Australians who discuss or protest Hong Kong’s political situation could be arrested if they enter Hong Kong, under an obscure section of the draconian National Security Law Beijing imposed on the once-autonomous city.
Article 38 of the National Security Law states that “offences under this law committed against the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region from outside the region by a person who is not a permanent resident of the region” can be prosecuted.
Bing Ling, a Professor of Chinese Law at the University of Sydney, told The Age on July 1 he was worried that regardless of nationality or residency a person could be arrested if they enter Hong Kong after talking about Hong Kong independence or sanctions.
“It is a heavy-handed piece of legislation, not only in terms of the conduct that it criminalises but in terms of the institutions it establishes, the powers that it confers and the scope of the jurisdiction that this law is going to have,” said Bing. “This is going to apply not only to Hong Kong but people outside Hong Kong.”
Ling also noted that this would mean that the Office for Safeguarding National Security of the Central People’s Government in Hong Kong would be able to prosecute the offences on the mainland, taking those accused into China’s opaque and often corrupt judicial system.
The controversial new law that was imposed on July 1 and allows the CCP to imprison those convicted of secession, subversion, terrorism, and collusion with foreign forces for life if they so desire and to prosecute them in mainland China.
Are Freedoms At Risk At Aussie Universities?
There are also concerns that citizens of Hong Kong, Chinese-Australians, or even Australian academics could fall foul of the CCP and Hong Kong authorities if they participate in activities like the democracy protests that occurred at the University of Queensland in 2019, which are now classed as subversive or secessionist.
University of Tasmania lecturer, Mark Harrison, told The Age on July 24 that the national security law will present difficult choices for universities about freedom of expression and their duty of care for international students. The reach of the law could motivate some universities to discourage activism by Hong Kong students, but this challenges the principles and purpose of the university as an institution.”
One of Australia’s highest-ranking universities The Australian National University (ANU) assured The Epoch Times on July 28 that “academic freedom is a core value of The Australian National University and a core principle of all our teaching and research.”
But according to an ANU statement on academic freedom (pdf), said freedom is contingent upon the rights to free expression that are protected by the law of the wider community.
When asked about how ANU will keep its academics safe if they are in Hong Kong, the university stated that there were “clear procedures in place for any travel destination considered to be a risk.”
“Determinations regarding international travel will be based on Australian Government travel advice at the time, as well as the specific circumstances in individual countries,” said the university.
Hong Kong Off Limits To Queensland Activist
Hong Kong rights activist and University of Queensland (UQ) student Drew Pavlou agrees with these concerns after incurring the ire of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) for organising a peaceful protest in support of Hong Kong freedom in 2019.
Speaking to The Epoch Times on July 28, Pavlou said he believed even his student “activism against the genocidal Communist Party makes him a target to disappear.”
“Even travelling through Hong Kong airport would make me nervous,” said Pavlou, noting he would definitely avoid it.
The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade issued “do not travel” advisory on July 7, warning Australians that under the draconian new laws they may face “arbitrary detention” in China and Hong Kong, possibly even if only transitting through an airport.
An estimated 200 CCP supporters turned up to Pavlou’s small, peaceful sit-in, assaulting Pavlou, and attacking others in the demonstration, forcing police to send a large presence to the campus.
Pavlou also explained that many of his Hong Kong friends and activists were very anxious since the national security law was imposed, saying they were choosing to go out less in public and wear more face coverings.
Pavlou has commenced legal proceedings against the Chinese Consul-General in relation to the UQ incident.
“When the Chinese consulate sent covert agents to my court hearing against the consul general, Hong Kongers were scared to testify against the consul general for fear of actions under the NSL,” said Pavlou.