A recent amendment to the enforcement rules of the National Security Law has greatly expanded the boundary of “red lines” by allowing the Hong Kong government to freeze people’s assets on grounds of national security, a quarterly report by the Mainland Affairs Council said yesterday.
Since May 2020, the report has been reviewing changes in Hong Kong as a special administrative region of the Chinese government as well as Taiwan’s progress in offering humanitarian aid and care for Hong Kongers.
Since China implemented the law on June 30, 2020, 285 Hong Kongers have been arrested on charges of threatening national security as of Dec. 8 last year, of whom 172 faced charges from prosecutors, the report said.
Five Hong Kong companies were also indicted, it added.
An amendment to the enforcement rules of Article 43 in the Hong Kong National Security Law has vastly expanded the boundary of red lines by allowing the secretary for security, who is in charge of Hong Kong’s Security Bureau, to issue notices to freeze the assets of people who are involved in national security offenses, the report said. The requirement to observe the National Security Law was also added to the Guidelines Governing the Production of Programs and Advertisements on TV and Radio, it said.
The Hong Kong government had arrested four Hong Kongers, accusing them of using fundraising platforms to raise funds for wanted criminals who engage in activities that would endanger national security, the report said, adding that such a move has greatly limited the freedom to search for information on the Internet.
Hong Kong public libraries have taken books off the shelves that would remind people of theTiananmen Square Massacre on June 4, 1989, it added.
The loss of freedom in Hong Kong was also reflected in the significant decline in its freedom ranking in the Human Freedom Index (HFI) published by the US-based Cato Institute and Canada’s Fraser Institute in December last year, the report said.
Hong Kong’s overall ranking in the HFI dropped to 46th from 34th. Specifically, Hong Kong’s personal freedom fell to 82nd place from 62nd, while the region was ranked 146th out of 165 countries/regions in terms of freedom of assembly and association, the report said.
Interest rate hikes by the US Federal Reserve, geopolitical risks, Hong Kong’s heavy economic reliance on China and the implementation of the Hong Kong National Security Law also explained its lackluster economic performance last year, the report said.
A survey conducted by professional recruitment agency Robert Walters Hong Kong last year showed that 52.3 percent of respondents were considering or planning to leave Hong Kong, of which 15.6 percent said they wanted to leave Hong Kong as quickly as possible and 36.7 percent said they were considering leaving in three to five years.
Many news commentaries have attributed Hong Kong’s brain drain to a weak economy, decreasing freedom of speech and inadequate personal safety protections, the report said.
The implementation of the National Security Law has weakened Hong Kong’s electoral system, which in turn has eroded the autonomy of the Hong Kong government and judicial system, the report said, adding that many people are concerned about whether the region could make independent economic policy decisions again.
The report added that a new political order emerged in Hong Kong last year.
“Different from the customary practices in the past, Hong Kong Chief Executive John Lee (李家超) last year reported his job performance in Hong Kong to Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平), Chinese Premier Li Qiang (李強) as well as multiple high-ranking party leaders in Beijing, rather than to Xi and Li only,” the report said. “This shows that the Chinese Communist Party is to impose more aggressive control over Hong Kong, and we should watch closely whether this would further undermine China’s commitment to grant Hong Kong a high degree of autonomy.”
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