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China trying to intimidate foreign, Chinese citizens overseas through Hong Kong law: Analyst

News Agencies | Updated on: 16 July 2020, 9:35 IST

The draconian Hong Kong Security law not only impact those sitting in Hong Kong but also applies criminal penalties for vague political offences to anyone, anywhere in the world, regardless of whether they have a substantial connection to the city, The Diplomat reported.

The extraterritoriality of the law makes the measure even more expansive than the mainland's own National security law, The Diplomat reported citing legal experts.

The author of the report, Sarah Cook, a senior research analyst at Freedom House said that Article 38 of the Hong Kong security law is the only one of several steps that Chinese authorities have taken over the past month to assert control overviews expressed abroad and to intimidate both foreign and Chinese citizens overseas.

"Taken together, these moves are forcing people around the world to reassess travel itineraries, business models, and communication methods. While some policymakers, foreign leaders, and civil society groups have been outspoken in their criticism of Beijing's actions, they may ultimately be the outliers in a new global wave of self-censorship," she wrote.

Cook believes thousands of Hong Kong students currently overseas who have publicly supported the territory's pro-democracy protesters on foreign university campuses and social media are at the risk.

However, this is not clear yet whether Article 38 of the law will be applied retroactively punishing speech from before the law took effect.

Cook says that Article 38 exposes a much wider array of individuals including herself to the risk of detention and prosecution.

On June 30, a court in Beijing sentenced Canadian citizen and businesswoman Sun Qian to eight years in prison for practising Falun Gong, the meditation and spiritual discipline banned in China but practised freely in Canada and elsewhere around the world.

Cook says that the Chinese government has wielded its control over access to the mainland as a cudgel to enforce self-censorship among the Chinese diaspora, journalists, academics, politicians, international corporations, and even Hollywood film studios.

"In one fell swoop, the Chinese leadership has demonstrated a willingness and ability to upend the established rules of permissible speech and activity in a matter of days; abruptly absorbed a major Asian hub for international finance, media, and activism into its repressive jurisdiction; and added support for human rights in Hong Kong to an already long list of strictly taboo topics," she wrote.

"Hong Kong's border with the mainland was once like a levee separating the unfree world from the free. After years of erosion, that barrier has now been decisively breached, and unless we all work together to hold the water back, we will all be less free as a result," she added. 


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First published: 16 July 2020, 9:35 IST