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EDITORIAL | Latest Hong Kong Security Law Elevates Risks for Visitors and Foreign Residents

LegCo says it wants new economic development in Hong Kong. But after passing this draconian ordinance, the risk of arbitrary detention is a strong deterrence.



Demonstrators in Taipei, Taiwan protest the implementation of the Hong Kong National Security Ordinance on March 23. (©Reuters)

Hong Kong has another new national security law. The Safeguarding National Security Ordinance was passed by the Hong Kong Legislative Council (LegCo) on March 23. Taking effect the same day, "Article 23" was specifically designed to crack down on espionage ー and other conduct the government deems treasonous or threatening to the public order. 

It complements the Hong Kong National Security Law imposed by the Chinese government in 2020. Therefore, it applies to individual foreigners. Furthermore, it applies to foreign organizations and companies. 

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida should take action to ensure that Japanese citizens are protected. We cannot allow the ongoing problem of Japanese citizens being unfairly detained in China itself to spread to Hong Kong

Hong Kong's top government chief executive John Lee signs the national security ordinance on March 22. (provided by the Hong Kong government)

What Happened to 'One Country, Two Systems'?

The United Kingdom returned Hong Kong to China in 1997. China then agreed that for 50 years through 2047, Hong Kong could maintain its capitalist system. This was despite coming under the Chinese Communist regime. Consequently, Hong Kong was able to maintain its allure as the premier "financial center in Asia" after the reversion. This was because the unique "one country, two systems" arrangement was functioning effectively. 

Nevertheless, Hong Kong's chief executive John Lee Ka-chiu concluded that national security should have precedence. In other words, a "one country" approach. He therefore pushed through the adoption of the latest National Security Ordinance. 

After the ordinance was passed, Lee declared that he would now focus on economic development. But can Lee be so deluded as to think that talent and money will continue to flow to Hong Kong? Plainly,  the "two systems" arrangement has become nothing but an empty shell.

Lawmakers vote during the second reading of Safeguarding National Security Bill, also referred to as Basic Law Article 23, at the Hong Kong's Legislative Council, in Hong Kong, China March 19, 2024. REUTERS/Joyce Zhou

Protecting Japanese People and Interests

US State Department spokesperson Vedant Patel criticized the new ordinance. It is incredibly vague and the crimes it covers are poorly defined. Patel added that the United States government was now "analyzing the potential risks to US citizens and US interests."

The spokesperson went further by promising that as circumstances dictated the US not hesitate to protest. Moreover, it would also take necessary countermeasures. 

That is exactly the right approach to take. 


Coincidentally, it has been a year since the Chinese authorities arrested a Japanese employee of Astellas Pharma in China. The official reason for his arrest was on suspicion of engaging in espionage. To this day, however, the reason for his arrest remains unknown. What is more, since 2015 at least 17 Japanese nationals have been arrested in China. The Chinese government says their detention is for alleged involvement in spying activities and other charges. 

Now that the murky Chinese concept of "national security" is being given priority, the same could happen in Hong Kong. For one thing, although theft of state secrets is a punishable offense under the new national security ordinance, it leaves it up to the chief executive to decide what constitutes a "state secret." Needless to say, the Xi Jinping regime is making all the real decisions behind the scenes. 

People walk past the Causeway Bay shopping district after the Safeguarding National Security Bill (Article 23) passes in Hong Kong, China on March 20, 2024. (©REUTERS/Joyce Zhou)

Japan Needs to Act, Not Watch

Japan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a statement promising it will  "closely monitor the situation." It added, "and urge the Chinese government and Hong Kong authorities to respect and protect the activities and rights of Japanese citizens and Japanese companies in Hong Kong." 

We must not forget the reality that Japanese nationals are repeatedly being unfairly detained in mainland China. Monitoring the situation is not sufficient.

We must strengthen our cooperation with the US. Together, we must take measures to prevent similar tragedies from taking place in Hong Kong. 


(Read the editorial in Japanese.)

Author: Editorial Board, The Sankei Shimbun

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