New national security law demonstrates a “chilling contempt” for the principles, fundamental rights and freedoms in Hong Kong

The Bar Human Rights Committee of England and Wales (BHRC) is deeply concerned at the news this morning that the national security law in Hong Kong has been passed unanimously by the National People’s Congress in Beijing, without either meaningful consultation on the law or without its advance publication. The details or text of the law have not yet been disclosed or published.

Last month, BHRC expressed its grave concern at the threat posed to fundamental human rights and to human rights defenders, as well as to judicial independence and the rule of law in Hong Kong. Similar concerns have been raised by a wide range of lawyers, human rights organisations, 51 UN Special Rapporteurs and democracy campaigners in Hong Kong and internationally. We note in particular the concerns raised in letters by our legal colleagues in the Hong Kong Bar Association, who note the “decanting of a mainland law affecting individual rights and obligations into the laws of Hong Kong without it passing through the Legislative Council is a constitutional novelty”. All such concerns have gone unaddressed and the new law has been passed with extraordinary and unprecedented levels of secrecy.

As fundamental rights and the rule of law appear threatened by these extraordinary actions in Hong Kong, BHRC joins the call by 51 UN Special Rapporteurs for the urgent establishment of a UN mechanism on China, which will be responsible for monitoring and reporting on human rights matters arising from Xinjiang and Tibet to Hong Kong.

BHRC Chair, Schona Jolly QC, said:

“This morning’s developments are alarming. The passage of this national security law, without revealing or consulting on its contents with the people of Hong Kong, demonstrates a chilling contempt for the principle of autonomy as well as the principles, fundamental rights and freedoms which underline the Basic Law and the “One Country, Two Systems” framework. Moreover, there are genuine reasons to fear that the new law may pose a serious threat to judicial independence and the rule of law in Hong Kong and we support our legal colleagues seeking to obtain clarity on the details and effect of the law on these cornerstone principles.

The Bar Human Rights Committee of England and Wales has raised concerns previously about the scope for such a widely drafted provision to diminish or override fundamental human rights currently protected in Hong Kong, including freedom of expression, association and assembly, and the right to not be subjected to arbitrary or unlawful arrest, detention or imprisonment. The lack of any meaningful engagement with these concerns, raised by many lawyers and human rights organisations, before passing the law is a discouraging portent.”