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HRIC annotated bilingual chart of The Law of the People’s Republic of China on Safeguarding National Security in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region

July 5, 2020

In the late evening of June 30, 2020, the National People’s Congress Standing Committee Standing Committee (NPCSC) unanimously passed The Law of the People’s Republic of China on Safeguarding National Security in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (NSL-HK) that went into force the same day at 11:00 p.m. The NSL-HK was then inserted in Annex III of the Basic Law of Hong Kong. This act  bypasses the Hong Kong Legislative Council (LegCo), which is empowered by the Basic Law to formulate and pass laws for the HKSAR, and contravenes the Basic Law’s provision that only national laws relating to defense and foreign affairs may be inserted into Annex III. (The NSL-HK went into effect in Chinese text only; an unofficial English translation of the law was not made public by the HKSAR government until July 4.)

The NSL-HK prohibits and penalizes four key categories of offenses: secession, subversion, terrorist activities, and collusion with a foreign country or with external elements to endanger national security. The controversial move to unilaterally pass and impose national security legislation on Hong Kong has drawn and continues to draw widespread concern and condemnation of the process as well as its substantive content. 

The mainland Chinese authorities, with the enthusiastic support of the HKSAR administration, had pursued an unusually swift process in drafting and promulgating the NSL-HK. A formal Decision authorizing the NPCSC to draft the law was adopted by the NPC on May 28. The mainland authorities declared that they held ten consultations with a total of 120 individuals from various sectors of the Hong Kong public, hardly a meaningful portion of the Hong Kong population of 7.5 million people.

The international community, including governments, UN human rights experts, legal experts and scholars, and local and international NGOs, have condemned Beijing’s blatant move to expand its draconian national security regime to the HKSAR. The majority of responses highlights that the Law is in direct contravention of the PRC Constitution, Hong Kong’s Basic Law, and the PRC’s treaty obligations clearly codified in the 1984 Sino-British Joint Declaration to ensure a “high degree of autonomy,” rule of law, and protection of fundamental rights and freedoms in Hong Kong under the International Covenant for Civil and Political Rights which applies in Hong Kong. The NSL-HK is in effect, a hardline authoritarian effort to exert control through the legalization of an embedded police state and restrictions on protected rights, in tension with international standards and the human rights obligations of the Central and SAR governments.

HRIC has prepared an annotated bilingual chart of the NSL-HK to facilitate reading of the law and highlight the troubling, problematic aspects of the law, including:

  • the pervasive lack of clear definitions as required by international law standards or failure to define key terms, including “national security,” “terrorist activity,” “provoking hatred” against the Central and HKSAR governments, or taking down “information” on the Internet;
  • the establishment of a multi-level implementation structure overseen by a “supra” national security agency in Hong Kong (Arts. 48-60), the Office for Safeguarding National security—OSNS—made up of personnel sent by mainland authorities to the HKSAR supervised by mainland authorities who are empowered to:
  • oversee all national security prevention work in HKSAR and require compliance from all HKSAR government entities and individuals;
  • assert jurisdiction over cases, where mainland criminal procedures will apply: OSNS initiate investigation, the Supreme People’s Procuratorate prosecute, and the Supreme People’s Court designate a court to adjudicate; and
  • operate in HKSAR not subject to the jurisdiction of the HKSAR;
  • the requirement that heads of the new department of national security in the Hong Kong Police Force (Art. 16) and the specialized prosecution division on the Hong Kong Department of Justice (Art. 18) to swear allegiance and to observe the obligation of secrecy;
  • the expansion of the powers of an already unaccountable Hong Kong Police Force to take measures outside of those authorized by existing HKSAR laws (Art. 43); and
  • the extraterritorial application of the law to permanent HKSAR residents and bodies registered in the HKSAR (Art. 37) and to non-permanent residents outside the HKSAR committing acts “against the HKSAR” ( 38).

The NSL-HK is rife with troubling provisions such as these examples. Since the publication of the NSL-HK, dozens of excellent commentaries and analyses, along with explainers of the NSL have appeared. In the Appendix, HRIC has compiled a select list of these items for reference.


The original annotated bilingual chart of National Security Law for Hong Kong has been updated, please read here: Too Soon to Concede the Future: The Implementation of The National Security Law for Hong Kong--An HRIC White Paper

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