Hong Kong’s pro-democracy activists and journalists have voiced concerns over the new Chinese national security law that mentions Hong Kong for the first time, after it was passed on Wednesday.

Pan-democratic legislator Lee Cheuk-yan has asked the Hong Kong government to clarify the applicability of the national security law on Hong Kongers traveling to mainland China. Veteran journalist Bruce Lui has voiced similar concerns as to whether journalists covering sensitive topics would be considered to be violating the law.

According to Singtao, an anonymous source “close to the central government” suggested that once details of the implementation of the national security law are finalised, those advocating for Hong Kong’s independence – or an end to single-party rule – would be convicted when they enter mainland China.

Song Sio-chong (宋小莊), member of the think-tank Chinese Association of Hong Kong and Macao Studies under the Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office, echoed the statement. Song said that the law made clear that Chinese nationals have a responsibility to protect national integrity. Because “Hong Kong is within the territory of China”, Song said that Hong Kongers who violate the new security law in Hong Kong could face prosecution upon landing in China.

Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements in China press conference for June 4th. Photo: Facebook.

Lee Cheuk-yan said that the Hong Kong government needs to clarify whether Hong Kongers calling for an end to single-party rule on June 4, the anniversary of the 1989 Tiananmen massacre, would be subject to Chinese laws upon entry to mainland China. Lee said if that was the case, “all Chinese laws would be applicable in Hong Kong, because even if they do not arrest you in Hong Kong, they will still arrest you in mainland China.”

Bruce Lui, organiser of the Independent Commentators Association, said he was concerned that the passage of the law might affect journalists’ reporting in China. Lui said that journalists are often in contact with sensitive subjects, including those convicted of treason, and repost articles penned by these individuals. He questioned whether such acts would be considered as violating the law.

During the announcement of the security law, an RTHK reporter asked whether reporters covering sensitive issues in Hong Kong such as June 4 vigil would be arrested upon entry to China. Zheng Shuna, Vice-Chairman of the Legislative Affairs Committee of the National People’s Congress, replied that the question was hypothetical and declined to give a direct response.

The Hong Kong Journalist Association and two other journalists’ groups have issued a statement to express concern over the law, and that it would increase pressure on Hong Kong to legislate Article 23.

Law professor and founder of Occupy Central Benny Tai commented that the passage of the new law “would tighten the definition of subversion in Article 23 [security law]”, since the new national security law specifically mentioned the protection of the regime and “people’s democratic dictatorship”.

Elsie Leung Oi-sie. Photo: Stand News via TVB News

However, Elsie Leung Oi-sie, former justice secretary, said that the new law would not be applicable to Hong Kong since it is not included in Annex III of the Basic Law. Hong Kong will only implement a national security law through legislating Article 23.

Similarly, Ip Kwok-him, who sits on China’s largely rubber-stamp parliament, said that the law cannot be directly used in Hong Kong. Ip said he did not think that Hong Kong people expressing their opinions would possibly be convicted.

The Hong Kong government wrote in a statement that the territory has the responsibility to safeguard China’s national security and to legislate Article 23. However, the administration currently has no plans to reintroduce the bill.

In the revised version of the national security law, both Article 11 and Article 40 stress Hong Kong’s responsibility to safeguard national sovereignty.

Lee Cheuk-yan is the chairperson of the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements in China. The group organises the annual June 4 vigil in Hong Kong, and one of their demands is to “end the one-party dictatorship” in China.

Elsie Leung Oi-sie is the deputy director of the national legislature’s Basic Law Committee and member of the pro-Beijing DAB party.

Ip Kwok-him is a legislator and the deputy chairman of the Beijing-friendly Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, the city’s largest political party. Ip is also one of the Hong Kong deputies to the National People’s Congress.

Correction 9/1/17: A previous version of this article suggested that Benny Tai had made reference to “sedition” – in fact he spoke about “subversion.”

Arthur Lo

Arthur Lo is an undergraduate student currently on a gap year. During Hong Kong's Umbrella Movement protests, he worked as a fixer, translator and producer for foreign media outlets such as Al-Jazeera.