China Thinks It Can Arrest Basically Anyone on the Planet for Criticizing Communism

"This law is flexible and can be used against a variety of people and in a variety of situations. That's why the chilling effect is so powerful.”
July 1, 2020, 4:13pm
A protester is detained by riot police during the annual handover march in Hong Kong, Wednesday, July. 1, 2020. Hong Kong marked the 23rd anniversary of its handover to China in 1997, and just one day after China enacted a national security law that crack

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Beijing's harsh new national security law isn’t just cracking down on Hong Kongers; part of it basically criminalizes anyone on the planet if they criticize the Chinese Communist Party.

The sweeping new legislation, which went into effect Tuesday, has already had a chilling effect on the people of Hong Kong, where pro-democracy groups have disbanded and worried citizens are deleting their social media accounts.

At least nine people have already been arrested on suspicion of breaching the new law, after thousands of protesters defied a police ban to take part in an annual pro-democracy march on Wednesday. The Hong Kong Police Force said Wednesday evening they arrested more than 300 people.

But legal experts are now warning that the new legislation applies not only to Hong Kong residents but to virtually anyone around the globe who speaks publicly about the Chinese regime.

Article 38 of the new law reads: “This Law shall apply to offenses under this Law committed against the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region from outside the Region by a person who is not a permanent resident of the Region.”

When read in conjunction with the very broad language used to define the major crimes of subversion and separatism, this new power will allow authorities in Hong Kong to arbitrarily detain anyone who enters Hong Kong who may have previously voiced criticism of the Chinese Communist Party.

“It is asserting extraterritorial jurisdiction over every person on the planet," Donald Clarke, a law professor at George Washington University, wrote Tuesday.

But experts point out that while Article 38 may seem like a remarkable overreach, such actions are nothing new for Beijing.

“Beijing has long shown its willingness to use such crimes to silence critics who peacefully advocate for political change,” Maggie Lewis, a law professor at Seton Hall Law School and a specialist in Hong Kong and Taiwan, told VICE News.

While the new law governs Hong Kong, some experts believe it could also in effect stop anyone who's been critical of Beijing in the past from traveling to China.

I wonder if you can even visit China,” Clarke tweeted. ”If Hong Kong requested extradition, would the mainland government say no?”

Another provision in the law, Article 54, gives the national security bureau and foreign ministry much greater powers to exert control over foreign NGOs and overseas news organizations in Hong Kong, creating to the possibility of much greater crackdown on these organizations in the coming months and years.

How the law will be used or who specifically it will target won’t be known until Beijing begins to implement it, but the law has been written so that the Chinese government can change who it targets over time to suit its needs:

“Who is considered a national security threat might adjust,” Lewis said. “This law is flexible and can be used against a variety of people and in a variety of situations. That's why the chilling effect is so powerful.”

Already, governments in Canada and the U.K. have updated their travel advisory for Hong Kong, warning travelers of the increased risk of arbitrary detention and possible extradition to China.

"It’s the white terror the Chinese government wants to see.”

Those most likely to be on Beijing’s list of targets are people who regularly speak out about the atrocities perpetrated by the Chinese government, such as the detention, torture and so-called re-education of Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang.

For those people, traveling to Hong Kong or China may now be out of the question.

“I wonder if any foreign academics and journalists can still do their work on China unless they would never come to Hong Kong and China,” Patrick Poon, an independent human rights researcher in Hong Kong told VICE News. “Those who still want to go there for their career will surely adopt self-censorship. It’s the white terror the Chinese government wants to see.”

Cover: A protester is detained by riot police during the annual handover march in Hong Kong, Wednesday, July. 1, 2020. Hong Kong marked the 23rd anniversary of its handover to China in 1997, and just one day after China enacted a national security law that cracks down on protests in the territory. (AP Photo/Vincent Yu)

But legal experts are now warning that the new legislation applies not only to Hong Kong residents but to virtually anyone around the globe who speaks publicly about the Chinese regime.

Article 38 of the new law reads: “This Law shall apply to offenses under this Law committed against the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region from outside the Region by a person who is not a permanent resident of the Region.”

When read in conjunction with the very broad language used to define the major crimes of subversion and separatism, this new power will allow authorities in Hong Kong to arbitrarily detain anyone who enters Hong Kong who may have previously voiced criticism of the Chinese Communist Party.

“It is asserting extraterritorial jurisdiction over every person on the planet," Donald Clarke, a law professor at George Washington University, wrote Tuesday.

https://twitter.com/benedictrogers/status/1277992512045699072

But experts point out that while Article 38 may seem like a remarkable overreach, such actions are nothing new for Beijing.

“Beijing has long shown its willingness to use such crimes to silence critics who peacefully advocate for political change,” Maggie Lewis, a law professor at Seton Hall Law School and a specialist in Hong Kong and Taiwan, told VICE News.

While the new law governs Hong Kong, some experts believe it could also in effect stop anyone who has been critical of Beijing in the past from traveling to China.

I wonder if you can even visit China,” Clarke tweeted. ”If Hong Kong requested extradition, would the mainland government say no?”

Another provision in the law, Article 54, gives the national security bureau and foreign ministry much greater powers to exert control over foreign NGOs and overseas news organizations in Hong Kong, creating to the possibility of much greater crackdown on these organizations in the coming months and years.

How the law will be used or who specifically it will target won’t be known until Beijing begins to implement it, but the law has been written so that the Chinese government can change who it targets over time to suit its needs:

“Who is considered a national security threat might adjust,” Lewis said. “This law is flexible and can be used against a variety of people and in a variety of situations. That's why the chilling effect is so powerful.”

Already, governments in Canada and the U.K. have updated their travel advisory for Hong Kong, warning travelers of the increased risk of arbitrary detention and possible extradition to China.

Those most likely to be on Beijing’s list of targets are people who regularly speak out about the atrocities perpetrated by the Chinese government, such as the detention, torture and re-education of Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang.

For those people, traveling to Hong Kong or China may now be out of the question.

“I wonder if any foreign academics and journalists can still do their work on China unless they would never come to Hong Kong and China,” Patrick Poon, an independent human rights researcher in Hong Kong told VICe News. “Those who still want to go there for their career will surely adopt self-censorship. It’s the white terror the Chinese government wants to see.”