U.N. Commissioner: Security Law “Too Broad, Vague”

U.N. Commissioner: Security Law “Too Broad, Vague”

The U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein has expressed concern over China’s new national security law, which passed last week.

The new security law covers a large spectrum of issues, including environment, defence, finance, information technology, culture, ideology, education and religion. It also defines the meaning of extremely broadly: it is described as the condition in which the country’s government, sovereignty, unification, territorial integrity, well-being of its people, sustainable development of its economy and society and other major interests are relatively safe and not subject to internal and external threats.

“This law raises many concerns due to its extraordinarily broad scope coupled with the vagueness of its terminology and definitions,” High Commissioner Zeid said. “As a result, it leaves the door wide open to further restrictions of the rights and freedoms of Chinese citizens, and to even tighter control of civil society by the Chinese authorities than there is already.”

National security need to be sufficiently precise to enable individuals to foresee the consequences of their conduct as well as to safeguard against arbitrary or discriminatory enforcement by authorities. “The law should clearly and narrowly define what constitutes a threat to national security, and identify proper mechanisms to address such threats in a proportionate manner,” Zeid said. [Source]

Similar criticisms have been leveled at a draft law to regulate foreign NGOs, and another on Internet security, whose draft appeared on Wednesday. Amnesty International’s Nicholas Bequelin highlighted these and other elements of the emerging “national security architecture” in a commentary on the national security law at CNN on Friday, in which he too noted the new ’s extreme range:

From “social contradictions” to food safety, from environmental crisis to foreign religions, from the Internet to outer space, there is hardly any realm of the country’s activity that doesn’t fall under the rubric of national security risk in the new law.

In part, this is due to the fact that the law overtly conflates maintaining the Party’s monopoly on power and protecting the “people’s democratic dictatorship” with national security.

Whereas Chinese legislation usually tries to give the appearance of leaving control with the formal state institutions – with the Party’s role limited to providing “leadership” – the new National Security Law is explicit in its ambition to protect the absolute power of the Party.

[…] Since his ascension to power in late 2012, President has intensified the crackdown on activism and dissent, ramping up the suppression of civil society groups, strengthening Internet censorship and the monitoring of social media, and urging the Party to combat the influence of what it terms “Western ideas” such as rule of law and media freedom.

But this new law reaches far beyond the traditional targets of the Chinese state authoritarian streak. [Source]

Anxiety over its reach also extends to Hong Kong, according to Global Voices’ Oiwan Lam, who reports fears that activities conducted there could lead to arrest on the mainland, and unease over the new law’s possible influence on the territory’s own:

Although both Leung Chun-Ying, the Hong Kong chief executive, and Rimsky Yuen, the secretary for justice, have assured that China’s national security law will not apply in Hong Kong, Yuen also said Hong Kong is in no position to guarantee local activists’ safety in the mainland.

[…] Hong Kongers’ fear is not ungrounded. A local newspaper quoted a source close to the Beijing government that political activists advocating the independence of Hong Kong and ending single-party rule would likely be convicted if they step foot onto China’s jurisdiction. According to the source, such a reading of the law was supported by mainland Chinese legal experts.

[…] Civic groups in Hong Kong are also worried that China’s national security framework could become a model to change local legislation, specifically Basic Law Article 23. The article states that laws which safeguard national security should be proposed by the government of Hong Kong. In a joint submission handed to the National People Congress, three local and international journalist groups expressed their concern over the impact of China’s national security law in Hong Kong. […] [Source]

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