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A new Anti-sanction Law was passed by the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress (NPCSC) on June 10. It is an opportune time for me to share with you some thoughts on this topic. Sovereign equality and the principle of non-intervention From the international law perspective, sovereign equality is a basic norm of international relations and a fundamental principle of international law, with the Charter of the United Nations (UN) expressly setting out this principle1, adding that nothing contained in the Charter shall authorise the UN to “intervene in matters which are essentially within the domestic jurisdiction of any state2”. The principle of non-intervention is an important concept central to sovereign equality. The United Nations General Assembly unanimously adopted in 1970 the “Declaration on Principles of International Law concerning Friendly Relations and Co-operation among States in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations” (“Friendly Relations Declaration”), which declares, among others, that “[n]o State or group of States has the right to intervene, directly or indirectly, for any reason whatever, in the internal or external affairs of any other State. Consequently, armed intervention and all other forms of interference or attempted threats against the personality of the State or against its political, economic and cultural elements, are in violation of international law”. The International Court of Justice in its judgment3 in 1986 reaffirmed non-intervention as a principle of customary international law. Sanctions by the UN Under international law, sanctions should be brought only in very limited circumstances which constitute a threat to international peace and security, such as dealing with terrorism or nuclear proliferation, etc., and in an appropriate forum, which is the UN Security Council. When instructed by the Central People’s Government to implement any UN sanctions, the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Government would make regulations under the United Nations Sanctions Ordinance (Cap 537) to give effect to the relevant instruction. This mechanism has been in place for years and by which we have implemented a number of UN sanctions in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region. Unilateral coercive measures Other so-called “sanctions” without the authorisation of the UN Security Council, better described as unilateral coercive measures, are contrary to international law and the UN framework, and most importantly violate the principle of non-intervention under international law.We can see examples where states unilaterally impose coercive measures on other states or individuals with a view to exerting coercion or achieving implicit subjugation. Evidently, these are done with a political motive in mind, intending to suppress the actions of the effected state or individual, and trying to interfere with the internal affairs or exercise of sovereign power of the state. For example, following the enactment of the National Security Law, a number of foreign countries imposed unilateral coercive measures on government officials of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) and the Hong Kong SAR, suspending surrender of fugitive offenders agreements, and revoking Hong Kong’s special trading status as a separate customs territory and relabelling of exports from Hong Kong.Measures that have not been taken with authorisation of the United Nations Security Council are “unilateral coercive measures”, breaching the international law principles of sovereign equality and non-intervention, and a major barrier to international peace and stability. Countermeasures taken in response to unilateral coercive measures Unilateral coercive measures are without a doubt at odds with the principle of non-intervention, unbecoming of any civilised nation, and a hindrance to international peace and stability. In the face of international illegal acts, a state is justified in deploying any countermeasures as a response to a breach of the principle of non-intervention against itself. Such countermeasures are an accepted practice under international law, and the rules on their use have been formulated under international instruments, notably the Draft Articles on the Responsibility of States for Internationally Wrongful Acts (ILC’s Draft Articles) adopted by the International Law Commission in 2001.In accordance with the ILC’s Draft Articles, a state that is subjected to unilateral coercive measures would be entitled to impose countermeasures as set out under Article 22 of the ILC’s Draft Articles. The ILC’s Draft Articles further provide in Chapter II of Part Three for, inter alia, the requirements of refraining from the threat or use of force, and any countermeasures being proportionate. Anti-sanction Law is an accepted and legitimate practice under international law In the Explanatory Note on the Draft Anti-sanction Law, the three necessities for legislating the law are clearly set out. China is entitled to impose countermeasures in response to unilateral coercive measures taken by foreign states and the law provides the legal framework for the countermeasures to be implemented. It states unequivocally that it has to be applied within the whole of China. As it is a national law, and as the imposition of countermeasures is entirely a matter of foreign affairs, the most natural and appropriate way for it to be introduced to the Hong Kong SAR would be to add it to Annex III to the Basic Law in accordance with Article 18 of the Basic Law. This of course is a matter for the NPCSC to decide after consultation with the Basic Law Committee and the Hong Kong SAR Government.The Anti-sanction Law of the PRC was enacted as a countermeasure in the face of unilateral coercive measures which are prohibited under international law. Not only is the enactment