Civil societies call on China to scrap national security law to save Hong Kong freedoms


More than 80 civil society organizations from around the world have called on Beijing to scrap its plan to impose draconian subversion legislation on Hong Kong, saying the move will destroy freedoms promised to the city under the 1997 handover agreement.

The letter, signed by Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and Freedom House, Reporters Without Borders among others, was addressed to Li Zhanshu, Chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress (NPCSC), China’s top legislative body.

China has said it will impose national security legislation targeting “actions and activities” deemed subversive, seditious, instigated by foreign forces, or supportive of independence, on the city.

In the joint letter published by the New York-based group Human Rights Watch (HRW) stated that the planned law is a “devastating assault on human rights” and should be abandoned.

The proposed national security legislation is likely to be discussed at the NPCSC session from June 18 to 20, or at a special session by the end of June. The proposed law could come into force soon afterward, and quickly be used to crack down on Hong Kong’s freedoms.

“China should abandon this effort to impose a national security law on Hong Kong immediately,” said Sophie Richardson, China director at Human Rights Watch. “No government should invoke national security as a justification for repression.”

The groups emphasized that while the details of the forthcoming legislation remain unclear, comparable legislation in the mainland criminalizes overly broad, vague ‘offenses’ that can encompass any criticism of the government and be used against people peacefully exercising and defending their human rights

The law may allow 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 – to operate in Hong Kong

Beijing’s imposition of the security legislation in Hong Kong contravenes the Basic Law, Hong Kong’s functional constitution, and violates international human rights protections in Hong Kong

The groups said in their letter that the NPCSC should abandon plans to introduce national security legislation for Hong Kong, as what is known about the draft law so far and the experiences with respective national security laws in mainland China strongly indicate that neither the law nor its application would conform to international human rights law and standards. (Source: HRW)