Hong Kong’s judicial system should reflect the will and interests of the Chinese nation, said a senior official who oversees the national security law.
The comments have been interpreted as a clear instruction from Beijing that Hong Kong’s previously boastful judicial system is now expected to operate for the benefit of Beijing’s central government, rather than the rule of law.
In an interview with a pro-Beijing title, Zheng Yanxiong, director of the Office for the Safeguarding of National Security, said that the rule of law was an “important tool” in Hong Kong and a “source of [its] charm ”, but the independent power of the Judiciary was authorized by the National People’s Congress.
In an interview with East Week magazine, he said the judicial power “it must largely manifest the national will and the national interest, or else it will lose the legal premise of the authorization … It will be the biggest loophole in the rule of law if national security is not safeguarded. “
Zheng was appointed to the post last year, overseeing the implementation of the national security law, which he said was critical to stability.
“Once national security falls, the city will be dominated by ideas of independence, mutual destruction and self-determination,” he said.
Some observers saw the comments as a warning to the judiciary that it defends the political interests of the central government or risks losing its independence.
Schona Jolly QC, chairman of the Human Rights Committee of the Bar of England and Wales, said Zheng’s comments were “a chilling warning to anyone whose actions could be perceived as dissent, including the judiciary itself,” and revealed how Beijing viewed the law as “a tool to break the firewall created by Basic Law between Hong Kong’s common law system and the mainland.”
“The NSL, with its broad and ill-defined definitions, threatens fundamental rights at the core of Hong Kong’s legal system and eliminates the divide between the mainland and the robust legal system that Hong Kong lawyers and judges are proud of.”
In his daily analysis bulletin, Sinocism, China analyst Bill Bishop said the comments were not a clue or a sign, but were “a statement of what is going to happen.”
“Why would the relationship between the party-state and the judiciary in Hong Kong be different from the relationship between the party-state and the judiciary in the rest of the People’s Republic of China?” he said.
This week marks the 100th anniversary of the Chinese Communist Party and a year of national security law, a hallmark of China’s increased control over Hong Kong.
Foreign governments and legal and human rights groups have accused the authorities of using the law as a weapon against dissent, targeting the political opposition, the free press and the judiciary. At least two foreign judges have left Hong Kong courts, citing the national security law. Politicians, journalists and activists have been arrested and fears of legal action have forced the closure of the Apple Daily newspaper and the online outlet Stand News to remove all opinion content.
On Tuesday, the law was also cited in the departure of two journalists from the public broadcaster RTHK.
Veteran journalist Steve Vines, who also hosts the Pulse TV program, announced at the end of the Backchat radio show on Wednesday that felt it was better for him to leave.
“It seems to me that for someone who is more critical, the time to stay in RTHK is over,” he said, after a discussion about national security law.
On Tuesday, former RTHK host Allan Au, who was fired from his radio host duties on Monday, accused the station’s management of purging critical voices. Last week, radio host Tsang Chi-ho said he had been fired without notice. RTHK, a government-funded but historically independent broadcaster, has been under sustained government pressure and undergoing massive change in recent months, controlling its journalism.