HKJA’s response to Li Zhanshu, the Chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress regarding the description content of Hong Kong National Security Law bill

The Standing Committee of National People’s Congress (the Standing Committee, thereafter) held a meeting to deliberate the draft of Hong Kong National Security Law. Hong Kong Journalists Association sent a submission paper to the Standing Committee earlier on to express our concern on the threats to the personal safety of journalists, the worsening of self-censorship, bottom line guessing and further shrinking of freedom. The Standing Committee established an explanatory statement of the law and indicated that two human rights related covenant including the “International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights” and “International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights” are still adaptable in Hong Kong. The human rights enshrined in the ICCPR regarding the freedom of speech, of the press, association, assembly, rally and demonstration in Hong Kong. Yet, we think that the content lacks concrete statements ensuring freedom of the press and freedom of interview will not be affected. The legislation not only failed to allay concerns of journalists but undermined the judicial independence thereby left freedom of the press and personal safety of journalists unprotected.

 

The Supplementary Provision of the bill stipulates that the Hong Kong National Security Law shall prevail where the provisions in the local law are inconsistent with Hong Kong National Security Law and the power of interpretation of the National Security Law shall be vested in the Standing Committee of the Nation People’s Congress. That is, the Hong Kong National Security Law is prioritized over existing law in Hong Kong. The law will impose unimaginable effects to the current legal system and cause negative impacts to the human rights and freedom of the press in Hong Kong.

We demand the bill to be written in consistence with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) which is applicable in Hong Kong. The Hong Kong Bill of Rights Ordinance (Cap. 383) was enacted to incorporate the ICCPR into domestic law. The content of the draft National Security Law should meet the standards of the international community.

According to the bill, the Chief Executive can designate judges at each level to handle related cases, the Central Government has jurisdiction on the cases and the trials could possibly be held in the Mainland. The above content of the bill undermines judicial independence in Hong Kong. Judicial independence is the cornerstone of the judicial system in HKSAR, the Basic Law of Hong Kong clearly declared that a clear jurisdiction should be identified in order to protect the rule of law and human rights such as the freedom of speech, freedom of the press and publication. Once the judicial independence is harmed, human rights and freedom are at stake. We demand that the legislation of Hong Kong National Security Law should not affect the judicial independence of Hong Kong.

We express the deepest concern on the Central Government’s direct jurisdiction on some national security related cases. We worry that if members of the press in Hong Kong involved in national security cases will no longer enjoy their existing right as trials will be held in the Mainland and the role, the working style of the press and the system are different in Hong Kong and in Mainland.

Hong Kong press members have long been aware of the legal boundaries, as long as they do not cross it, they do not need to worry about legal risks when they criticise or quote criticisms on Beijing and local government officials in their news reports. In addition, it was not necessary for the press to worry that they need to surrender journalistic materials such as the contact of interviewees and notes.

We demand every single case that happened within Hong Kong to be handled by local law courts.

We reiterate that the Hong Kong National Security Law is the most important piece of law since the handover of Hong Kong. Not only does it limit the freedom of press, of the speech and publication, but also the well-being of 7.5 million Hong Kong people and future development of Hong Kong. Whether “One Country Two System” succeeds or fails will be critical to the development of the entire country and there is no room for mistakes. We demand the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress to revoke the legislation before it is too late. Should it continue, should conduct extensive public consultations first.

 

Hong Kong Journalists Association

26 June 2020

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