Most controversially, the law gives Beijing the power to exercise jurisdiction over selected criminal cases, raising the likelihood that suspects will be extradited across the border for the first time in Hong Kong’s history to face trial and possible imprisonment in the mainland.
Fears of this have sparked protests against last year’s extradition bill proposed by the Hong Kong government. These protests eventually forced the law to be abandoned, but turned into wider anti-government unrest, which Beijing said forced the imposition of new national security regulations.
Writing on Twitter, he said the new law “effectively creates a parallel judicial system (s) and takes away powers of interpretation and final judgment outside Hong Kong courts.”
When Hong Kong was handed over from British to Chinese rule in 1997, the city’s general law remained largely intact. The precedent remained in place, and protection under the new de facto constitution, the Basic Law, and various international treaties guaranteed a degree of justice and freedom not seen in China, where the conviction rate is north of 90%.
The new national security law would change all that. According to details released over the weekend, Chinese security authorities will have the power to “exercise jurisdiction” in national security cases “in specific circumstances”, while other prosecutions under the law will be heard by a panel of judges elected by a Beijing-appointed leader. .
It is not explicitly stated whether the suspects could face extradition to mainland China in such circumstances.
Although the draft invokes respect for the “rule of law” and various civil liberties, it also subordinates existing legislation to the national security bill, so that when there is a conflict, the national security law prevails. In practice, this may mean that when the National Security Prosecutor’s Office is in conflict with human rights protected under Hong Kong law, those rights are suspended.
“The show has obviously become a takeover,” Cohen added.
“It’s just what they say it is,” he added. “And if they can’t do what they say when they want something, they’ll just change it in any way.”
Such regulations come amid huge propaganda efforts to sell the bill, such as posters and advertisements promoting it, plastered Hong Kong, and an obvious push from Beijing for Chinese companies to re-list on the city’s stock market, boosting the local economy.
These judges are appointed by the executive director, but their presence is in some cases controversial in China, leading to calls for their removal or a ban on certain sensitive cases. By giving Lam the power to appoint judges to hear national security cases, the government essentially diverts the matter, allowing it to choose those judges who are considered the most loyal.
The expansion of the power of Chinese courts and security services in Hong Kong raises even more concerns.
Allowing the Chinese security apparatus to operate in the city raises the spectrum of illegal persecution. Dissidents and activists in China often disappear from power or are threatened with arrest for sensitive events, and many journalists and lawyers are lured to “take tea” with the security services, during which they receive subtle threats about the potential consequences of their work.
Meanwhile, giving jurisdiction to Chinese courts “in specific circumstances” is likely to guarantee convictions in these cases. China’s legal system has been widely criticized for its lack of human rights protection, naked political persecution and an almost universal degree of condemnation. The country’s national security law itself has been widely interpreted in the past for activists, intellectuals and journalists.
Similarly, Hong Kong guarantees its rights under the Basic Law by signing international conventions, but a national security law would repeal these protections.