News that China has passed a national security law applicable in Hong Kong has been met with alarm by the Law Society of England and Wales and the Bar Council.*
The Law Society of England and Wales is concerned about many aspects of the national security law, particularly those affecting the right to a fair trial and other human rights, as well as judicial independence.
The crimes of subversion, secession, terrorism and collusion with foreign powers included in the law, are vaguely defined and sentencing provisions are unclear about what constitutes a grave or minor offence. This is especially important since the maximum sentence is life imprisonment and the law includes mandatory minimum sentences that may be disproportionate in some cases.
Although the law refers to fundamental rights and the rule of law, the provisions of the national security law allow for an application which would restrict such rights as freedom of expression, freedom of assembly, and the right to a fair trial.
A Law Society of England and Wales spokesperson said: “The provisions of the national security law raise grave concerns that the rule of law and judicial independence in Hong Kong are being undermined.
“The law could be used to stem dissent, as well as to arrest and criminally prosecute persons who legally exercise their internationally recognised human rights.
Adding that “we will monitor the application of this law in practice and stand in solidarity with legal professionals in Hong Kong and others in their efforts to uphold the rule of law and fundamental rights in their jurisdiction.”
Notes to editors
* Read our joint statement in full.
** Read an English translation of the Law of the People’s Republic of China on Safeguarding National Security in Hong Kong.
About the Law Society of England & Wales
The Law Society of England & Wales is the independent professional body for the solicitor profession of England & Wales that works globally to support and represent solicitors, promoting the highest professional standards, the public interest and the rule of law.
Press office contact: Naomi Jeffreys | Naomi.Jeffreys@lawsociety.org.uk | 0208 049 3928