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Rights groups urge nations to denounce new HK security law

Governments are asked to impose sanctions against Chinese and Hong Kong officials responsible for the law
Police stand guard outside the West Kowloon court for the opening day of the trial of pro-democracy media tycoon Jimmy Lai in Hong Kong on Dec 18, 2023.
Police stand guard outside the West Kowloon court for the opening day of the trial of pro-democracy media tycoon Jimmy Lai in Hong Kong on Dec 18, 2023.  (Photo: AFP)
Published: February 22, 2024 08:22 AM GMT
Updated: February 22, 2024 09:32 AM GMT

Governments worldwide should oppose Hong Kong’s move to introduce a new national security law that could further devastate human rights in Hong Kong, said 86 civil society groups, including Human Rights Watch.

Concerned governments should publicly denounce the proposed law and impose targeted sanctions, including asset freezes and travel bans, on the Hong Kong and Chinese officials responsible, the rights groups said in a joint statement on Feb. 20.

The Hong Kong government on Jan. 30, announced a four-week “public consultation” period for the new national security law under Article 23 of the Basic Law, Hong Kong’s de facto constitution.

The move is “Beijing’s latest effort to transform Hong Kong from a free society to an oppressed one where people live in fear,” said Maya Wang, acting China director at Human Rights Watch.

“Passage of this law will mean that even more of Hong Kong people’s basic rights will be taken away,” she said.

The proposed law would punish people who “induce…disaffection against” the Chinese government and would use procedural changes to dramatically undermine due process and fair trial rights, including by extending police detention without charge and restricting access to lawyers.

These vague changes will exacerbate the impact of the current draconian National Security Law, which the Chinese government imposed in June 2020, Human Rights Watch said in a statement.

The law will also crush the city’s civil society, independent media, and democracy movement, it said.

Few governments have made formal and public statements opposing the law, which the Hong Kong government has trumpeted as tacit support, the statement said.

Foreign governments to publicly oppose the introduction of Article 23, should impose sanctions on responsible officials, and protect Hong Kong people and activists in exile, rights groups said.

They also urged international companies and foreign chambers of commerce to express concerns to the Hong Kong and Chinese authorities and re-evaluate their business risks and possible complicity in human rights violations.

Governments “should step up efforts to hold Hong Kong and Chinese officials responsible for rights violations to account,” Wang said.

“They should impose asset freezes, travel bans, and other targeted sanctions, and send a clear message that repression has a cost,” she added.

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