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Hong Kong slyly tweaks language of security law, puts media at greater risk

The broadening of the language of terms of violations put more companies and people at the risk of being accused of security violations.
China imposed the national security law on Hong Kong last year.
Updated on Sep 22, 2021 04:49 PM IST
By Shishir Gupta, Hindustan Times, New Delhi

Months after China imposed the draconian national security law on Hong Kong, the administration of the semi-autonomous region has quietly hardened the language of the terms of violations that were already vague. The city’s administration is now even planning to introduce new laws under Hong Kong’s Basic Law that will pave way for easily cracking down on dissenting voices. The proposals include ‘Fake news’ legislation, anti-doxxing law, and anti-sanctions law among others.

Reports suggest that Hong Kong authorities, who were initially using the phrase “actions that “endanger national security", have quietly started using the term “contrary to the interests of national security”. While the phrase “endanger national security” appears more than 30 times in the national security law, "contrary to” has not been mentioned in the original legislation.

The Hong Kong government has proposed ‘Fake news’ legislation months after officials and lawmakers started using the term ‘fake news’ in their press statements and in speeches. But they have not outlined any exact provisions for the law. The Asia Internet Coalition has even warned that tech giants may stop offering their services in the semi-autonomous region if anti-doxxing laws were used to target their employees.

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Article 7 of the Hong Kong Basic Law still requires the local government to pass its own law. The newly proposed Article 23 can do away with this obligation. China is also planning to extend the anti-sanctions law to Hong Kong. The law allows Beijing to deny visas, deport, or seize assets of those involved in formulating or complying with sanctions against China.

These minor changes could provide greater ammunition to the government for harassing businesses and citizens as it increases compliance risk for companies operating from what is touted as global financial capital. The broadening of the language of terms of violations put more companies and people at the risk of being accused of security violations.

Several pro-democracy activists, including Hong Kong media tycoon Jimmy Lai, were arrested last year days after the implementation of the controversial law. The international community, especially the US, UK, Canada, and Australia, has often termed the legislation contrary to China's international obligations under the principles of the legally binding, UN-registered Sino-British Joint Declaration.

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