This past year, the People’s Republic of China, or PRC, and Hong Kong authorities have further criminalized dissent, undermining the human rights and fundamental freedoms of people in Hong Kong, according to the recently released Hong Kong Policy Act report.
The Hong Kong government has persisted in its enforcement of the National Security Law and wielded a sedition law to silence perceived critics – with more than 1,200 people reportedly detained for their political beliefs.
In the last year, PRC authorities continued to deny people in Hong Kong the ability to play a meaningful role in the city’s governance, including for the first time permitting only one candidate to run for Hong Kong Chief Executive. Hong Kong authorities continued to use the National Security Law, imposed by Beijing on Hong Kong in June 2020, to further erode the rule of law in Hong Kong and the fundamental freedoms of people in Hong Kong.
Hong Kong authorities continued to arrest and prosecute people for peaceful political expression, including for posting and forwarding social media posts. Local authorities criminally charged people engaged in online political speech.
Authorities continued to undermine the rights of defendants in cases designated as involving national security, including by denying them bail and subjecting them to lengthy periods of pretrial detention; stripping them of the right to a trial by jury and requiring that their cases be overseen by a judge designated by the Beijing-endorsed Chief Executive.
Hong Kong and PRC authorities continued to target civil society groups, media companies, activists, journalists, political parties, labor unions, and other individuals and organizations that they accused of being connected to Hong Kong’s prodemocracy movement or critical of the government. Authorities arrested then 90-year-old Cardinal Joseph Zen, the former Catholic Bishop of Hong Kong, and others on suspicion of “collusion with foreign forces.”
Hong Kong officials prosecuted editors and executives of now-closed media outlets Apple Daily and Stand News, including Apple Daily founder Jimmy Lai, for alleged national security-related offenses, and accused Stand News of sedition for publishing news articles related to pro-democracy politicians. Independent media outlets continued to close, citing Hong Kong’s restrictive political environment.
Citing Hong Kong’s declining rule of law, Secretary of State Antony Blinken urged PRC authorities to restore protected rights and freedoms to the people of Hong Kong, release those unjustly detained or imprisoned, and respect the rule of law and human rights in Hong Kong.