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On 4 December 2020 the Hong Kong government introduced the 2020 Immigration (Amendment) Bill (2020年入境(修訂)條例草案) for the alleged purpose of “fulfilling the international obligation of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region under the Convention on International Civil Aviation”.

But critics of the Bill argue that its scope is excessively broad and vague, and that it could give the government the power to prevent citizens from leaving the city on the basis of their political views. In particular, Clause 3 Section 6A has come under scrutiny. The text states:

“(1) The Secretary for Security may make regulations—

(a) to provide for the supply to the Director of information or data relating to a carrier, its passengers or members of its crew, as may be specified in the regulations; and

(b) to empower the Director to direct that a passenger or a member of the crew of a carrier may or may not be carried on board the carrier.”

The Hong Kong Bar Association (HKBA) criticized the proposed amendment in a paper submitted to the Legislative Council in February 2021.

“The HKBA is deeply concerned by the provisions of the Bill which seek to provide for wider and more prolonged use of immigration detention,” the paper reads. “These provisions would result in arbitrary and unjustified immigration detention in circumstances that are incompatible with fundamental human rights and long-standing common law principles.”

The Bill is scheduled for its second reading on April 28. It will likely be adopted by the Hong Kong Legislature, which is dominated by pro-Beijing politicians after the resignation en masse of democratic lawmakers.

Since the introduction of a National Security Law (NSL) that criminalizes political dissent, the authorities have launched a sweeping crackdown on pro-democracy activists.

Thousands of Hong Kongers have left the city to escape political persecution. Pro-democracy activists and opponents of Chinese Communist Party (CCP) rule, including Nathan Law, Ted Hui, Lam Wing-kee, Brian Leung, Joe Tay, Ray Wong, Glacier Kwong, Finn Lau, Simon Cheng and Joey Siu, are currently in self-imposed exile to avoid arrest. On April 20, former Baptist Convention president Lo Hing-choi fled to the UK.

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The United Kingdom passed a £43 million ($59 million) welcome programme to help British National Overseas (BNO) status holders arriving from Hong Kong find jobs, houses and schools. BNO passports are a legacy of British colonial rule.

In early April Hong Kong’s government lambasted “countries who harbor criminals” after Nathan Law was granted political asylum by the UK.

The Hong Kong government refuted accusations that the amendment is designed to restrict emigration, claiming that the bill’s aim is to “allow faster passenger clearance at control points” and “enhance the enforcement capability of the Immigration Department.”

The authorities also slammed the HKBA’s written submission for “fail[ing] to reflect correctly the objectives of the provision and relevant facts, [which] led to unnecessary misunderstanding.”

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Similarly, on 30 June 2020 Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam told a United Nations human rights forum that the NSL would not undermine Hong Kong’s freedoms and autonomy:

“The legislation aims to prevent, curb and punish acts of cessation [sic!], subversion of state power, terrorist activities … These crimes will be clearly defined in the law. We will only target an extremely small minority of people who have (broken) the law. The life and property, basic rights and freedoms of the overwhelming majority of Hong Kong residents will be protected,” she said.

But between June 2019 and September 2020, over 10,000 people were arrested under the NSL.

From 2005 to 2020, Hong Kong plummeted from 39th place to 80th place in the WorldPress Freedom Index.

On April 16 Hong Kong Commissioner of Police Chris Tang said that media outlets that endanger the security of Hong Kong by publishing “fake news” will be investigated.

“Agents of foreign forces disseminate fake news and disinformation to drive a wedge in the community, cause division in society and to incite violence,” he stated.

Government-affiliated newspaper Ta Kung Pao has called for the shutdown of opposition news outlets.

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