Following the suspension of Hong Kong’s Apple Daily, the arrest of its top executives, and the recent dismissal of several senior media professionals and the announcement of the suspension of commentary programs, a number of scholars in the United States, as well as exiled Chinese human rights activists, are extremely concerned about the accelerated sinking of the rule of law in Hong Kong under national security laws. They are worried that the independence of the judiciary will completely collapse under the oppressive authoritarian rule of Hong Kong’s legal profession, and call on the U.S. Congress to keep an eye on the fate of Hong Kong people. Listen to the bitter report from a Voice of America reporter below.
On the eve of the first anniversary of the implementation of Hong Kong’s version of the National Security Law, the U.S. Congressional and Executive Committee on China (CECC) held a video seminar on Tuesday, June 29, to discuss the latest situation of human rights erosion in Hong Kong. Participants included Professor Jerome Cohen, a leading U.S. expert on Chinese law in his 90s; Thomas Kellogg, Executive Director of the Asian Law Center at Georgetown University; Tianbo Xu, Assistant Professor of Political Science at the University of Notre Dame; and Chen Jiangang and Teng Biao, two former Chinese human rights lawyers now living in the United States. The participants were particularly interested in the recent week-long rush in Hong Kong.
The participants were particularly worried about the rapid deterioration of the situation in Hong Kong in the past week, especially after the forced suspension of the Apple Daily, the arrests of top executives, and the firing of the host of Radio Television Hong Kong’s current affairs program and the voluntary suspension of the Internet commentator’s program, and believed that Hong Kong’s original freedom of expression and rule of law under the Hong Kong version of the National Security Law had become incomplete.
Kellogg: the chance of a fair trial is in doubt
Tom Kellogg, director of the Asian Law Center at Georgetown University Law School, who was involved in writing the latest study on Hong Kong’s national security law, first raised the issue of fair trial, pointing out that Hong Kong courts have recently denied bail to arrested persons, and thus denied a jury trial to the defendant in the first national security law case, Tang Yingjie, both of which show that the right to a fair trial is in jeopardy.
Kellogg said, “Under Hong Kong’s version of the National Security Law, the (Hong Kong) government is eroding the rights of accused suspects, and this practice has had a serious impact on fair trials.”
The center’s report, entitled “Hong Kong’s National Security Law and the Right to a Fair Trial,” released June 28, noted that since trials for National Security Law crimes began, core rights of defendants, including the right to due process, the right to a jury trial in the High Court, and the right to bail before a formal trial, have been curtailed. At the same time, the process of selecting judges for NSA cases has raised public concerns about judicial independence.
Kong Jierong: Can Judges Judge Independently and Impartially Under Political Pressure?
Kong, who has long studied Chinese legal issues, shares Kellogg’s concern that judges at all levels of the Hong Kong courts are increasingly subject to invisible political pressure, casting doubt on their ability to adjudicate cases independently and impartially. He explained that after the National Security Law came into effect last year, the authorities did not announce the criteria for selecting judges for National Security Law cases, and there was no transparency at all.
Kong said the foreign judges of the Court of Final Appeal are not allowed to hear national security law cases because of political factors, so they should not stay in Hong Kong’s judicial system, trying to add to the role of a vase, to provide a flimsy basis for the Hong Kong authorities to insist on judicial independence. He fears that once the Hong Kong Bar Association falls, the rule of law in Hong Kong will be in jeopardy.
Kong Kit Wing said, “If the Bar Association is muted or intimidated, then (barristers) will also be denied the support they were originally entitled to in the courts.”
Xu Tianbo: Authoritarian police rule will become the new normal
In addition to the court level, Xu Tianbo, an assistant professor of political science at the University of Notre Dame, mentioned that Hong Kong has entered a “police city” status. With the recent promotion of former Secretary for Security Lee Ka-chiu from the police system to the second chair of the SAR government as Chief Secretary for Administration, authoritarian police rule will become the new normal.
The police (system) is now officially in charge of the entire Hong Kong government, and they are directly under the governance of the security system in Beijing,” Xu Tianbo said. The treatment of those arrested in Hong Kong in the future will be almost the same as in mainland China, making the prospect of a fearful feeling.”
Xu Tianbo fears that with police authority in power, Hong Kong people will not only lose the Apple Daily, but their right to stand up for their beliefs may be denied and they will be in trouble with the law at any time. She explained that the Hong Kong government is currently bragging about studying the enactment of a fake news law, which is meant to completely suppress the dissemination of the truth they don’t like. She cited the example that netizens who then insist after the passage of the relevant legislation that there was an incident in which a member of the public was killed in an indiscriminate attack by police at the Prince Edward MTR station on August 31, 2019, will break the law and risk arrest.
Chen Jiangang: the Chinese Communist Party will destroy all personal all
The two human rights lawyers from China are not surprised that their convictions are being suppressed. They are also not surprised that Hong Kong’s “one country, two systems” has come to this point. Chen Jiangang, a former Chinese human rights lawyer who is now a visiting scholar at American University, shared his own experience that the Chinese Communist Party will use any means to destroy families and careers to the point of destroying everything if it touches its interests. Chen said the best example of this is that the whereabouts of prominent human rights lawyer Gao Zhisheng are still unknown.
Teng Biao: State Security Law Equals Legalized Kidnapping for Trial
Teng Biao, now a visiting professor at the University of Chicago’s Center for Human Rights, said the Hong Kong version of the national security law allows suspects to be sent directly to China for trial, which legitimizes kidnapping by kidnappers.
Teng Biao said, “These (practices) are tantamount to legalizing the kidnappings of Gui Minhai (in Thailand) and Li Bo, a businessman, from Causeway Bay Bookstore back in 2015. It is very frightening.”
Since the arrest of Next Media founder Lai Chi-ying, there have been rumors that China would deport him to China to stand trial if it deemed that the Hong Kong courts had failed in their duty to hear the case.
A number of scholars concluded their remarks by calling on the U.S. Congress to pay more sustained attention to the fate of Hong Kong people after Hong Kong enters an era of police authority, and to push for the passage of a bill that would help them break free from harsh rule.