The national security law for Hong Kong will feature harsher terms targeting collusion with foreign countries, said China’s top legislative body which met yesterday to discuss the controversial bill.
The National People’s Congress Standing Committee has begun reviewing the national security law draft at its three-day meeting starting Thursday, state-media Xinhua News Agency reported. The bill aims to prohibit and criminalize four categories of offences – secession, subversion, terrorism, collusion with foreign and external forces.
The offence of collusion was a major change from last month’s draft, which originally covered “activities of foreign countries and external forces interfering in Hong Kong affairs”. Little details of the definitions of these crimes or their applicable punishments were revealed.
The law would reportedly be passed and implemented before July 1 for a deterrence effect despite strong opposition from the international community.
All G7 industrialized nations on Wednesday issued a rare joint statement, expressing “grave concern” over the situation of Hong Kong and urging China to reconsider its decision to impose the law. But China’s senior diplomat told US secretary of state today that “China’s determination to push for a national security law in Hong Kong is unshakeable”.
Analysts told Apple Daily that the latest terms have become harsher, as “Beijing takes aim at those who collude with foreign forces in Hong Kong”. They also believed that Beijing “tailor-made” the latest changes for a small group of people it has been targeting.
Political commentator Poon Siu-to said Beijing hoped to calm the nerves of foreign investors by claiming that it targets Hong Kongers only and not foreigners. Keeping foreign investors’ confidence in Hong Kong would be in line with the interest of the Communist Party, Poon noted.
Zhang Dongshuo, a lawyer who has handled national security cases in Beijing, told RTHK that mainland laws had no specific term to cover “collusion,” but crimes consisting of such nature were mainly punished under the names of spying, stealing or buying intelligence for foreign forces, as well as providing national secrets.
Zhang said collaboration with foreign institutes, individuals or organizations to carry out acts of secession, armed mutiny or subversion of state power would lead to severe punishment in the mainland. He said penalties would be a jail term of three to ten years for general cases, and life imprisonment or death sentence for severe cases. He also said the conviction rate of cases involving national security was higher than that of other criminal cases.
Hong Kong media tycoon Jimmy Lai, when asked if he felt preyed on, said the revised bill targeted more specifically at locals who have met foreign top brass. “That’s not something worrying would help. You don’t know when Beijing will press charges or what it will do.”