The Hong Kong government has said it was “totally biased” for a panel set up to advise the United States Congress to argue that the Beijing-imposed national security law dismantled the city’s “once-dynamic civil society”, and insisted that the city authorities do not want to suppress normal relations with other countries.
The government on Wednesday night expressed its “vehement opposition” to the American panel’s views two days after the Congressional-Executive Commission on China (CECC) released “Hong Kong’s Civil Society: From an Open City to a City of Fear”, which said the wide-ranging law had created a “devastating effect”.
“As regards the report’s ungrounded allegations on disbandment of organisations, it should also be stressed that the national security law does not seek to prevent, suppress and punish normal interactions with other countries, regions or relevant international organisations,” the government said.
But the statement added that freedom of association and other rights and “may be subject to restrictions that are provided by law and are necessary for pursuing legitimate aims such as the protection of national security or public order”.
The study by the influential panel, which advises the US Congress on policy towards China, argued that the national security legislation directly and indirectly forced more than 58 independent organisations – including media organisations, labour unions, human rights monitoring organisations and pro-democracy religious groups – to cease operations between 2021 and June this year.
The US document said people interviewed had insisted the Hong Kong government pursued a policy to “constrain those media that could be controlled and exterminate those that could not”.
The Hong Kong government defended the law, under which more than 200 arrests have been made since June 2020, and said that action had to be taken combat acts that endangered national security.
“Any law enforcement actions taken by Hong Kong law enforcement agencies are based on evidence, strictly according to the law, for the acts of the persons or entities concerned, and have nothing to do with their background,” the government said.
It added that some organisations might decide to disband on their own accord.
The national security law, imposed in June 2020 after widespread protests against a 2019 extradition bill that would have allowed the transfer of suspects to mainland China, criminalises a broad range of acts under the categories of subversion, secession, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces.