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National Security Law: students afraid of returning back to China

3 months since the establishment of Hong Kong’s new National Security Law in mainland China. People who were once enraging protest against the Chinese government are now abiding the national security legislation.

But what is the ground reality? and how are students living outside the country ensuring their safety after returning to their home?

The New National Security Law

On 30th June 2020 the Standing Committee of the National Congress of the People’s Republic of China; commenced the Hong Kong National Security Law; officially known as Law of People’s Republic of China on Safeguarding National Security in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region.

Until the enforcement of this law; the people of Hong Kong were outrageously protesting on the city’s street for more that one and a half years. The protest started in June 2019 after the Chinese government introduced the extradition bill in Hong Kong.

After the independence of Hong Kong from colonial rule in 1997; the metropolitan area was handed over to China but as a special administrative region. The special administration provides its judicial independence; which differs Hong Kong from the rest of the places in the People’s Republic of China.

Salient Features of the new national security law

But three months back the Chinese government commenced a new security law which a lot of critics claims to be; “the end of Hong Kong”. This law criminalises

  • Secession
  • Subversion
  • Terrorism
  • Collusion

Even the most peaceful protest can be claimed to be a terrorist activity; for which the protestors can be punished life imprisonment. Before the new legislation citizens had hope that their independent judiciary will protect them from such charges; but with this new law judiciary is no more independent; members of the judiciary will be chosen directly by the Chinese government.

Apart from this, this law provides the right to police to take instant actions against the protestors, and if they want, they can raid anybody’s house without the need of any warrant. And the part that makes everybody unsafe from this law whether living in Hong Kong or any part of the world is; all these laws also apply to all the foreigners. If they ever do anything that the government think is a threat to their national security, they can take actions against them anytime they visit China.

Almost the entire world has criticised China for the new security law and has opened gates for people of Hong Kong to migrate in. But what about people who were already living outside and have criticised the Chinese government before this law? How safe are they to return back home?

National Security law and student safety

With the new national security law in action students studying outside Hong Kong fear of being criminalised. Taking the security of student into consideration, many educational institutions have introduced new ways of study; as students from China and Hong Kong make up a considerable population of students. In 2018-19 about 370,000 Chinses students enrolled in universities of the U.S. In The U.K. 35% of all the non-EU students were Chinese.

The proximity of the new security law in Hong Kong is spread far beyond China. Some of the universities are especially using warning signs as; “This course may cover material considered politically sensitive by China. And schools are weighing measures to try to shield students and faculty from prosecution by Chinese authorities.”

In Oxford, Chinese students and those who are studying about China are asked to anonymously submit their papers which might consist of something that may fall under the threat to national security according to the Chinese government. Students were strictly prohibited to shoot anything in the class, group tutorials are changed to one-to-ones.

In Harvard Business School, now students and professors fear to discuss sensitive topics related to China Openly. “Class participation is normally an element of students’ grades, but if the amnesty is put in place they won’t be penalized for opting out,” says Prof. Rithmire.

The prior concern of every educational institution

“If you are a student or scholar visiting, for example, the UK from Hong Kong or planning to visit Hong Kong and you work on issues perceived as politically sensitive in Hong Kong then you have some reason to be worried that your work might get you into trouble, and that is what is happening. The effect can be stifling and oppressive, also in the classroom.” Says Eva Pils, a law professor at King’s College London.

The New security legislation has scared students as well as others living outside mainland China. This law restricts the right to expression of everyone, but those students who have demonstrated protest against the government outside the country are now uneasy. And the security of such students has become the prior concern of all the educational institutions today.