Thank you for this opportunity to testify before the committee. It's really an honour and a challenge to follow the witnesses who offered such powerful, expert views last week and this morning, in particular in highlighting the ongoing critical developments in Hong Kong that will impact Canadians at home and in Hong Kong. I think that COVID-19 has made it quite clear that the impacts on the health and stability of the world and the region will not stay within its borders.
I am a Hong Konger by birth and a holder of permanent Hong Kong residency. I'm also a professor of law emerita at the City University of New York School of Law. I taught law for 18 years, including training Chinese lawyers, judges, law teachers and legal cadres over the course of 10 years, beginning in the late 1980s.
My organization, Human Rights in China, was formed in March 1989 to support the 1989 democracy movement. Within an international human rights framework, we support human rights defenders and civil society groups to advance human rights protections. We have had a presence in Hong Kong since 1996.
The last time I was in Ottawa was in 2012, for the World Parliamentarians' Convention on Tibet conference. Ms. Zann's question this morning about warning signs triggered that for me. In fact, Beijing's policies, militarization and comprehensive securitization, including national security laws and the tactics of social repression and control, were deployed decades ago and signalled clearly the writing on the wall for Hong Kong, if there were the political will to read it.
I want to begin with an overarching point. Then I will proceed to a few pickup comments to tunnel down on the national security law, and then I would like to jump to recommendations, hoping that through the questions we can have a more detailed discussion.
My overarching point is that it's very important for this committee, in its report or whatever concrete product comes out of this set of hearings, to pay attention to the control of the narrative. The Hong Kong headlines that are declaring the death of Hong Kong, the end of Hong Kong as we know it, one country but no future, and so on, are indeed dire descriptions grounded in sobering daily evidence of the onslaught on the rule of law, the values and the way of life of Hong Kong, an onslaught that has indeed resulted in censorship, a chilled atmosphere, etc., but I want to urge on all of us, when talking about Hong Kong, caution in repeating or highlighting this partial narrative of hopelessness, especially one that is prematurely declaring a future not yet written.
It's important for the public conversation in Canada, and in the recommendations of the government, that although the right to peaceful assembly has been almost gutted in Hong Kong, Hong Kongers are not silent and have not given up hope. You can see the front page of the Apple Daily for the new Lennon Wall. Hong Kongers online are saying, “We are still alive. Stop declaring us dead. We need solidarity and concrete support, not funeral dirges.” Mr. Williamson's question on whether there was reason for hope was best answered by an activist: “It's not that we have lost. It's just that we have not yet won”, recognizing the long road ahead.
So let's not consciously or unconsciously adopt official Beijing narratives that contribute to the work of the official propaganda outlets.
There's been a lot of reference to and discussion on the national security law, and the general critiques have extensively discussed how it's contributing to the ecosystem and how it's being imported into Hong Kong from the mainland, but I want to add a couple of quick points.
One point is that the new Office for Safeguarding National Security, the OSNS, is made up of personnel sent by the mainland to supervise all the national security work. Not only are they not subject to Hong Kong jurisdiction, but they also hold an ID document of certification issued by the office, and any vehicle used by the holder is not subject to inspection, search or detention by Hong Kong law enforcement officers. There was an incident just a few days ago with Ted Hui, a Hong Kong legislator. He was being followed for days, as were other legislators, by people in unmarked or dark cars. He went to ask who they were and why they were following him. The car hit him and he called the police. The police arrived and tackled Ted Hui, the legislator, to the ground, and the car that hit him, which they did not stop for any questions, was escorted away. This is really very concerning.
The other requirement that I want to highlight, which hasn't been highlighted, is that the heads of the new departments of national security in the Hong Kong police must swear allegiance and to observe the obligation of secrecy. This is not very good for transparency and to address impunity, and for the good governance that's required for the business community, or for the protection of Canadian citizens, for the protections of all persons in Hong Kong.
Finally, we are really seeing, under the implementing regulations for article 43, that an already unaccountable Hong Kong Police Force has now been strengthened in the ways in which it can carry out its arrests.
I'll speak to extraterritoriality in a minute.
I think that Canadians and this committee will fully appreciate the problems of translation. The national security law in Hong Kong is the only law in Hong Kong SAR that has only the Chinese version as the legally authoritative version. However, if you look carefully at the English “translation” of the Hong Kong SAR government, there are errors, omissions and misleading translations into English.
For example, article 1 in Chinese, after listing the kinds of problems addressed by the law, has the term dang. Dang is not in the English. What is dang? It means “and other”. In other words, it's not a comprehensive list of what is being targeted by the law.
Also, in other provisions, gung tung, joint liability, is not in the English.
Also, in articles 9 and 10, “universities” does not exist in the Chinese. It has hok haau, schools. That is a problem because of the whole academic freedom debate now. In what way does the law apply to higher education institutions?
The other one that's misleading is that in Chinese, hoeng gong tung baau is translated as “Hong Kong people”. That is not Hong Kong people. Hoeng gong tung baau is Hong Kong compatriots, carrying all the resonances of the party.
On the implementation concerns, as I'm running out of time, I want to say this quickly. It is as if, in the rush to pass this law through, they took off in a plane and now they don't know how to land.
Many of the procedural and substantive issues, which I hope you can ask questions about, were not thought through or addressed. One of them, for example, is that we have a civil law system on the mainland predominantly, and a common law system in Hong Kong. It is trying to now merge jurisdiction, under article 55, for cases that will be tried on the mainland with a “Legalistic-Fascist-Stalinism” system, as described by China expert Barmé. Even the Supreme Court of Canada ensures that your judges have expertise in both civil and common law, and none of that exists.
Because I am out of time, let me jump to recommendations.
I have five recommendations for the committee to consider, and for the government.
First, all of the recommendations—working multilaterally, joint sanctions, targeted sanctions, safe haven, etc.—are extremely important and have been repeated very powerfully.
I have one national suggestion regarding the Confucius institutes. Recognizing that there are controversies—and I don't want to jump into domestic controversies—you may consider whether you want to adopt the Swedish approach, which is to close them all, or whether you want to adopt the U.S. approach, which is to designate them as “foreign missions”. This would send a message that's consistent with Canadian values and your commitment to freedom of expression.
We are out of time.
Regarding admonitions on using international human rights norms, institutions and values—this is to Mr. Harris's question on how we move China towards a more rules-based system—yes, it's long-term, but there are immediate opportunities. One is that the national security law of Hong Kong is the only mainland law that explicitly incorporates the ICCPR into the law. If we take article 4 seriously, we should look at opportunities, and the list of issues that has been issued by the standing committee as normative international concerns that the Canadian government can use. There is the Human Rights Council election. China is running. You should take a position on that. You can also use more extensively the existing platforms, the Inter-Parliamentary Union and the IPAC, of course.
I'm sorry, but I'm out of time. Please ask me questions about all the things I was not able to get to.