Civil Rights Observer today (28 September) publishes its first regular brief report on National Security Law (“NSL”) covering the first two months after the enactment of the law on 30 June 2020 in Hong Kong. As of 31 August, at least 21 were arrested under the NSL while only one among them was prosecuted. We are troubled by the mass-scale arrests in such a short period of time which suggests the broadly defined law with draconian punishment is applied to intimidate citizens. From our observation, the law has also caused a severe chilling effect on the civil society, further shrinking space of free expression and peaceful assembly of the city.

Identified in the brief report are substantial threats the NSL has imposed to various fundamental rights – freedom of expression, freedom of assembly and association, freedom of press and freedom of movement – by enabling dispersal of peaceful assemblies in the name of national security, allowing disproportionate charges against dissent, criminalizing people for displaying or possessing banners and stickers with political slogans, depriving arrestees of their freedom of movement as well as providing excuses for unnecessary searches at media outlets.

“These threats appear to be intended consequences welcomed by the government to stifle legitimate expressions and curb public assemblies in Hong Kong, as officials described in different occasions that the law has brought a ‘deterrent effect’ to the city”, said the spokesperson of Civil Rights Observer.

The UN principles and international standards strictly prohibit governments from invoking “national security as a justification for measures aimed at suppressing opposition or to justify repressive practices against its population” (Note 1). Restrictions under the label of protecting national security must be proportionate and necessary (Note 2) and are only allowed when adequate safeguards and effective remedies against abuse exist (Note 3).

Full report:

Note 1: The Siracusa Principles on the Limitations and Derogation Provisions in the ICCPR. E/CN.4/1985/4.

Note 2: Report of the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights while countering terrorism, Martin Scheinin, UN General Assembly. A/61/267.

Note 3: Human Rights Committee, General comments no. 34. CCPR/C/GC/34



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