American Consequences - March 2021


Pull quote. Pull quote. Pull quote. Pull quote. Pull quote. Pull quote. Pull quote. Pull quote. At first, China’s Communist leaders tried to ignore the protests. In the early days, there was almost no mention of the riots made in the tightly controlled, heavily censored state-run media. When stories eventually did begin to appear, it was almost always to depict the demonstrators as a small band of “rioters.” But when protesters attacked the Beijing central government’s main office in Hong Kong and provocatively defaced the Chinese emblem with black paint, defiantly tossed the Chinese flag into the harbor, and began targeting China-affiliated banks and mainland-owned restaurants, authorities in Beijing decided enough was enough... And the result is the new NSL. The national security law is actually somewhat a misnomer. The new law is much m re an Internal Security Act of the kind commonly used in Britain’s other former colonies like Malaysia and Singapore, which is aimed at crushing internal dissent, not deterring an attack from abroad. China’s version of the law, imposed on Hong Kong with no local input or debate, defines four broad categories of offenses: terrorism, secession, subversion, and collusion with foreign forces. Those sweeping categories are left deliberately vague, meaning the NSL can proscribe virtually anything police, prosecutors, or the Chinese government wants it to. Under the law, singing “Glory to Hong Kong,” the anthem of the 2019 protest movement, or chanting the movement’s slogan, “Liberate Hong Kong, Revolution of Our Time,” can now be deemed a national security offense. Carrying a banner, wearing a T-shirt, or posting a social media text

advocating Hong Kong independence can lead to arrest and a lifetime prison sentence. Under the new law, inciting hatred against the local government, the Communist authorities in Beijing, or against the Hong Kong police is now a national security crime. The law is so broadly written that even criticizing the NSL itself is a crime against national security. The NSL has created an entirely new enforcement infrastructure. The police now have a special national security unit, with broad powers of surveillance, arrest, and interrogation of anyone suspected of breaching the law. Mainland China has brought its own national security officers into Hong Kong, initially taking over a 33-story, 266-room hotel in the middle of the city for some 200 new officers who can operate freely without any local oversight or scrutiny – local police are not even allowed to pull over these officers’ cars. A separate, parallel court system has been set up to hear national security cases, with select judges named secretly to a pool allowed to hear sensitive NSL cases. The immigration department is said to have a new unit specifically to scrutinize sensitive visa applications and work permits on national security grounds. Schools, from kindergarten to high school, have been ordered to implement “national security education” into all aspects of the curriculum, including use of a cartoon owl teaching the youngest children to recite the four NSL crimes. Hong Kong’s autonomous, publicly funded universities have also been told to submit detailed plans


March 2021

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