Hong Kong’s Chief Secretary Matthew Cheung has said that the newly-enacted security law has been “effective in restoring stability” to the semi-autonomous territory, despite international concern over a clampdown on political expression.

In a video address at the 48th regular session of the UN Human Rights Council on Tuesday, The city’s number two official rebuffed criticism of the legislation as unthinkable given the existence of similar laws in “almost all countries.”

Matthew Cheung
Chief Secretary Matthew Cheung addresses the 48th regular session of the UN Human Rights Council. Photo: GovHK.

“The international community should be fair and not adopt a double standard,” he said.

His comments came amid continued scrutiny from foreign governments of the security law. Washington issued an alert on Tuesday advising US citizens to reconsider travelling to Hong Kong, citing the threat of “arrest, detention, expulsion, or prosecution” of Beijing critics.

Cheung repeated previous government statements on the necessity of restoring “safety and stability” to the city after months of mass protests calling for democratic reform and police accountability. The Beijing-imposed law criminalises “subversion,” “secession,” “foreign interference” as well as “terrorism” – broadly-defined to include interference with transport and other infrastructure. Such powers have been used to silence and punish dissidents in China.

national security law poster
Photo: Tom Grundy/HKFP.

“The law is vital in bringing Hong Kong back on track and safeguarding our country’s sovereignty, security and development interests,” he added. “Advocacies of ‘Hong Kong independence’ and collusions with external forces have visibly subsided, as have acts of violence and blatant defiance of law and order.”

The chief secretary also said the preservation of “Hong Kong’s core values including rights and freedoms, the rule of law and judicial independence,” guaranteed in the Basic Law. However, legal groups have repeatedly aired concern over the constitutionality of some of the provisions of the security law.

Since July, the security law has seen democracy books pulled from library shelves, activists arrested over social media posts and protesters detained for uttering “banned” slogans.

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Jennifer Creery is a Hong Kong-born British journalist, interested in minority rights and urban planning. She holds a BA in English at King's College London and has studied Mandarin at National Taiwan University.