Beijing’s proposed national security law for Hong Kong has sparked jitters across the Chinese-ruled city.
After a Chinese human rights lawyer revealed in a media interview how he was tortured while in detention in mainland China, Hong Kong activists and lawyers are worried that Hongkongers could face similar treatment if they’re found guilty of violating the national security law.
China’s rubber-stamp legislature, the National People’s Congress (NPC), adopted the law on May 28 after a ceremonial vote. The law would criminalize those who engage in activities connected to subversion, secession, terrorism, and foreign interference in the Chinese-ruled city. It will be implemented after the NPC standing committee finalizes drafting the law.
Human rights lawyer Wang Quangzhang was released in early April after serving a four-and-a-half-year sentence on charges of “subverting state power.” He’s well-known for defending local activists and adherents of the spiritual group Falun Gong, a meditation practice that has been severely persecuted by the Chinese regime since 1999.
While speaking to Japanese media Kyodo News in a recent interview, Wang recently disclosed how he was tortured, recounting what he went through while being held at a prison in the Chinese city of Tianjin between September 2015 and January 2016.
He was arrested in July 2015 as part of a nationwide suppression of hundreds of activists and lawyers.
He revealed that he was prohibited from rolling over during sleep while being subjected to 24-hour surveillance by two armed police officers. Sometimes, he was forced to stand for 15 hours straight while keeping his hands in the air.
He recounted how he was slapped in the face for hours, after which he was “compelled to accept an affidavit stating that he tried to subvert the government by receiving funds from abroad.”
He also recalled that he was pressed down “like a pig” during a closed-door trial in December 2018, after he shouted in protest against the lack of rule of law in China. The following month, he was sentenced to prison, including the time he spent in pre-trial detention.
Wang told Kyodo News that his case proved that China’s judicial procedure was “sloppy” and that police and judicial authorities failed to uphold the law.
Hong Kong Reactions
Jimmy Lai, a local activist and founder of pro-democracy newspaper Apple Daily, said in a tweet that, “What happened to Wang will happen to all of us peace and freedom loving #HKers. We should not let #HK go down this path.”
In a post on its official Twitter account, Hong Kong’s pro-democracy party Demosistō highlighted that Chinese authorities extracted a confession from Wang by torturing him.
“In the name of #NationalSecurityLaw, #Beijing extends its black-jail regime to #HK,” Demosistō wrote, speculating that this could happen in Hong Kong after the national security law is implemented.
Patrick Poon, a Hong Kong independent human rights researcher, wrote on Twitter on June 22 that how Wang was treated was “sad and outrageous.”
“See how #China detained and #tortured a lawyer who was accused of so-called ‘subverting state power’, a ‘national security’ offence,” Poon wrote.
China’s hawkish state-run media Global Times—in a June 21 article citing unnamed observers and in another article published the following day citing Hong Kong’s sole representative to NPC standing committee Tam Yiu-chung—suggested that the law would be formally approved by July 1, after the committee concludes a three-day meeting scheduled to begin on June 28.
Tam told local media i-Cable News on June 22 that the law posed the possibility that defendants could be extradited to mainland China and put on trial in Chinese courts under very special circumstances.
Over the weekend, the NPC standing committee revealed more details about the law, including that it would grant Hong Kong’s top official the power to appoint judges in cases related to China’s national security.
Hong Kong Bar Association Chairman Philip Dykes raised concerns about that provision while speaking to Reuters, noting that such powers cut to the core of Hong Kong’s judicial independence, which is protected by the city’s mini-constitution, the Basic Law.