Amid incessant protests in defiance of sweeping security legislation introduced by China, Hong Kong democrats have now voiced concern over the security secretary’s failure to clarify whether suspects arrested under the impending national security law could be detained indefinitely without trial or charge.
Officials in China have remained tight-lipped on the matter with Hong King’s Secretary for Security John Lee seen clearly evading reporter’s question to confirm reports that arrested persons may be held in special detention centres for however long authorities like, in violation of international human rights laws.
“We have to wait until the proper promulgation of the law so that we will know exactly what the law says and requires us to do,” Lee was quoted as saying.
“The preparation work is to ensure that we will be able to discharge [the law’s] functions and responsibilities,” he added.
Hong Kong pro-democracy leaders have expressed concerns about Lee’s failure to provide an answer to the question on the detention.
“It sounds hyperbolic but anything goes in Hong Kong these days. Reign of terror. Orwellian Hong Kong. They will do anything to frighten Hongkongers into silence and inaction,” pro-democracy lawmaker Claudia Mo said.
She also tweeted: “On China’s #HongKong national security law Official here practically says #Beijing CAN JUST DO IT #CarrieLam sellout.”
Meanwhile, the Civic Party leader Alvin Yeung said that the government’s refusal to disclose details of the law raised suspicion that there might be such practices of prolonged detention.
“Knowing that China has a track record of unreasonable and prolonged detention of dissidents, it is only logical we expect that to happen in Hong Kong after enactment,” Yeung said.
“If the suggestion reflects the reality, it would be directly contrary to the legal requirements and a blatant breach of human rights,” he added.
Beijing unveiled the details of the much-anticipated national security law late on Tuesday (June 30) after weeks of uncertainty, pushing China’s freest city and one of the world’s most glittering financial hubs on to a more authoritarian path.
The law came into full effect overnight, and by Wednesday (July 1) evening, police had arrested more than 300 protesters for “illegal assembly and other offences, with nine involving suspected violations of the new law,” said the city police.
The law punishes crimes of secession, subversion, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces with up to life in prison, will see mainland security agencies in Hong Kong for the first time and allow for extradition to the mainland for trial.
China’s parliament adopted the law in response to protests last year triggered by fears that Beijing was stifling the city’s freedoms, guaranteed by a “one country, two systems” formula agreed when it returned to Chinese rule.