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Hong Kong clergy face arrest, extradition to China in new security laws

Hong Kong clergy face arrest, extradition to China in new security laws

People take a moment of silence during a remembrance prayer in memory of an university student Alex Chow who succumbed to head injuries sustained during a fall as police skirmished with demonstrators last weekend. Photo taken on November 9, 2019, in Hong Kong, China. | Getty Images/Anthony Kwan

A blueprint for a controversial new national security law for Hong Kong, as proposed by China, has caused concerns that the semi-autonomous city’s vocal clergy who have supported the democracy movement could be extradited to and tried in mainland China.

The Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress, China’s rubber-stamp legislature, may formally approve the law, which broadens Beijing’s direct control over Hong Kong and erodes the city’s human rights and freedoms, at a June 28-30 meeting, according to The Epoch Times.

Submitted last week for deliberation, the draft covers four categories of crimes: succession, subversion of state power, local terrorist activities and collaborating with foreign or external foreign forces to endanger national security, according to the U.S.-based Christian persecution watchdog International Christian Concern.

“Under such laws, vocal Hong Kong clergy who have been supportive of Hong Kong’s democracy movement, such as Cardinal Joseph Zen and Auxiliary Bishop Joseph Ha Chi-shing, could be extradited to mainland China to be tried, since Beijing considers them to be threats to the regime,” said ICC.

“Other hundreds of protestant leaders or Christian organizations who have actively spoken out against the Hong Kong government might face the same fate, since Beijing has said it considers the mass protests that began last June as terrorist acts and any calls for Hong Kong’s independence from China as acts of sedition."

In 1997, China had agreed for a “one country, two systems” arrangement to allow certain freedoms for Hong Kong when it received the city back from British control. The security law undercuts the promised autonomy.

“This law fundamentally compromises one-country, two-systems, and breach of the handover agreement. The details emerging put human rights in jeopardy,” the U.K.-based group Hong Kong Watch wrote on Twitter.

The European Parliament has voted to take China to the International Court of Justice in The Hague if the law is imposed.

The United States has also threatened to revoke Hong Kong’s special trading relationship with it and impose sanctions on Chinese and Hong Kong officials.

China’s state-run Xinhua News Agency revealed an explanatory note summarizing the draft, which says Beijing will set up a dedicated central government office in Hong Kong to manage national security affairs, The Wall Street Journal reported.

The office will be given the authority to assess Hong Kong’s security, gather and analyze intelligence, advise and supervise local authorities on national security matters and also handle select criminal cases, according to the report, which added that the office would exercise jurisdiction over “a very small number” of cases.

The office would also be empowered to oversee education about national security in Hong Kong schools.

In case of any discrepancies between the new law and Hong Kong’s Basic Law, the former would supersede, according to the explanatory note.

“Hong Kong will not be a bridgehead for exterior forces that jeopardize [China’s] national security,” Carrie Lam, Chief Executive of Hong Kong, wrote on Facebook, according to the Times.

ICC warned that  “China’s notorious legal system and its lack of transparency can easily criminalize anybody and place them in jail. Many Chinese pastors and Christians, such as pastor Wang Yi, elder Qin Derfu, pastor John Cao, are now imprisoned for trumped-up charges, such as ‘subversion of state power,’ ‘illegal border crossing,’ and ‘illegal business operation.’”

Responding to the law, Republican Sen. Rick Scott from Florida wrote on  Twitter, “Communist China continues their mission to destroy human rights and autonomy in #HongKong. Its plans to suffocate and intimidate those fighting for their basic rights is clear. The US continues to stand with the people of HK.”

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