Hong Kong’s national security law

Dec 16, 2023
Flag of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People's Republic of China.

As Hong Kong gears up for both Christmas and the following Lunar New Year celebrations there is plenty to look forward to in this dynamic city.

And against this happy backdrop we are also awaiting the start of the long-delayed trial of Jimmy Lai , of Apple Daily fame, under the much quoted National Security Law.

We can expect to be hosed down with anti-China messaging from the usual suspects no doubt labelling the NSL with terms such as “Sweeping” and “Draconian”, and it seems worthwhile in anticipation of this to lay out some background.

First of all under the much quoted Basic Law, Hong Kong’s mini constitution, which the usual culprits regularly claim that Beijing is not observing there is actually a requirement (Article 23) which says that the ex-colonial Hong Kong government shall enact a national security law after the 1997 handover, replacing the unaccountable and murky British colonial security activities. When the new government tried to accomplish this task around 2002, they were confronted with massive public protests, which many of us believe were encouraged by the anti-China brigade, and so the proposed legislation was put on the back burner. So much for Beijing not upholding the basic law, this was an action of the HK government listening to public protest.

It was this turn of events that opened the door for widespread interference in Hong Kong’s internal affairs by foreign countries including, of course that infamous CIA cutout, the NED.

And in the absence of any suitable legislation the Hong Kong government was pretty well powerless to take legally enforceable steps against the mayhem that nearly brought the city to its knees in 2019, and with Hong Kong’s legislative process effectively disabled, and with the situation threatening to spread beyond just Hong Kong it became necessary for Beijing to step in with suitable security legislation, the infamous NSL.

Predictably of course this triggered a tsunami of criticism from all the usual culprits in the western world, with the accompanying weaponization of the terms “Sweeping” and “Draconian”. However, it does not take a great deal of research to expose the double standards here.

If we compare the page count of HK’s “sweeping” NSL with UK, HK is a bantam weight, at 27 pages, compared to the ultra-heavy weight UK which weighs in at 220 pages (it even comes with the health warning at the download page “The whole act contains over 200 provisions and might take some time to download”!). No contest there and I would challenge anyone not specializing in legal terms to be able to understand the voluminous content.

On word count I could not ascertain the number of words in the UK NSL but comparing HK to a couple of neighbors HK is seriously lightweight coming in at just 7,322 words against 19,000 plus for both Singapore and Australia.

If HK’s NSL is “sweeping” I wonder what terms describe the equivalent laws in these other countries?

Then how about the application of the NSL? Well there is a convenient Wikipedia page detailing the 259 arrests so far in the first 3 years of this law, of which 155 have been charged and the longest sentence, Tong Ying-kit (who it might be remembered chose to drive his motorcycle into a group of police) is now banged up for 9 years.

This is the highest sentence to date, compare this to the sentences of those involved in the January 6 attack in Washington, the longest being 22 years and the average being 17 years.

I’d say HK is seriously on the lenient side here.

And then let’s consider the whole issue that possible offenders could be dragged off to the mainland, another BBC/ Guardian “kool aid” offering. There is zero evidence that any such thing has happened in HK, meanwhile in the UK there is the unedifying sight of Julian Assange being held in solitary confinement in Belmarsh prison for years pending extradition to the USA to face decades of imprisonment because WikiLeaks exposed material deeply embarrassing to the US government and its lap dogs in Westminster.

And no doubt of course we should brace ourselves for a tirade of western sermons on the critical importance of freedom of the press, not a hint of irony here when one considers that Fox News settled recently for over US$ 700 million as a result of publishing totally made up news, with I believe more to come, exactly the sort of inattentive approach to the ethics of responsible journalism widely practiced by Apple Daily.

To finish on a lighter note with one of these Alice in Wonderland contradictions that are part of life in Hong Kong.

With the border with Shenzhen fully reopened post covid we see the Hong Kong food and beverage industry bemoaning the fact that so many Hong Kongers head across the border to enjoy the lower cost F&B (food and beverage) in Shenzhen, a location where according to the US Department of State one should “Reconsider travel due to the arbitrary enforcement of local laws, including in relation to exit bans, and the risk of wrongful detentions”.

Likewise the UK, never wanting to be outdone, provides an encyclopedic list, too long to reproduce here, of all the risks one might face if one sets foot in China including but not limited to the risks of detention and prosecution.

Seems such “sweeping” and “Draconian” advise feels a bit OTT for the people of HK as with trains between downtown and the border making the 40 minute journey running at 3 minute intervals throughout the day the lure of good value F&B is never going to be overruled by some arbitrary fear mongering from big brothers in faraway places.

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