad it might surprise that Article 38 of the security law states: “This Law shall apply to offences under this Law committed against the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region from outside the Region by a person who is not a permanent resident of the Region.”
China is trying to apply its domestic law abroad. This means that any support abroad in favour for Democracy in Hong Kong, both verbally and online, would be in violation of the security law.
In practice, individuals and companies found to have criticised the HK or CCP governments- or even campaigned in favour of democracy could face legal consequences if ever present in the region. Experts warn that foreign citizens could be arrested after landing in Hong Kong if found to have “broken” the law.
We could also see several companies abandon the territory unless they conform with the new system as the law threatens their assets in Hong Kong and China. It is more likely that companies will fall in line and prevent any criticism of the CCP by their employees and clients.
Ultimately this is an unprecedented move, no previous national government has formally attempted to extend its jurisdiction abroad, actively challenging the freedom of speech of citizens overseas.