EU Fears Further Erosion of Fundamental Freedoms

The European Union has expressed deep concerns over the recent implementation of Hong Kong’s new “Security Law,” which has sparked widespread international criticism.

EU Fears Further Erosion of Fundamental Freedoms

Hong Kong’s pro-Beijing leadership aims to crack down on opposition with the new “Security Law.” This move has drawn substantial criticism from the West. The EU, for instance, expresses concerns about human rights being threatened, as well as the impact on Hong Kong as a business hub.

Following the passing of the new “Security Law” in Hong Kong, international organizations, Western countries, and human rights advocates voiced their disapproval. European Union High Representative Josep Borrell expressed particular concern over the potential effects of the law on the rights and freedoms of people in the Chinese special administrative region.

After the controversial law was adopted by Hong Kong’s pro-Beijing Legislative Council, Borrell stated in a release that it could “exacerbate the erosion of fundamental freedoms and political pluralism.”

Possible Implications for Europeans in Hong Kong

The law could significantly impede the work of the EU representation and the consulates of EU member states in Hong Kong, affecting European citizens, organizations, and businesses in the Asian metropolis. “This also raises questions about the long-term attractiveness of Hong Kong as an international business center,” remarked the EU’s High Representative.

Borrell highlighted the extensive provisions and vague definitions related to “foreign interference and state secrets” as particularly concerning.

The committee consisting of pro-Beijing lawmakers unanimously passed the new “Security Law” yesterday. The Hong Kong government submitted the draft to the legislature one and a half weeks ago, urging swift passage. The so-called Article 23 package will come into effect on March 23.

New Regulation Toughens Existing Law

The new law builds upon the existing “National Security Law.” It prescribes harsh penalties for various acts classified as threats to national security by the government. Offenses such as treason and subversion against the state could lead to life imprisonment, while possessing publications advocating Hong Kong’s independence from China may result in several years of imprisonment.

The original security law for the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region was introduced in 2020 under pressure from the Chinese government. It is considered a significant encroachment on the autonomy promised to the former British crown colony for at least 50 years upon its handover to China under the “One Country, Two Systems” principle.

Criticism From the UK and the US

British Foreign Secretary David Cameron stated that the new law undermines compliance with legally binding obligations, such as the agreement between the UK and China on civil and political rights. Cameron emphasized that the broad definitions of national security and external interference will make it challenging for those living, working, and conducting business in Hong Kong. He also noted that it would further undermine the freedom of expression, assembly, and the press.

US State Department spokesperson Vedant Patel expressed concerns that such measures have the potential to accelerate the closure of what was once an open society in Hong Kong. The extensive and vaguely defined provisions of the law were deemed alarming.

Human Rights Activists Criticize Attack on Fundamental Rights

Human rights advocates sharply criticized the move, arguing that the new law ushers in “a new era of authoritarianism” in Hong Kong. Maya Wang from Human Rights Watch, for example, highlighted that even possessing a critical book about the Chinese government could now violate national security and lead to years of imprisonment in Hong Kong. Wang called on the Hong Kong government to halt its “aggressive assault on fundamental rights.”

China Pushes Back Against Criticism

The Chinese government vehemently rejected the criticism. China expressed strong dissatisfaction with the defamation of Hong Kong’s security regulations by individual countries and institutions, stated Foreign Ministry spokesperson Lin Jian. He emphasized that the law marks a significant milestone in the development of the “One Country, Two Systems” principle. Lin asserted that any attempt to discredit the regulations aimed at ensuring national security is destined to fail.

The Office for Hong Kong and Macau Affairs of the Chinese State Council had previously stated that the law would “secure the prosperity and stability of Hong Kong” while safeguarding the interests of foreign investors, as well as democracy and freedom.