Security law offenders in Hong Kong won't be sent to China trial: Report

FILE PIC: People react to tear gas in the Tsim Sha Tsui district of Hong Kong | Photo: Bloomberg
China's parliament on Thursday approved a new controversial security law for Hong Kong which would make it a crime to undermine Beijing's authority in the former British territory. Chinese officials have clarified that those facing charges for offences committed in Hong Kong will not be sent to China to face trial under the new security law, Reuters reported.

China's annual political season, delayed by the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic ended today with its legislature, much on the expected lines endorsing the new security law for Hong Kong. The new law, Chinese security agencies can for the first time open their establishment and operate in Hong Kong.

China's new national security law will be incorporated into Hong Kong's legal system with built-in protections for offenders, who will not be sent across the border to mainland China to face trial, Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post quoted sources as saying.

The new law permits for the first time Chinese security agencies to open their establishments in Hong Kong.

However, the Hong Kong Bar Association has said China's proposed new security law could run into problems in courts as Beijing has no legal authority to enact its national security law for the former British colony.

The association also expressed concern over suggestions that mainland security agencies would be set up to safeguard national security within the city, saying it was entirely unclear how that the arrangement would comply with Article 22 of the Basic Law, which stipulates that Beijing departments not to interfere in local affairs.

The new legislation establishing and improving the legal system and enforcement mechanisms for the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) to safeguard national security is set to be passed by China's National People's Congress (NPC) on Friday.

The bill is regarded as a political bombshell for the former British colony as China has decided to bypass local Legislative Council to bring about a new national security law tailor-made to take control of Hong Kong which has been witnessing mass protests by pro-democracy groups since last year demanding autonomy and freedom from Beijing.

It has already provoked mass protests in Hong Kong as thousands took part in protests on Sunday. Principles such as presumption of innocence and proof beyond reasonable doubt to validate a criminal conviction would be followed in related trials, the report said.

Earlier, planned legislation by the Hong Kong government to extradite those facing offences to China has attracted mass protests and agitations throughout last year paralysing the city.

"Offenders under the new law will face open trials in Hong Kong after the law is passed. They won't be sent across the border to the mainland for trial, the Post report said.

In mainland China, some national security trials have been heard behind closed doors because of political sensitivity. The burden of proof would fall on prosecutors to obtain a conviction in national security trials, it said.

The law has been denounced by the US, the UK and the EU as a blow to freedom and liberty of Hong Kongers and affect the city's status as an international business hub.

US President Donald Trump is "displeased" with China's new national security law for Hong Kong, the White House has said amid rising tensions between Washington and Beijing in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

"He (Trump) is displeased with China's efforts and that it's hard to see how Hong Kong can remain a financial hub if China takes over," White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany said on Tuesday.

US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo said Washington no longer considered Hong Kong to have significant autonomy under Chinese rule, a move that may end some or all of the US government's special trade and economic relations with the territory in southern China.

Pompeo has said the security law would be a death knell for Hong Kong, which has had liberties under a semiautonomous system of governance that do not exist in mainland China, including freedoms of speech, the press and assembly, as well as an independent judiciary.

Observers say the new law cast a shadow over the future of Hong Kong which was regarded as a centre of global capitalism and symbol of resistance to the Chinese Communist Party.

The contours of the full legislation would be finalised by condensed the NPC session in the next few weeks. Earlier the Hong Kong Bar Association said China has no legal authority to enact its national security law for the former British colony.

In a strongly worded statement, the association also expressed concern over suggestions that mainland security agencies would be set up to safeguard national security within the city, saying it was entirely unclear how that arrangement would comply with Article 22 of the Basic Law, which stipulates that Beijing departments not to interfere in local affairs.


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