Hong Kong’s new National Security Legislation has already had an impact on human rights and the region’s vibrant civil society.

The international community will need to be bold and imaginative in supporting Hong Kong institutions, such as NGOs, the legal profession and universities, to maintain independence in this rapidly evolving landscape.

The National Security Law was promulgated on 30 June 2020, and effective immediately. In a briefing paper issued prior to its promulgation, The Rights Practice considered the adoption of the new law and what implementation may mean for the many civil society organisations in the city.

The Rights Practice has first-hand experience of the impact of another law, the Overseas NGO Management Law, introduced in mainland China in 2017. This provides some insight into the potential long-term impact of the National Security Law in Hong Kong. In China, we saw the departure of international organisations and we observed the contraction of Chinese civil society along with the harassment and prosecution of leading activists. We should not fool ourselves that the impact of such laws will only be experienced by those intent on undermining China’s national security.

The biggest risk from the new law may lie not in its specific measures or how it is implemented, but in the chill, even fear, it could engender in Hong Kong. Can Hong Kong’s people and institutions withstand the new pressures? What is the role for international civil society?

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