Draft national security law 'threatens HK press freedom'

June 04, 2015 17:12
Ching Cheong (right) warns that China's proposed national security law will curb human rights in Hong Kong. He is shown with Serenade Woo, Mak Yin-ting and Bruce Lui (left to right). Photo: RTHK

A draft national security law unveiled last month by China is a threat to Hong Kong media workers because of its ill-defined scope, according to journalists groups.

The proposed legislation puts too much emphasis on national security at the expense of universally accepted principles on human rights, they said in a joint statement.

The statement was released Thursday by the Hong Kong Journalists Association (HKJA), the International Federation of Journalists and the Independent Commentators Association.

The draft bill mentions Hong Kong for the first time, as well as Macau and Taiwan.

It mandates Hong Kong and Macau, both special administrative regions of China, to "fulfill [their] responsibilities for the maintenance of national security".

A public consultation, which began in Hong Kong on May 6, will end on Friday before the bill undergoes a second reading in the Chinese parliament.  

Hong Kong's inclusion in the proposed legislation is in breach of the spirit of "one country, two systems" which guarantees its rights and freedoms for 50 years after the 1997 handover, the statement said.

Mak Yin-ting, convenor of the HKJA China concern group sub-committee, said the language of the draft bill is too vague and could potentially impact press freedom in Hong Kong in many ways.

She said references to Macau and Hong Kong should be dropped, according to the Chinese online service of BBC News.

Bruce Lui, convenor of the Independent Commentators Association, said the bill's ill-defined scope makes it easy to suppress press freedom.

People who cross the border may not know that what they did legally in Hong Kong is actually illegal in China, Lui said.

"Will these people be arrested in the mainland?"

The draft legislation lacks protections for human rights and is heavily skewed toward defending national sovereignty, said Ching Cheong, a senior journalist with the Straits Times who was arrested in 2005 in China and jailed for three years on spying allegations.

Personal safety is the top priority of national security, Ching said, citing the 1994 Human Development Report of the United Nations Development Program.

By contrast, China's proposed national security law will curb human rights, he said.

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EJ Insight intern reporter