Dire consequences if govt invokes emergency law

September 09, 2019 11:15
A pro-establishment party has warned that if violent protests continue in Hong Kong, it will become necessary for the government to study the feasibility of invoking an emergency law. Photo: Reuters

Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor finally relented and announced on Sept. 4 that she was fully withdrawing the controversial extradition bill.

Nevertheless, as many have pointed out, the concession was too little, too late. And Lam remains defiant in not accepting the other four demands of the demonstrators.

As such, we shouldn’t be surprised that most people aren't willing to “take up her offer”.

Meanwhile, some commentators have speculated that the withdrawal of the extradition bill may not be a sincere response to the public's demands, but rather a manoeuver to pave the path for invoking the “Emergency Regulations Ordinance”.

Comments made by the Democratic Alliance For the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong (DAB), a pro-Beijing political party, following Lam's televised Wednesday address could prompt such suspicions.

In a press conference, the DAB, which had been colluding with the government throughout the entire legislative push, warned that if violent protests continue despite the withdrawal of the extradition bill, it will become necessary for the administration to study the feasibility of invoking the Emergency Regulations Ordinance.

If what the DAB said at the presser reflects the government’s plot, or if the government once again entertains the bad idea put forward by the DAB, Hong Kong will definitely descend into an even more dangerous situation.

Or to use the phrase currently in vogue, invoking the Emergency Regulations Ordinance will set the people of Hong Kong and the government “on a collision course”.

Despite only having four clauses made up of less than 1,700 words, the Emergency Regulations Ordinance is a highly destructive piece of legislation, because, once invoked, it will give the CE almost unlimited executive powers to deprive local citizens of their various freedoms and to infringe their basic human rights.

Using the emergency law is likely to constitute a violation of people's civil liberties and rights promised under the Basic Law, and it may also violate the “International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights”, of which Hong Kong is a signatory since the early 1990s.

Apart from all these, invoking the Emergency Regulations Ordinance may lead to an even more unbearable consequence: it might trigger the passage of the “Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act” in the US Congress.

As we all know, in face of the escalating violation of basic human rights and crackdown on mass demonstrations by the Hong Kong government and the police, US lawmakers from the Democratic and the Republican Parties have jointly proposed the “Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act”, which is very likely to be passed after Congress returns to work on Sept 9.

Once passed, the new law will give the US president special powers to blacklist any Hong Kong government official or law enforcement officer suspected of having violated human rights in Hong Kong, to freeze their assets on American soil, and to deny them entry into the US.

Meanwhile, the new law will also require the US Secretary of State to table a report on the state of affairs in Hong Kong to Congress on a yearly basis, and to assess the state of the implementation of “One Country Two Systems” and autonomy in Hong Kong so as to decide whether to maintain Hong Kong's status as an independent customs entity.

Some people might welcome US sanctions against the Hong Kong government officials who have violated the citizens’ human rights. But the key point is, once the city’s status as a separate customs territory is revoked, it could bring terrible consequences which many Hong Kong people would rather avoid.

As we have seen in the city over the past three months, the escalating iron-fist approach adopted by the Hong Kong government has not only failed to resolve the crisis, it has given rise to additional and even more serious problems.

Given the situation, perhaps it is time for the administration and the pro-establishment camp to start pondering over how to respond to the remaining four demands of the public.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Sept 6

Translation by Alan Lee

[Chinese version 中文版]

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Legco member representing the Legal functional constituency (2016-2020) and a founding member of Civic Party