25 February 2022
This briefing describes developments in Hong Kong in January-February 2022 focusing on the rapid deterioration of human rights in the city following the introduction of the National Security Law.
POLITICAL PRISONERS: ARRESTS, CHARGES, & TRIALS
In the last month, Beijing continued its crackdown on the pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong, with:
The former pro-democracy Legislative Councillor, Fernando Chueng, being jailed for three weeks for “legislative contempt” for chanting in the Legislative Council chamber during a debate in 2020. This followed a separate ruling by the Hong Kong Court of Final Appeal which removed parliamentary privilege for Legislative Council members in certain circumstances. Lord Reed, the current President of the UK Supreme Court, sat on the case and offered his support to the ruling of the Hong Kong Court of Final Appeal.
The veteran pro-democracy activist Koo Sze-yiu being arrested for “subversion” under the National Security Law for reported plans to protest outside Beijing’s Liaison Office against the Beijing Winter Olympics taking place.
Tommy Yuen, a popular Hong Kong pro-democracy singer, being arrested and charged with “seditious intent” for a series of social media posts.
The Hong Kong Police placing the City of University of Hong Kong Student Union under a national security probe following campus protests that took place on 14 February 2022.
A FREE PRESS IN THE CROSS HAIRS
The US-funded news outlet Radio Free Asia has announced the suspension of some Cantonese programmes and commentaries, citing concerns about press freedom in Hong Kong and the “red lines” of the national security law.
Journalism teachers at Hong Kong’s leading universities have reported growing concerns over their ability to teach the subject in light of the increasing crackdown on press freedom within the city.
On 31 January 2021, the Foreign Correspondents Club of China published its annual report which found that the media environment in Hong Kong continues to deteriorate at a worrying pace as a result of the National Security Law.
A joint-statement signed by twenty-one countries has condemned the ongoing crackdown on press freedom in Hong Kong.
THE STATE OF THE RULE OF LAW
On 16 February 2022, Andrew Kan was appointed by the Hong Kong Police as its new head of the National Security Department. This follows his predecessor being found in an unlicenced massage parlour and transferred from his post as a result.
Two workers at a pro-democracy cake shop were attacked by five assailants believed to be associated with a pro-Beijing group.
On 26 January 2022, it was reported that the newly elected “patriots only” Legislative Council has passed the controversial immigration ordinance, which brings in news powers including the introduction of mainland style “exit bans”.
THE EXTENSION OF CHINA’S “GREAT FIRE WALL”
On 14 February 2022, Hong Kong Watch received reports that its website was no longer accessible through networks in Hong Kong. The website is at least the fourth website to be blocked in the city since the imposition of the National Security Law in July 2020. Under the draconian law, authorities can order internet providers to remove content deemed to constitute or encourage subversion, secession, collusion with foreign forces or terrorist acts, all of which are vaguely defined.
HONG KONG CHIEF EXECUTIVE “SELECTION” POSTPONED DUE TO COVID-19
On 18 February 2022, the Hong Kong Chief Executive, Carrie Lam, used an emergency law to postpone the upcoming Hong Kong Chief Executive “selection” due to rising COVID-19 cases.
The selection was due to take place in March 2022 and would have seen an election committee of 1,500 members stacked with pro-Beijing loyalists pick the next Hong Kong Chief Executive.
Carrie Lam’s decision to postpone the selection to 8 May 2022 follows a high-level meeting in Shenzhen between the Hong Kong Chief Executive and officials from Beijing to discuss the rising number of COVID-19 cases in the city. Pro-Beijing media has reported that Xi Jinping has instructed the Hong Kong Government to make tackling COVID-19 the “main responsibility” and “overriding priority”.
It has been reported that the Vatican has quietly moved its representatives out of Hong Kong and Taiwan.
Bank of America, the second-largest US bank by assets, has started a review of its Hong Kong business to identify workers who can be relocated to Singapore, as a result of the continued COVID-19 travel restrictions.
On 24 February 2022, the UK Government has announced its intention to expand the BNO Visa Scheme in October 2022 for those Hong Kongers born on or after 1997 who have one BNO parent. This will allow young Hong Kongers to directly register for the scheme.
A group of prominent parliamentarians and former parliamentarians have written to the Minister of Finance and President of the Pension Board to raise their concern over Canadian pension investments in Chinese companies subject to US sanctions/investment bans for their links to Xinjiang and investments in Alibaba and Tencent.
In the first nine months of 2021, nearly 14,500 Hong Kongers applied for work visas under Canada’s lifeboat scheme and student visas following the ongoing human rights crackdown in the city.
A report published by the International Labour Organisation has found an acute decline in the respect for civil liberties and freedom of association in Hong Kong. In the report, the International Labour Organisation also noted that the Hong Kong Government has refused its requests to consult on the application of the National Security Law.