Beijing’s imposition of a draconian security law for Hong Kong has resulted in an ever-widening crackdown on peaceful dissent, and a new wave of human rights violations, according to a report from a rights group.
Since the beginning of July, Chinese and Hong Kong authorities have deployed the law to step up violations of local people’s human rights and to undermine the city’s rule of law, the Chinese Human Rights Defenders (CHRD) network said in a report published on its website.
“The crackdown … has involved arbitrary arrests of peaceful protesters and pro-independence advocates, media censorship, interference in the democratic election process, and intimidation against overseas activists who fled the city out of fear for retaliation,” the report said.
“The National Security Law has been used to legitimize the violation of human rights.”
The new law, which bypassed the city’s Legislative Council (LegCo), also mandated China’s feared state security police to set up a headquarters in a Hong Kong hotel and empowered Beijing to supervise directly cases considered to be “serious” violations of the law.
The law also provided for separate national security courts, with judges hand-picked by chief executive Carrie Lam, which lawyers slammed at the time as a serious blow to judicial independence in the city.
“The Hong Kong government is obligated to guarantee freedom of expression, peaceful assembly, association and other civil political rights,” CHRD said, citing international rights covenants and the city’s own Basic Law.
It called for the immediate release of anyone arrested under the law for exercising their civil and political rights.
Hong Kong police arrested 10 people on the day the law took effect for displaying leaflets and banners referring to calls for independence for the city.
Five days later, eight people were arrested for holding up blank placards in a silent protest. The government warned that a popular slogan of last year’s protest movement—”Free Hong Kong, Revolution Now!”—is now illegal.
On July 29, four members of the pro-independence student group Studentlocalism, which was disbanded before the law came into effect, were arrested on suspicion of “inciting secession.”
This was followed up with the arrest of pro-democracy media magnate Jimmy Lai and a raid by the newly formed national security police on the offices of his newspaper, the Apple Daily.
Three pro-democracy activists—Agnes Chow, Wilson Li, and Andy Li—were detained on the same day.
Days after the law was implemented, public libraries removed books from the shelves including those written by prominent student activist Joshua Wong and pro-democracy legislator Tanya Chan.
Hong Kong police have also issued arrest warrants for six pro-democracy activists currently overseas under the new law, including former lawmaker Nathan Law.
The law has been criticized by foreign governments as being in breach of Beijing’s promise to maintain the city’s freedom and autonomy.
Rights groups say the vaguely worded offenses, which carry a maximum penalty of life imprisonment, and cover speech or actions anywhere in the world, will enable the authorities to continue to crack down on any form of peaceful criticism, active dissent, or political opposition. (Source: RFA)