April 20, 2024

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Critics say Hong Kong's new law is “the final nail in the coffin.”

Critics say Hong Kong's new law is “the final nail in the coffin.”

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Hong Kong's pro-Beijing parliament passed the law unanimously after a marathon session on Tuesday

Western leaders, the United Nations and human rights groups have joined a chorus of criticism of Hong Kong's new security law, saying it further erodes freedoms.

Article 23, as it is known locally, was approved unanimously by the city's pro-Beijing parliament, and targets a range of offenses deemed treasonable.

Officials say the law is necessary for stability, but opponents have described it as a “nail in the city's coffin.”

China has long called for the law to be passed and has said that “slander” by critics will not succeed.

The new law allows closed trials, gives police the right to detain suspects for up to 16 days without charging them and impose penalties, including life imprisonment, among other things.

“New national security legislation will double down on freedoms in Hong Kong through extended egregious provisions and an expanded definition of national security,” said Frances Hui, an activist now based in the United States, who described the legislation as “new national security legislation.” “The final nail in a closed coffin.”

A group of 81 lawmakers and public figures from around the world, including the United Kingdom, United States, Canada and South Korea, issued a statement. Joint statement On Tuesday, the authorities expressed their “grave concerns” about the legislation that expands on the national security law imposed by Beijing in 2020, and criminalizes secession, subversion, terrorism, and collusion with foreign powers.

“The legislation undermines due process and fair trial rights and violates Hong Kong's obligations under international human rights law, jeopardizing Hong Kong's role as an open international city,” the statement said, calling it another “devastating blow” to freedom.

The United States said it was “disturbed” by the “sweeping and vaguely defined” provisions in the legislation, a concern echoed by the European Union, which said the law could affect the city's status as a commercial hub.

Lord Cameron's statements sparked a strong reaction from the Chinese embassy in the United Kingdom, which described his statements as a “dangerous distortion of the facts.”

The Chinese government also responded to criticism of Article 23, saying it is “steadfastly determined to safeguard national sovereignty, security and development interests, implement the 'one country, two systems' policy, and oppose any external interference in Hong Kong affairs.”

“All attacks and slander will never succeed and are destined to fail,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Lin Jian said at a regular press conference in Beijing.

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More than 260 people have been arrested since the massive protests against the 2020 national security law

Hong Kong leader John Lee had also previously defended the law – which was fast-tracked through its final phase on Tuesday – saying the legislation would help the city “effectively prevent, suppress and punish espionage activities, plots and traps of foreign intelligence agencies.” Infiltration and sabotage by hostile forces.

“From now on, the people of Hong Kong will no longer suffer these damages and sorrows,” he added.

But those who have led pro-democracy protests against China's growing influence over the city view the new law as another losing battle.

Nathan Law, a former Hong Kong MP who now lives in exile in the UK, told the BBC's Newsday program that it brings Hong Kong “a step closer to mainland China's system”.

“The chilling effect…and consequence of the collapse of civil society is affecting most Hong Kong residents.”

Ms Hui said she was also concerned that the law could also be used to target Hong Kong residents abroad, or their families and friends back home. The city has previously offered rewards for information on activists who have fled abroad, and arrested four people in Hong Kong for supporting people abroad who “endanger national security.”

Ms Hui left Hong Kong in 2020 after Beijing imposed a national security law that has since led to the arrests of more than 260 people. It was introduced in response to the massive pro-democracy protests that swept the city in 2019.

She said civil liberties in Hong Kong had “long disappeared” four years after the national security law came into force.

Chris Patten, the last British governor of Hong Kong, called the legislation “another big nail in the coffin of human rights and the rule of law in Hong Kong and another disgraceful violation of the Joint Declaration.”

The United Kingdom returned Hong Kong to China in 1997 under the “one country, two systems” principle, which guaranteed the city a certain degree of autonomy. While both Beijing and Hong Kong insist this remains the case, critics and international human rights groups say China's grip on the city has tightened over time.

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