of this law legitimate, reasonable and fair, it is also in conformity with the requirements relating to countermeasures as set out in the ILC’s Draft Articles highlighted above.Concerns have been expressed about the impact of the Anti-sanction Law introduced by China. Yet, the more appropriate questions to be asked are first, why does a foreign state interfere with China’s exercise of its sovereign rights to legislate national security laws, and secondly, why should a state or group of states be allowed to impose unilateral coercive measures against other states and legislate “long-arm” statutes purporting to enforce such internationally wrongful acts without consequences. It is these foreign states that impose unilateral coercive measures that should be condemned and it is they that the international community should be concerned about. At this point, one cannot help but recall the treacherous and despicable acts by certain anti-China disruptors who relentlessly and shamefully seek foreign states to impose sanctions against China including Hong Kong. No one who loves China and Hong Kong would embark upon such abominable and contemptible acts.As can be seen in the Explanatory Note, the law will provide a legal basis by which the countermeasures are to be implemented and enforced. It will supplement the legal tool box countering unilateral coercive measures, interference and long-arm jurisdiction of foreign states with a view to resolutely safeguarding national sovereignty, dignity and core interests of our motherland. 1 See Article 2(1) of Chapter 1 of the United Nations Charter.2 See Article 2(7) of Chapter 1 of the United Nations Charter.3 Military and Paramilitary Activities in and against Nicaragua. The judgment of the International Court of Justice acknowledged that the principle of non-intervention “forbids all States or groups of States to intervene directly or indirectly in internal or external affairs of other States”(see para. 205 of the judgment of the International Court of Justice). Secretary for Justice Teresa Cheng wrote this article and posted it on her blog on August 8.
Customs officers yesterday smashed a suspected cannabis growing den, seizing about 460kg of suspected cannabis plants and 5kg of suspected cannabis buds with an estimated market value of about $70 million. This is the largest case of a cannabis growing den detected by Customs so far. The officers first intercepted a 47-year-old man in Yuen Long, followed by a search of a residential unit. A total of 1,043 suspected cannabis plants, about 5kg of suspected cannabis buds and a batch of suspected cannabis growing equipment, including solar lamps, ventilation facilities and carbon dioxide generators, were seized. The man was subsequently arrested and an investigation is ongoing. Customs reminded that the maximum penalty for cannabis cultivation is a fine of $100,000 and imprisonment for 15 years, and that trafficking in a dangerous drug is a fine of $5 million and life imprisonment. The public may report suspected drug trafficking activities to the Customs’ hotline 2545 6182 or by email.
The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Government strongly deplores the misrepresentation made by the Canadian Government concerning the Immigration (Amendment) Ordinance 2021 which took effect on August 1. The Security Bureau made the statement today after the Canadian Government, in the update of its travel advisories for Hong Kong, made accusations that the ordinance's provisions are vaguely defined and might restrict individuals from leaving Hong Kong. The statement noted that the legal amendment, which empowers the Secretary for Security to make regulations in relation to the provision of passenger information by carriers, is to fulfil the Hong Kong SAR’s obligation under the Convention on International Civil Aviation to implement the Advance Passenger Information (API) system. According to the convention, all its members should put in place the API system with legal backing. Based on the relevant requirements, airlines need to provide passenger and crew member information to the Immigration Department before flight departure to Hong Kong. It will only apply to flights heading to Hong Kong, the statement emphasised, noting that so far over 90 countries have the API system in place, including Canada, the European Union member states, the US and Australia. Hong Kong residents’ freedom to travel and right to enter or leave the city are guaranteed under Article 31 of the Basic Law. The Legislative Council has undertaken a detailed review on each provision of the amendment ordinance. In respect of the background and purpose of the system and provision, the Hong Kong SAR Government has addressed the questions in detail. Time and again it has explained clearly to the public, and written to foreign consulates in Hong Kong that the system is intended to require the provision of passenger information on flights heading to Hong Kong, not the flights departing the city. In accordance with the standards proposed by the International Civil Aviation Organization, the Hong Kong SAR Government is studying, having regard to overseas experience, the overall operational arrangement for the API system in Hong Kong, and will make relevant subsidiary legislation. It will consult the Legislative Council on the subsidiary legislation and system arrangement in due course. The API system will be rolled out only after the council has scrutinised and passed the subsidiary legislation, and approved the funding for developing the required system. The statement added that the Canadian Government disregarded the detailed explanation by the Hong Kong SAR Government on the API system in the past, and deliberately misrepresented the legislation's background and purpose, making false and misleading statements. The bureau expressed strong dissatisfaction and called on the Canadian Government to modify its stance.
