As China plans to go ahead with the imposition of draconian national security law on Hong Kong, pastors including pro-democracy activists and religious leaders face a risk of being extradited to mainland China for trial, a US-based Christian watchdog has warned.
“Under such laws, vocal Hong Kong clergy who have been supportive of Hong Kong’s democracy movement, such as Cardinal Joseph Zen and Auxiliary Bishop Joseph Ha Chi-shing, could be extradited to mainland China to be tried, since Beijing considers them to be threats to the regime,” International Christian Concern (ICC) said in a statement.
“Other hundreds of protestant leaders or Christian organizations who have actively spoken out against the Hong Kong government might face the same fate, since Beijing has said it considers the mass protests that began last June as terrorist acts and any calls for Hong Kong’s independence from China as acts of sedition,” it said.
The controversial legislation comprises six chapters and 66 articles. The chapters, inter alia, cover general provisions, duties and mechanisms for ensuring Hong Kong’s national security, issues of crimes and penalties, jurisdiction and law enforcement.
The legislation sets out rules for the prevention, suppression and punishment of secessionist activities, attempts to undermine the state authority, terrorist activities and colluding with foreign states or forces to jeopardize national security.
Critics are of the opinion that the legislation would destroy the civil liberties that Hong Kong residents enjoy under the ‘one country, two systems’ agreement put in place when the United Kingdom handed the territory back to China in 1997.
For over a year, Hong Kong citizens have been out on the streets protesting against the proposed extradition bill, which would have allowed criminal suspects in the city to be sent to mainland China for trial. The bill was later withdrawn by Hong Kong Chief Executive Leader Carrie Lam. The protests have now broadened into a campaign for more democratic rights.
Massive demonstrations in Hong Kong have prevented China from implementing the security law, but Beijing has made it clear that the legislation would be enacted “without delay”.
Under the law, a police unit will be established to oversee the implementation of the legislation, along with secret policing in the former British colony.
“China’s notorious legal system and its lack of transparency can easily criminalize anybody and place them in jail. Many Chinese pastors and Christians, such as pastor Wang Yi, elder Qin Derfu and pastor John Cao are now imprisoned for trumped-up charges, such as ‘subversion of state power,’ ‘illegal border crossing,’ and ‘illegal business operation,'” ICC said.