Lockout Ordinance? Hong Kong’s revised immigration regulations could require airlines to ban individual passengers

Hong Kong Legislative Council today (28) passed the third reading of the Immigration Amendment Bill 2020, will allow the Secretary for Security to empower the Immigration Department to require airlines to prohibit the carriage of individual passengers, the new law will come into force on August 1.

According to foreign media reports, Hong Kong’s revised Immigration Ordinance will empower the Hong Kong government to require airlines to notify the Immigration Department of passenger information before a flight arrives in Hong Kong, and empower the Immigration Department to require airlines to prohibit the carriage of individual passengers. The amendment has raised concerns that China’s restrictions on people’s freedom to enter and leave the country could be moved to the semi-autonomous international business center, and has been described by democrats as a “Hong Kong lockdown ordinance.

Since China often uses immigration restrictions to crack down on dissidents, opponents fear that the same tactic could be used in Hong Kong. The Bar Association, an influential group in Hong Kong, has warned that the bill gives the Director of Immigration “apparently unfettered power” to restrict Hong Kong people and others from leaving the city.

Hong Kong’s Security Bureau stressed that the amendment was aimed at the refugee problem, hoping to reduce the number of illegal immigrants at source. Secretary Li Ka-chiu today also reiterated that the new law is aimed at flights departing for Hong Kong and does not affect the freedom of entry and exit of Hong Kong residents guaranteed by the Basic Law.

However, the wording of the bill does not state that the scope of control of the ordinance is limited to inbound flights, and legal analysts are concerned that the new law may also be used against people who want to leave Hong Kong. Democratic barrister Zou Xingtong said bluntly, “The government is using the refugee issue as an excuse to expand its power.”

The Hong Kong government said it would enact subsidiary legislation when implementing the measures, and listed only for inbound flights to Hong Kong. But Zou Xingtong, who is also the vice chairman of the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China, believes that as long as the main legislation gives the authorities the power, they always have the opportunity to use it, and the subsidiary legislation is not restrictive enough.