News 8 april — 14:21

Amnesty criticizes Hong Kong nation security law

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Amnesty International has criticized the Hong Kong national security law, saying its “chilling effect” has been “rapid and deeply disturbing.”

“Two new laws were passed in the name of ‘national security’ greatly restricting the freedom of expression and other human rights in the city,” the global rights group said in its annual review of the human rights situation released on Wednesday.

It said the legislation underwent “profound expansion” in Hong Kong last year.

Amnesty urged authorities to ensure that the provisions and implementation of the National Anthem Law and National Security Law should “be in line with international laws and standards.”

Year-long anti-government protests in Hong Kong in 2019 triggered stricter measures from China which imposed national security law last July, inviting criticism from international community.

The demonstrations had begun following a proposal to legalize extradition of criminals from Hong Kong to mainland China, but was later shelved.

“The overly broad and subjective provisions of the new law leave it open to wide interpretation and abuse,” the report said, referring to the National Anthem Law which came into effect last June.

Any behavior of “insulting” or “misusing” the Chinese national anthem would be criminalized and subject to a fine of up to $6,500 and a maximum penalty of three years’ imprisonment.

Chilling effect of law ‘deeply disturbing’

The national security law sets out four areas of criminal offences – “secession”, “subversion”, “terrorism” and “collusion with foreign or external forces to endanger national security” – with a maximum penalty of life imprisonment.

“The new law also asserts jurisdiction over people who are not residents of Hong Kong and have never even set foot in Hong Kong,” the rights watch body explained.

“The chilling effect of the NSL [National Security Law] on Hong Kong civil society has been rapid and deeply disturbing,” it said, adding: “The authorities increasingly use ‘safeguarding national security’ to legitimize politically motivated repression.”

Amnesty observed that protection of “national security” is in principle a “legitimate ground” for the restriction of many human rights.

“National security cannot be invoked to justify restrictions on rights and freedom unless genuinely and demonstrably intended to protect a state’s existence or territorial integrity against clear and imminent threats or use of force,” the rights group said.

It urged Hong Kong authorities to “drop all charges against those who have simply exercised their right to freedom of expression or other human rights.”

Amnesty also said that press freedom and independent media institutions “are increasingly under threat in Hong Kong.”

“Publishers and journalists alike are facing rising risks of arrest, criminal detention and physical harm when merely exercising their right of newsgathering,” the report said.

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