Most controversially, the law gives Beijing the power to exercise jurisdiction over select criminal cases, raising the possibility that, for the first time in Hong Kong’s history, suspects may be extradited across the border to face trial and possibly prison time on the mainland.
Fear of that was what fueled protests against an extradition bill last year proposed by the Hong Kong government. Those protests eventually forced the abandonment of that law, but turned into broader anti-government riots that, according to Beijing, required the imposition of new national security regulations.
Writing on Twitter, he said the new law “effectively establishes a parallel judiciary (and) eliminates the interpretation and final adjudication power of the Hong Kong courts.”
In a statement, the city’s chief executive, Carrie Lam, said the law would guarantee “Hong Kong’s long-term prosperity and stability,” reiterated that it “would only target an extremely small minority of people,” and said the The proposed bill was “in line with the rule of law” and the “rights and freedoms that are applicable in Hong Kong under the Basic Law and relevant international conventions”.
When Hong Kong moved from British to Chinese rule in 1997, the city’s customary law system remained largely intact. The precedents remained in force, and the protections under the new de facto constitution, the Basic Law, as well as several international treaties, guaranteed a degree of justice and freedom that is not seen in China, where the conviction rate is above 90% .
The new national security law would change all that. According to details released over the weekend, Chinese security bodies will have the power to “exercise jurisdiction” over national security cases “in specific circumstances,” while other trials under the law will be heard by a panel of judges selected by Beijing city. designated leader
It does not explicitly say whether the suspects could face extradition to mainland China in such circumstances.
Although the draft made reference to the defense of the “rule of law” and various civil liberties, it also subordinates the existing law to the national security bill, so that where there is a conflict, the national security law prevails. In practice, this could mean that when a national security prosecution violates human rights protected by Hong Kong law, those rights are suspended.
“Surrender has clearly become a takeover,” added Cohen.
“It is what they say it is,” he added. “And if they can’t do what they say it is when they want something, they will just change it the way they want.”
These provisions come amid a massive propaganda effort to sell the bill, with signs and advertisements promoting it in Hong Kong, as well as an apparent push by Beijing to re-list Chinese companies on the stock exchange. from the city, boosting the local economy.
These judges are appointed by the executive director, but their presence in certain cases has been controversial in China, which has led to claims for their removal or prevented certain sensitive cases. By giving Lam the power to nominate judges to hear national security cases, the government essentially avoids this problem, allowing him to choose the judges he considers most loyal.
Extending the power of the Chinese courts and security services to Hong Kong carries even more concerns.
Allowing China’s security apparatus to operate in the city raises the specter of extralegal persecution. Dissidents and activists in China are often disappeared by the authorities or threatened with arrest for sensitive events, and many journalists and lawyers are dragged to “have tea” with the security services, during which they receive thinly veiled threats about possible consequences of your work.
Meanwhile, granting jurisdiction to Chinese courts “under specific circumstances” will likely guarantee convictions in those cases. China’s legal system has been widely criticized for its lack of protection of human rights, openly political prosecutions, and an almost universal conviction rate. The country’s own national security law has been widely interpreted in the past to imprison activists, intellectuals, and journalists.
Similarly, Hong Kong guarantees rights under the Basic Law and by being a signatory to international conventions, but the national security law, as drafted, would void these protections.