Bar Human Rights Committee and Hong Kong Watch hold private session with British and Hong Kong lawyers to discuss shared concerns over the National Security Law

Last week, Hong Kong Watch and the Bar Human Rights Committee of England and Wales (BHRC) held a closed-door Webinar bringing together prominent members of the British and Hong Kong legal and academic community, with parliamentarians from the UK and the EU also in attendance, to discuss the impact of the new National Security Law in Hong Kong.

The topics of discussion included exploring the historical build-up to the new law, the international, legal and real-time perspective. Those in attendance also raised concerns about the application of the National Security Law, its claims to extraterritorial jurisdiction, its operation alongside Hong Kong’s Basic Law, and the continued role of foreign judges on the Hong Kong Court of Final Appeal.

There was unanimous agreement from representatives of the British and Hong Kong legal community that legal and jurisprudential analysis of the Law’s application is crucial, and support must be maintained for judicial independence and the rule of law in Hong Kong.

Commenting on the joint private session with the British and Hong Kong legal community, Hong Kong Watch’s Director, Johnny Patterson, said:

“We feel fortunate to bring together with the Bar Human Rights Committee some of the leading legal minds in Britain and Hong Kong to speak frankly about the challenges this draconian and vague National Security Law presents for judicial independence, the rule of law, and Hong Kong’s Basic Law.

Listening to the practical concerns by those prominent individuals in attendance, it is increasingly clear that this National Security Law is incompatible with Hong Kong’s previous status as an open international city with an independent judiciary and the rule of law.”

Schona Jolly QC, Chair of BHRC, said:

“The alarmingly wide police powers attached to the National Security Law, including the powers to search, seize and freeze assets, casts a wide net across Hong Kong society, and beyond. The vagueness of the law, including the lack of an official English version of the law, leaves it open to abuse by authorities without adequate judicial oversight.

As we begin to navigate the consequences of this sweepingly-drafted law the Bar Human Rights Committee extends its solidarity to all legal practitioners  who continue to fight to keep the fundamental freedoms guaranteed in Hong Kong’s Basic Law.”