Legal experts are of the view that the Hong Kong Security law will not only impact those sitting in Hong Kong but also applies criminal penalties for vague political offences to anyone, anywhere in the world, regardless of whether they have a substantial connection to the city.
Sarah Cook, a senior research analyst at Freedom House said that Article 38 of the Hong Kong security law is the only one of several steps that Chinese authorities have taken over the past month to assert control overviews expressed abroad and to intimidate both foreign and Chinese citizens overseas.
“Taken together, these moves are forcing people around the world to reassess travel itineraries, business models, and communication methods. While some policymakers, foreign leaders, and civil society groups have been outspoken in their criticism of Beijing’s actions, they may ultimately be the outliers in a new global wave of self-censorship,” Cook said.
She believes thousands of Hong Kong students currently overseas who have publicly supported the territory’s pro-democracy protesters on foreign university campuses and social media are at the risk.
However, she said, it is not clear yet whether Article 38 of the law will be applied retroactively punishing speech from before the law took effect.
On June 30, a court in Beijing sentenced Canadian citizen and businesswoman Sun Qian to eight years in prison for practicing a meditation and spiritual discipline banned in China but practiced freely in Canada and elsewhere around the world.
Cook says that the Chinese government has wielded its control over access to the mainland as a cudgel to enforce self-censorship among the Chinese diaspora, journalists, academics, politicians, international corporations, and even Hollywood film studios.
“In one fell swoop, the Chinese leadership has demonstrated a willingness and ability to upend the established rules of permissible speech and activity in a matter of days; abruptly absorbed a major Asian hub for international finance, media, and activism into its repressive jurisdiction; and added support for human rights in Hong Kong to an already long list of strictly taboo topics,” she said.