by Dhanishta Mittal and Deepanshu Mittal
China’s controversial National Security law is now to be implemented in Hong Kong through Chinese administration. This raises serious concerns regarding the demand for Hong Kong’s autonomy. The security law, which has provisions that are expected to ban secession, sedition and subversion of the Chinese government will conveniently bypass the Hong Kong legislation due to their puppet government in power. Thus, this will ensure that the Beijing communist party could track down all the anti-government protests ravaging the city since the controversial decision by the Chinese government to introduce Chinese extradition laws in Hong Kong.
History of Hong Kong Protests
The Basic Law, which acts as the Constitution of the Specially Administered Territory of Hong Kong has been altered by the Beijing administration for years in the past. They have even attempted at amending Article 23 of this basic law which allowed Hong Kong the autonomy to strictly apply its own national security laws. The 2003 attempt of Hong Kong authorities (under the obvious influence of China) to replace Article 23 with their stringent national security laws was met with unprecedented protests, leading to a steady withdrawal of such a proposition in Hong Kong.
China’s empty threats of implementation of its national security legislation are soon to become a reality.Without sufficient public pressure primarily because of the restrictions on mass gatherings amidst the pandemic in the region, there will be easy implementation of the laws by the puppet leaders in the Hong Kong legislature.
Concerns Surrounding Such a Measure
The ‘one country two systems’ policy, which was introduced as a result of the Sino-British agreement in 1997, is to be majorly impacted since the mini constitution of Hong Kong is to experience a turmoil through a backdoor approach by the mainland, inviting public resentment.Governmental repression along with police brutality in an attempt to stop the dissenting voices has become a quotidian in Hong Kongover the past year or so. Many of the repressive measures could potentially be implemented in the Special Administrative Region (‘SAR’) of Hong Kong post the enforcement of this law. There could be deployment of Chinese national security agents who would be eligible to ‘silence’ the critics or protestors who have been branded as terrorists in the mainland. They would be allowed to put the protestors behind bars, increase surveillance and introduce technology that could aggressively jeopardize people’s privacy through software detection and such monitoring-centric software.With China’s history of hiding data and presenting bogus information, with mala fide intention to deceive, one can only anticipate severe human rights violations against the so-called ‘anti-nationals’ at the hands of this authoritarian state.
China is known globally for non-adherence to international arbitral awards and non-legally enforceable global obligations especially those targeted against its aggressive expansionist policies.This was evidenced in China’s non-compliance with the arbitral award against its expansion in the South China Sea. In the region, China had resorted to building man-made islands and establish its naval bases on the same, threatening the very existence of many island nations in the region. Thus, the Human Rights implications of such a move are massive especially with the known track record of Chinese abuse of human rights, particularly of the Uighur Muslims.
Most of the data related to governmental activities in China never reaches the global bodies because of the communist party’s policies. The attempt by China to ‘take the matter into their own hands’ allows the People’s Republic of China (‘PRC’) to take direct action against ‘terrorist’ activities intended to topple the government in power. The timing of such an act is of additional convenience since mass scale gatherings have practically been banned in an attempt to curb the spread of the fatal SARS-COV2.
The backdoor action taken by China can be equated, though not entirely, with the Modi’s government’s attempt at eliminating the special status given to the state of Jammu and Kashmir. The Modi government resorted to eliminating Article 370 from the Indian constitution and imposing severe restrictions on human rights, increased surveillance and withholding internet services in the Valley. There was deployment of the Indian army to monitor the functioning in the region. Such extremity can be expected,upon complete Chinese stronghold in the once democratically functional Hong Kong.
Impact on International Trade Caused by this Decision
The legislation will also impact foreign activities and forbid interference by other sovereign bodies in the internal affairs of Hong Kong, particularly if they undermine the Chinese government’s actions. This results in potential disruptions in global trade and commerce in the SAR, particularly since Hong Kong served an instrumental role for American and European countries as their Asian base.
While there has been resentment and discontent expressed by the international communities, sufficient actions remain to be taken, and more so because of the pandemic. The lockdowns have halted major actions both economically and politically, as well as engaged other countries in their own internal affairs. After a 5.6% drop noticed in the Hong Kong based share prices, aspersions about investor interest in the region is being contested. Independent judiciary and respect for human rights and freedom has been instrumental in making Hong Kong an international hub for trade and business. People’s reactions have been noted to demonstrate a trend of immigration (emigration in Chinese parlance) from Hong Kong, as an attempt to evade the atrocities likely to be committed against civilians in the region.
The Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act 2019, was introduced by the Trump administration against Chinese intervention in the Hong Kong region. The Act safeguards violation of human rights by Chinese officials and allows preferential treatment by the Washington authorities after annual survey of the special status given to Hong Kong. With continued Chinese aggression in the region, there is a potential threat to booming capitalistic ventures. This is primarily due to instability and lack of investor participation which could force nations to relocate their industries to other Asian countries. Such concerns are exacerbated amidst the rumors surrounding Chinese role in making COVID-19 a pandemic through absence of timely sharing of information related to the pandemic. Additionally, political instability and curtailment of civil liberties could lead to professionals shifting their services to other ‘democratic’ countries, furthering leading to brain drain in the region. The US Secretary for State issued a statement assuring their continued support to the people and Hong Kong and ‘requesting’ China to withdraw from such a measure and abide by international obligations.
With China being on global scrutiny for its potential active role in the COVID-19 pandemic, all actions of China are looked at, with suspicion and invite flak. This stands so especially when they are of a nature that inevitably aim at suppressing the voices of those who speak against the hypocrisy of China and its policies. From the 2015 experience wherein Chinese officials were involved in the abduction of Hong Kong and Thai booksellers who were blackmailed into making videos refusing to talk about the Chinese involvement, serious concerns are to be raised about possible Chinese actions on ‘anti-nationals’ to be found because of the renewed security laws in Hong Kong!
Views are personal.
Image credits: Times Magazine
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Dhanishta Mittal is a B.A. L.L.B. candidate at NALSAR University of Law, Hyderabad, India. Deepanshu Mittal is a Chartered Accountant and a prospective MBA candidate.