Brussels (Brussels Morning) Global rights watchdog Amnesty International published a damning report on the state of civil liberties in the Chinese special administrative region of Hong Kong on Wednesday, concluding that the controversial National Security Law has decimated citizens’ freedoms there since it came into force one year ago.
The organisation emphasised how the law, originally enacted on 30 June 2020, has provided the Hong Kong authorities with a near free rein to criminalise all forms of dissent and to strip the rights of those it targets.
Amnesty’s regional director for the Asia-Pacific region, Yamini Mishra, stated that the law has put Hong Kong “on a rapid path to becoming a police state”, stressing that it has also created a “human rights emergency” for the special administrative region’s residents.
The report analysed 12 months of court judgements, notes from court hearings, and scores of interviews with rights activists and pro-democracy figures that had been targeted by the law in the past year, in the course of distilling how the main applications of the law were used to trample human rights in the region.
Under the pretext of protecting national security, the authorities have used the law to crack down on the right of peaceful assembly, freedom of expression, freedom of association, and the right to engage in international political advocacy.
Public protests, free press, opposition meetings and contact with foreign diplomats and media were all treated as dangers to national security, and cited as evidence that activists, journalists and pro-democracy politicians had threatened security in the state. Those charged under the law are effectively presumed guilty, and denied bail unless they can prove they will not “continue to commit acts endangering national security”.
The law was passed unanimously by China’s ceremonial legislature and enacted in Hong Kong without any formal public debate. It uses a very broad definition of national security, making it impossible for citizens to know just what might be viewed as a possible violation. The report concludes that the law has created a chilling effect in Hong Kong since day one, and that this has grown worse by the day, with more than 118 people arrested for supposed breaches of the Law.