The Government will thoroughly study the court judgment on the first conviction under the National Security Law before deciding on its next course of action, Secretary for Security Tang Ping-keung said today. Speaking at a media session after Tong Ying-kit was jailed for nine years at the High Court this afternoon following his conviction earlier this week, Mr Tang welcomed the judgment and commented on the slogans the defendant had used in the case. “Regarding the slogan used by the defendant, it is being clearly stated by the court that it may have the meaning of independence of Hong Kong, and it may also have the meaning of asking Hong Kong to be separated from Mainland China.” The security chief was also asked about a police investigation into the behaviour of some spectators at the Olympics live broadcast at apm mall in Kwun Tong. “Regarding the apm incident, for any violation of the law, including the National Flag Law or the National Security Law, we will thoroughly investigate. If there is any evidence we will (make) arrests and if there is further evidence we will prosecute.”
The number of crimes recorded in the first half of 2021 was 30,871, a year-on-year decrease of 4.6%, while the overall crime detection rate increased from 32.1% to 35.7%, Police announced today. Violent crime cases increased 3.2% to 4,653 cases. The decrease in overall crimes was attributed to the 64% drop in robberies and a 35.9% fall in burglaries. Arson, wounding and serious assault and criminal damage cases also registered decreases from about 10% to 40%, indicating that the law and order situation remained stable. However, increases were seen in cases of deception, sexual offences, blackmail, criminal intimidation as well as crimes detected by Police’s proactive enforcement actions, including serious drug, serious gambling and syndicated vice offences. Deception cases recorded a 7% increase to 8,699, mainly driven by the upsurge of romance scams which jumped 91.6% with a 1.6-fold increase in losses, amounting to over $288 million. Police have noticed that scammers would send fraudulent bank SMS messages with links of purported bank websites to victims in an attempt to transfer savings out of their accounts. In March, officers cracked down on a crime syndicate, arresting 14 scammers involved in 15 deception cases. The Anti-Deception Coordination Centre’s Anti-Scam Helpline also managed to prevent victims of over 280 cases from wiring money to fraudsters and intercept over $600 million before the money reached the scammers. On National Security Law enforcement, Police arrested 117 people for suspected secession, subversion, terrorist activities, collusion with a foreign country or with external elements, and providing pecuniary or other financial assistance or property for the commission by other persons of the offence of secession. Of these, 64 people have been prosecuted. The force said it will continue to safeguard national security in face of threats arising from home-grown terrorism.
Justice Wally Yeung has been appointed Commissioner on Interception of Communications & Surveillance for three years from August 17. The appointment was made by the Chief Executive upon the Chief Justice’s recommendation. Justice Yeung is currently Vice-President of the Court of Appeal of the High Court. Commenting on the appointment, Chief Executive Carrie Lam lauded Justice Yeung as being a judge with a wealth of experience. She said: “I am confident that he will be able to perform this important task most capably, and to perform the role of an independent oversight authority under the Interception of Communications & Surveillance Ordinance to ensure the law enforcement agencies' compliance and the effective operation of the regulatory regime.” Outgoing commissioner Azizul Rahman Suffiad will retire on August 16. The Chief Executive said the Government is grateful for the dedicated services Mr Suffiad provided. She thanked him for his valuable contribution and wished him well in his future endeavours.
