【Editorial】Hong Kong’s National Security Law:A Folly Threatening Freedom and Prosperity

Mar 25, 2024


Hong Kong’s parliament, the Legislative Council, unanimously passed the Safeguarding National Security Ordinance, which was approved in a mere 11 days of speedy deliberation after it was submitted to the Council, whose seats are predominantly occupied by pro-China groups. It must be said that this is a foolish act that threatens the freedom and prosperity of Hong Kong.

A “Dual Dictatorship” in China

The enactment of the Ordinance has been a longstanding political issue, stipulated in Article 23 of the Basic Law, which was established when the territory was returned to China in 1997 and serves as Hong Kong’s equivalent of a constitution. The government had attempted to enact the bill in 2003, but was forced to withdraw it after 500,000 people protested. The decision to pass the law at an unusually rapid pace is believed to be driven by the strong will of Xi Jinping’s leadership, as well as an attempt to prevent criticism from spreading.

The Ordinance is a supplement to the Hong Kong national security law, which was enacted in 2020 by the initiative of the Chinese government, introducing 39 new national security crimes such as theft of state secrets, espionage, sedition, and interference by foreign powers for “acts that endanger national security,” imposing a maximum penalty of life in prison for violations.

In addition to the expanded scope of regulations and stricter penalties, the ordinance’s vague definitions of “state secrets” and “incitement” will likely affect corporate, individual, and media investigations, research, and reporting. Besides the risk of freedom being curtailed by arbitrary interpretations from the authorities, the law is also problematic in that it threatens human rights guarantees, such as closed-door trials without a jury and restrictions on bail for suspects.

On the surface, society in Hong Kong remains calm as protests have been suppressed by the national security law. However, public anxiety and fears about Hong Kong’s dwindling freedoms are stronger than ever among its citizens. Stirring up such fears and anxieties is the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) goal of undermining Hong Kong’s society, and enacting the Ordinance further strengthens the CCP’s system of domination and control over Hong Kong.

China is currently ushering a “dual dictatorship” with the strengthening of President Xi’s personal dictatorship in addition to the one-party autocracy of the Communist Party. As a result, increased control in all aspects of society has led to freedoms disappearing from society in mainland China. Hong Kong is facing a similar fate.

When it was returned from British rule in 1997, China granted Hong Kong “one country, two systems” and guaranteed a high degree of autonomy. However, the breadth of freedom has gradually been reduced and autonomy no longer exists. The Hong Kong government has cracked down on the pro-democracy movement and is increasingly placing national security as its highest priority. Furthermore, the enactment of the ordinance will heighten threats against economic activities and freedom of speech and the press, causing many foreign companies to move their bases overseas and Western media outlets to withdraw from Hong Kong.

True Stability Cannot Be Achieved

The head of the Hong Kong government, Chief Executive John Lee, proudly stated, “The enactment of the ordinance is a historic moment for Hong Kong, and national security is now protected.” But that’s not the case.

The enactment of the ordinance is nothing less than “a historic moment for Hong Kong, which has decided to rid itself as a business hub for China and an international financial city.” The Chinese leadership should know that without freedom, neither economic prosperity nor true social stability can be achieved.

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