How Hong Kong’s national security law and common law system collided head-on

Enforcing Hong Kong’s new national security law may not be so easy after all. On the face of it, political life here has been turned upside down in just six months. The new law was promulgated by the central government in Beijing on June 30 last year. But trying to enlist Hong Kong’s existing common law legal system in the service of the political order being created by the new law is proving easier said than done.

The new law targets the crimes of secession from China; subverting state power; terrorism, meaning violence in pursuit of political aims; and colluding with foreigners as a form of political protest.

Photo: GovHK.

The crimes seem reasonable enough. Many countries have laws that criminalise such acts. But Hong Kong’s new law has created the very clash of political and legal cultures that many feared when the “one-country, two-systems” idea was adopted as Hong Kong’s governing principle. The new construct was intended to ease Hong Kong’s transition across the 1997 divide, from British colonial rule to that of a very different Communist Party–led sovereign.