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Hong Kong law imposes life imprisonment for treason, insurrection

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Hong Kong law imposes life imprisonment for treason, insurrection

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ISTANBUL:

Hong Kong lawmakers on Tuesday unanimously passed a domestic national security bill, in a first since the semi-autonomous region was returned to Chinese rule in 1997.

All 89 lawmakers voted to pass the bill, which will take effect on Saturday.

After it takes effect as law, the Safeguarding National Security Law covers 39 offenses divided into five categories: treason; insurrection, incitement to mutiny and disaffection, and acts with seditious intention; sabotage; external interference; and theft of state secrets and espionage.

The 212-page bill under Article 23 of China’s semi-autonomous region’s Basic Law was submitted to the Legislative Council for deliberations and a vote early this month.

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According to the Hong Kong Free Press, in an unusual move, the council’s President Andrew Leung also cast a vote.

“As the president of the Legislative Council, I would not vote in usual circumstances,” Leung said. “However, legislation of Article 23 is not just any other piece of legislation, it relates to national security in Hong Kong, it is of the utmost importance, so at this historic moment I will vote in favor of the bill.”

State secrets, the law says, include defence, diplomatic, and foreign affairs, as well as national security, economic, social, and technological developments.

Custody without charges extended

Under the new law, people convicted of treason, insurrection, sabotage by “colluding with external forces,” or inciting members of the Chinese armed forces to mutiny can be sentenced to life, while those found guilty of illegally disclosing state secrets can get 10 years behind bars.

It also empowers the court to send any suspect to custody, without charge, for one week which can be extended for a second week – or 16 days total.

Currently, a person can be held by authorities for only two days, or 48 hours, without a charge.

Under the new law, police can even ask courts to block suspects from engaging “particular lawyers” if doing so could endanger national security.

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The law says: “The highest principle of the One Country, Two Systems policy is to safeguard national sovereignty, security, and development interests.”

Hong Kong, once arguably the world’s top business attraction and freest city, has seen radical political and security changes ever since 2019, which saw year-long demonstrations against the local government.

In July 2020, China imposed a controversial national security law while the method of local elections to the Legislative Council and District Council was also changed.

The new law also proposes that human rights “are to be respected and protected, including the rights to free speech, freedom of the press and publication, freedom of association and assembly as enjoyed” under the Basic Law and international covenants that apply to Hong Kong.

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