Lawyers have expressed shock and concern at Hong Kong’s newly-enacted national security law, drafted by Beijing and kept from the public until its passing on Tuesday.

Solicitor-advocate and academic Eric Cheung wrote on Facebook that the law was “worse than the worst-case scenario he had predicted,” as the text represented the spirit of mainland China’s socialist legal system rather than Hong Kong’s common law system.

Photo: GovHK.

Cheung drew particular attention to the law’s extraterritoriality, in that any person regardless of residency or nationality could be charged for acts committed anywhere: “All eight billion people in the world should read the Hong Kong national security law thoroughly, to avoid unwittingly breaking the law.”

The Hong Kong Bar Association (HKBA) released a statement on Wednesday afternoon, highlighting the alleged inconsistencies between the national security law and the Basic Law.

In particular, the HKBA drew attention to the articles that allowed suspects to be extradited for trial in mainland China, the vesting of the power of interpretation in the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress, and the chief executive’s ability to select judges.

HKBA chair Philip Dykes. Photo: Holmes Chan/HKFP.

The statement also questioned the fact that mainland national security agents would be above the reach of local law, the traditional presumption of bail would be reversed, and the lack of public guidelines and safeguards related to the four newly-created offences.

“In addition to the total absence of meaningful consultation, lawyers, judges, police and Hong Kong residents were given no opportunity to familiarise themselves with the contents of the new law, including the serious criminal offences it creates, before it came into force.”

HKBA vice-chair Anita Yip told NowTV the national security law did not clearly define the parameters of national security, adding that chair Philip Dykes has not been able to fully read the law as there has yet to be an official English translation.

Photo: May James/HKFP.

“Hong Kong is gone,” former HKBA chair and legislator Alan Leong told Stand News.

The Law Society, considered to be filled with conservative or pro-Beijing council members, has not yet released a statement in response to the national security law text.

Hong Kong police arrested ten people on suspicion of violating the national security law over the course of Wednesday’s protests on Hong Kong Island, as crowds flouted a ban on the annual July 1 pro-democracy march.

According to Article 42 of the new law, suspects would not be granted bail “unless the judge has substantial reasons to believe the suspect or defendant will not continue activities endangering national security”.

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Elson Tong

Elson Tong is a graduate of international relations and former investigations consultant. He has also written for Stand News.