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Western countries bashing China over Hong Kong national security law have tightened legislation at home

South China Morning Post logo South China Morning Post 11/7/2020
a person sitting in a chair: Workers fix the national emblem outside Hong Kong’s Metropark Hotel in Causeway Bay on July 8, now the temporary home of the Office for Safeguarding National Security. Photo: Robert Ng © SCMP Workers fix the national emblem outside Hong Kong’s Metropark Hotel in Causeway Bay on July 8, now the temporary home of the Office for Safeguarding National Security. Photo: Robert Ng

It is astonishing and worrying that, over the past decade, there has existed in Hong Kong a small number of people who seem to believe, in a delusional and fanciful way, that their ideologies and political preferences would prevail over state security. Would any reasonable person think treason or treachery a human right that has to be tolerated, respected or protected?

Many so-called democracies have laws on crimes against the state. National security laws have been used by countries in the West as a defence of the established order " to arrest, prosecute and punish acts directed at destabilising, undermining or overturning the sociopolitical system, or at causing fundamental damage to society or members of the public.

These provisions essentially relate to political activities regarded as a threat to the existence of the state, to the established political system, or to public order.

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It is the political or ideological content of the conduct that is of concern, not the nature of the activities per se. The offences may involve plans for violence but not necessarily so. Such offences are at the heart of the criminal law of each sovereign state, and are punishable by life imprisonment or death, the most severe penalty available that is otherwise reserved for murder. Other related offences carry lengthy prison sentences.

Since the turn of the century, governments including in the United States, Britain and Australia have increased their powers to deal with subversion and terrorism. For example, chapter 115 of Title 18 of the US Code, on treason, sedition and subversive activities, provides for penalties including execution for treason.

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In Australia, chapter five of the Criminal Code Act 1995 is devoted to "the security of the Commonwealth". The Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security released an "Advisory Report on the National Security Legislation Amendment (Espionage and Foreign Interference) Bill 2017" in June 2018. The authorities were looking to introduce many new offences. Under the "treason, treachery and other threats to security" section, the intended maximum penalty for both treason and treachery is life imprisonment.

According to the report, "The Committee accepts that there is a pressing need to strengthen and modernise current espionage and foreign interference laws, and supports the intent of the Bill to achieve this outcome. In doing so, the Committee recognises that the Bill proposes to rewrite substantially Australia's criminal laws relating to secrecy, espionage, foreign interference and sabotage."

As the so-called democratic world presses for tighter control over dangerous, treacherous and terrorist acts against the state, it is hypocritical for the camp to attempt to undermine China's ability to contain foreign intervention and terrorism on its own soil.

Scott Wong, Sha Tin

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This article originally appeared on the South China Morning Post (www.scmp.com), the leading news media reporting on China and Asia.

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