One Year of the National Security Law’s Repression of Fundamental Freedoms in Hong Kong

Virtual Via Webex | Tuesday, June 29, 2021 - 1:00pm to 2:30pm

Transcript (PDF)

The Congressional-Executive Commission on China will hold a roundtable entitled “One Year of the National Security Law’s Repression of Fundamental Freedoms in Hong Kong” on Tuesday, June 29, 2021 from 1:00pm–2:30pm EDT.

Congressional staff, the interested public, and the media are welcome to join the virtual event. The roundtable will be livestreamed on the CECC’s YouTube Channel.

The roundtable is being held ahead of two anniversaries: the passage of the Hong Kong National Security Law on June 30, 2020, and the “709 Crackdown,” a nationwide and coordinated crackdown on human rights lawyers and defenders in China, beginning around July 9, 2015.

The Hong Kong National Security Law (NSL) provides for heavy penalties of up to life imprisonment for four vaguely defined crimes. This past year, Hong Kong authorities have demonstrated a propensity to broadly apply the NSL and other ordinances, directly and indirectly suppressing fundamental freedoms: police mass-arrested pro-democracy activists for peacefully engaging in political speech and activities; educators have been disciplined for preparing materials inconsistent with official narratives; and journalists were terminated or even prosecuted for engaging in legitimate reporting. Recently, Hong Kong police arrested five editors and executives of a pro-democracy newspaper on national security grounds in connection with political speech.  

Particularly alarming is that the NSL extends its reach to foreign individuals and to acts committed outside of Hong Kong, which causes a chilling effect globally, impacting freedoms of expression of citizens of the United States and other countries. The NSL also allows the Chinese government to take over certain cases, but it does not specify the procedure of implementation. This potentially means that detainees charged with NSL offenses may be extradited to China, which has not ratified the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and has a track record of due process violations, including denial of access to legal counsel.

The 709 Crackdown illustrates the Chinese government’s determination to systemically cut off defendants’ access to independent legal representation. Beside imprisonment, the government also uses license suspension and revocation as a means to control the legal profession. Such persecution has not abated, as seen in the case of the “Hong Kong 12,” where activists trying to flee Hong Kong by boat were intercepted and detained by mainland Chinese authorities. Government-appointed lawyers were reportedly assigned, and independent lawyers who tried to provide representation had their law licenses revoked. Ultimately, the defendants were convicted in a closed trial.

At the roundtable, panelists will discuss human rights and rule of law issues surrounding these recent developments. Panelists who will participate in this discussion will include—

Jerome A. Cohen (keynote speaker)—retired professor at New York University School of Law, founder and faculty director emeritus of NYU US-Asia Law Institute, and adjunct senior fellow for Asia at the Council on Foreign Relations.

Victoria Tin-bor Hui—Associate professor at the Department of Political Science, University of Notre Dame.

Thomas E. Kellogg—Executive Director of the Georgetown Center for Asian Law, and Adjunct Professor of Law at Georgetown Law School.

Teng Biao—Human rights lawyer, and Pozen Visiting Professor, University of Chicago.

Chen Jiangang—Human rights lawyer, and Hubert H. Humphrey Fellow, American University Washington College of Law.