Australia ‘gravely concerned’ about Hong Kong’s national security law
Australia’s major law council has joined Foreign Minister Marise Payne in sharing “deep concerns” for Hong Kong over China’s new national security law.
According to reports from China, its top legislative body has unanimously passed new national security laws without transparency or public consultation. The legislation itself contains “troubling and problematic features”, which the Law Council of Australia said is inconsistent with Hong Kong’s basic law and a binding Sino-British Joint Declaration.
“The text of the law has not been released to the public, which has both prevented the people of Hong Kong from participating in the legislative process and limited the ability of experts to review compatibility of the law with Hong Kong’s legal and constitutional framework and China’s international legal obligations,” said president Pauline Wright.
The Law Council understands that the law will introduce four new crimes to criminalise secession, subversion, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces. It is concerned the offences are vaguely defined and vulnerable to abuse from officials.
In particular, the LCA is concerned with the “subversion of power” proviso which could be used to stifle criticism of the Chinese government and Communist Party, while the “collusion with foreign forces” could capture a wide range of communications.
Ms Payne is concerned the security laws will curtail protest action and have serious implications for Hong Kong’s judicial independence.
“That this decision was made without the direct participation of Hong Kong’s people, legislature or judiciary is a further cause for concern,” said Ms Payne. “The people of Hong Kong will make their own assessments of how this decision will affect their city’s future. The eyes of the world will remain on Hong Kong.”
The LCA said it understands that if a conflict arises, the new national security laws will take precedence over Hong Kong laws, and the National People’s Congress Standing Committee (NPCSC) will be installed as the final judge. This will deprive Hong Kong courts of their “independent and binding power to interpret Hong Kong laws”.
“There is a fear that broadly defined offences will have a chilling effect on civic life, by making it difficult for the people of Hong Kong to regulate their behaviour to comply with the laws,” said Ms Wright. “The Law Council, together with the international legal community, will continue to draw attention to threats to the rule of law and human rights in Hong Kong.”