Secretary for the Civil Service Patrick Nip inspected the Fire Services Department’s passing-out parade for 14 station officers, three ambulance officers, 79 firemen and 77 ambulancemen at the Fire & Ambulance Services Academy today. Speaking at the parade, Mr Nip commended the department for rising to the challenge at the forefront in the fight against COVID-19 by providing emergency treatment to suspected or confirmed patients, and transferring them and relevant close contacts to hospitals and other medical facilities for testing, quarantine or further treatment. He noted that the department fully supports the Government's anti-epidemic measures. It not only assisted in setting up quarantine centres and a temporary hospital, but also mobilised more than 1,000 staff members to render assistance in launching the Universal Community Testing Programme by serving as officers-in-charge or samplers in testing centres. Department staff also assisted in spot checks on people under home quarantine and tracing the contacts of confirmed COVID-19 cases. Mr Nip added that the department recruited almost 800 staff members over a short period of time to assist in the first large-scale compulsory testing exercise in the Jordan specified restricted area in February. They provided support to on-site logistics and devoted efforts to cut the virus transmission chain in the community. Noting that the department has to cope with numerous arduous tasks related to the pandemic, Mr Nip said it has efficiently implemented a number of work plans at the same time and continuously improved its services to meet the needs of society. He encouraged the graduates to make the most of every training opportunity in the future and continue to enrich themselves so that they can keep abreast of the department's fast developments and deal with new challenges in their work. They were also advised to participate in various initiatives of the Government and the department and fulfil the departmental mission of "Serving with courage, passion and commitment". The parade was followed by a demonstration of firefighting and rescue techniques by the graduates, who will be posted to various fire stations and ambulance depots.
Police's National Security Department today arrested five members of the General Union of Hong Kong Speech Therapists for conspiring to publish seditious publications. Two men and three women aged between 25 and 28 were arrested. They include the union’s chairperson, vice chairperson, secretary and treasurer. Police have frozen $160,000 of the union’s assets. More arrests have not been ruled out. The department's Senior Superintendent Li Kwai-wah said at a press conference today that the union published three story books between June 2020 and March this year. He noted that the backgrounds of the stories are similar to incidents that happened in 2019 over the anti-extradition bill movement, the case of the 12 fugitives as well as the healthcare workers’ strike in 2020. Mr Li pointed out that the story books oversimplified political issues which are difficult for children to understand, glorified the unlawful acts and rationalised the strike. “The focus of our operation today is to target the publishing of these seditious publications involving bringing hatred against the Government, the administration of justice and also inciting other people to (commit) violence.” He added that the union intended to hold another reading class this Saturday. "So we had a very big discussion. We think that we have to stop them because we do not (want) this kind of thing to harm our next generation anymore.”
Secretary for Security Tang Ping-keung today inspected the Tai Tam Gap Correctional Institution to learn about its working environment and operations. The renovated institution is the Correctional Services Department’s first smart prison which applies technology in its management and security to enhance operational efficiency and promote humanised management. Commissioner of Correctional Services Woo Ying-ming briefed Mr Tang on the institution's Security & Monitoring System, the Operation & Management System, the Persons in Custody Self-management System, and the Staff Capacity Enhancement System as well as the future development of smart prisons. Mr Tang also viewed a scenario-based demonstration and met departmental staff to find out more about their work. He was pleased to see that the institution is running smoothly after adding smart elements to the modernised management, helping simplify daily work procedures and improve the working environment. With a growing number of people held on remand in correctional institutions for riot-related offences, the department is facing unprecedented challenges. Mr Tang thanked the staff for displaying professionalism, courage and dedication, and remaining steadfast as the last element of the criminal justice system with their dual role in ensuring safe custody and rehabilitation.
Police’s National Security Department launched an operation today and arrested a 51-year-old man for collusion with a foreign country or with external elements to endanger national security. The former editor of a media company is suspected to be in connection with a case detected in June. He is being detained for enquiries. Investigations are ongoing. Police will not rule out the possibility of further arrests.