April 7, 2022
Briefing: Human rights developments in Hong Kong in March 2022
This briefing describes developments in Hong Kong in March 2022 focusing on the rapid deterioration of human rights in the city following the introduction of the National Security Law.
EXECUTIVE SUMMARY POLITICAL PRISONERS: ARRESTS, CHARGES, & TRIALS
In the last month, Beijing continued its crackdown on the pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong, with:
Tam Tak-chi, activist, former radio DJ and former vice-chairperson of People Power, being found guilty of 11 charges, including “uttering seditious words”, under the colonial-era anti-sedition law.
A combat coach and assistant arrested by national security police under the sedition law.
The re-arrests of 13 men charged over China’s National Day protest in 2019.
The suspension of Hong Kong’s court system as the Covid crisis in the city deepened.
The International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute calling on the international community to suspend extradition treaties with Hong Kong.
THE STATE OF THE RULE OF LAW
One of Hong Kong’s most prominent British lawyers, Paul Harris, who was until January the chairman of the Hong Kong Bar Association, left the territory after being interviewed under caution by police on “suspicion of breaching national security”.
Two UK judges resigned from the Hong Kong Court of Final Appeal as the UK Government says it no longer supports sitting UK judges serving on Hong Kong’s highest courts.
An American lawyer released from prison has been deported and says he is banned from the city.
Legal pacts between Hong Kong and Russia are expected to be brought to legislature this year.
STATE SECURITY AND ECONOMY
International auditors PwC and Deloitte have resigned from China’s heavily indebted property developers as the number of delayed financial results has increased uncertainty over the full scale of the sector’s crisis and raised the threat of hidden debts.
Hong Kong’s brain drain: in the first two months of the year alone, there were 78,000 departures from the city. This is added to the 0.3% drop in the overall population last year.
Economic activity plummeted in February to the lowest recorded level in 22 months, with even pro-government businesspeople raising the alarm.
HONG KONG WATCH TARGETED BY THE NSL
Hong Kong Watch has become the first known foreign organisation to be targeted by the National Security Law (NSL).
Hong Kong Watch received a formal warning from the Hong Kong Police Force’s (HKPF) National Security Department regarding its website possibly breaching the National Security Law.
The letter from HKPF accuses Hong Kong Watch of violating Article 29 of the National Security Law, which criminalises collusion with foreign forces to endanger national security. It warns that Hong Kong Watch could face a fine of HK$100,000 or its Chief Executive could face three years in jail for the offence.
UK AND US GOVERNMENT REPORTS ON HONG KONG
On the same day, the UK and US separately released key reports on the state of Hong Kong. The Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office’s 50th six-monthly report, covers the period from July to December 2021, and the US Department of State’s 2022 Hong Kong Policy Act Report, covers the 12 months to March 2022.
Both were unequivocal in their assessments of how far the National Security Law (NSL) has stifled freedom of expression and effectively silenced and crushed any political opposition.
Michelle Bachelet, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, announced that she would visit China in May, becoming the first person in her position to do so in 17 years. An advance team is expected to visit in April to prepare for her visit.
Revolution of Our Times, a documentary that charts the 2019 protests in Hong Kong, has broken a box office record in Taiwan for an overseas Chinese-language documentary, grossing around $17m NTD (US$600,000) in the first two weeks of its release.
The 23rd EU-China summit focused on Ukraine, but the EU also raised human rights concerns in China, including the dismantling of the “One Country Two Systems” in Hong Kong, saying that it expected the resumption of a human rights dialogue to address these concerns.