Most controversial is that the law gives Beijing the right to exercise jurisdiction over selected criminal cases, increasing the chances that for the first time in Hong Kong history, suspects could be extradited across the border to face trial and, potentially, prison time, on land.
It was fears that triggered protests against the extradition law proposed by the Hong Kong government. These protests eventually forced the law to be abandoned, but plunged into wider anti-government unrest that, Beijing says, requires the imposition of new national security regulations.
Writing on Twitter, he said the new law “effectively establishes a parallel judiciary (and) takes away the possibility of interpretation and final verdict away from Hong Kong courts.”
When Hong Kong was handed over from British to Chinese rule in 1997, the city’s common law system remained largely intact. The precedent remained in place, and protections under the new de facto constitution, the Basic Law, as well as various international treaties, guaranteed a degree of justice and freedom not seen in China, where the conviction rate is north of 90%.
A 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” over national security cases “under certain circumstances,” while other lawsuits will be heard by a council elected by the city-appointed city of Beijing.
It is not explicitly stated whether the suspects could face extradition to mainland China in such circumstances.
Although the draft refers to respect for the “rule of law” and various civil liberties, it also subordinates the existing law to the national security bill, so that where there is conflict, the national security law prevails. In practice, this could mean that when the National Security Prosecutor’s Office violates human rights protected by Hong Kong law, those rights are suspended.
“Surrender has obviously become a takeover,” Cohen added.
“It’s all as they say it is,” he added. “And if they can’t achieve what they say they want when they want something, they’ll just change it in any way.”
Such provisions come as a result of a major propaganda effort to sell the bill, with posters and advertisements promoting it in Hong Kong, as well as apparent pressure from Beijing to re-list Chinese companies on the city’s stock market, boosting the local economy.
These judges are appointed by the CEO, but their presence in certain cases in China has been controversial, leading to calls for their removal or a ban in some sensitive cases. By giving Lama the authority to appoint judges to hear national security cases, the government is essentially circumventing this issue, allowing her to select those judges who are considered the most loyal.
The expansion of the power of Chinese courts and security services in Hong Kong brings with it even more worries.
Allowing the Chinese security apparatus to operate in the city increases the spectrum of illegal persecution. Authorities often disappear dissidents and activists in China or threaten to arrest them for sensitive events, and many journalists and lawyers are brought in to “take tea” with security services, during which they receive thinly curved threats about the potential consequences of their work.
If Chinese courts have jurisdiction “in certain circumstances,” they are likely to guarantee verdicts in those cases in the meantime. The Chinese legal system has been widely criticized for its lack of human rights protection, bare political persecution, and an almost universal rate of condemnation. National national security law has in the past been widely interpreted as detainees for activists, intellectuals and journalists.
Similarly, Hong Kong guarantees rights under the Basic Law and by signing international conventions, but a draft national security law would override those protections.