The passport of a journalist who livestreamed the stabbing of a police officer outside the Sogo department store on July 1 was confiscated by Hong Kong national security police, according to the Standard news website on Thursday.
A magistrate’s court order under Article 43 of the draconian law imposed on Hong Kong by the ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP) on July 1, 2020, forced the former journalist of the online Vision Times, identified only as “Nina,” to surrender her travel documents.
The law allows the measure to be used against anyone who may be involved in a national security police investigation, and it has raised concerns that it could be widely used to intimidate and discriminate against journalists who cover sensitive news stories.
The Hong Kong Journalists’ Association (HKJA) stated that she was simply doing her job by recording a suspected crime, and that she had attended a police station on July 2 and given a statement to assist police with their investigations.
Officers then executed a warrant and searched her home, seizing various items, including a computer and a smartphone.
Nina, 56, is currently being investigated but has not been arrested, according to the report.
Ronny Tong, a member of the Executive Council, denied that the action was an abuse of police power.
“This is in accordance with legal procedures, and the person affected can, of course, apply for habeas corpus or file an appeal with the court,” Tong said.
“When it comes to national security, all rights can be reasonably limited… now that there is this law, and it is up to the courts to decide what is reasonable,” he said.
However, Eric Lai, a Hong Kong law fellow at Georgetown University’s Asia Law Center, believes the move is an indirect form of arrest that is inherently unfair.
“There has been no arrest or move by the police toward prosecution,” Lai told RFA. “What they’re doing amounts to an indirect form of arrest because it restricts the individual’s freedom.”
“If the police believe a person has broken the law, or the national security law, they should arrest them rather than confiscate their travel documents and restrict their freedom in this way,” he said.
“It appears that they are buying themselves time to gather sufficient evidence before arresting [her],” Lai said.
He claimed that Article 43 of the national security law could conflict with Hong Kong’s mini-constitution, the Basic Law, and local human rights laws.
“The implementation rules give police very broad powers… but without the usual constraints,” he explained. “Both the Basic Law and the Hong Kong Bill of Rights Ordinance protect the freedoms of entry and exit [from Hong Kong].”
On July 1, 50-year-old Leung Kin-fai stabbed himself to death outside the Sogo department store after knifing a police officer.
Officials have warned that anyone visibly mourning or sympathizing with his death may be violating national security laws, and the incident is being treated as a terrorist attack.
On Tuesday, a Hong Kong court convicted the first person tried under a draconian national security law imposed by Beijing on the city of “terrorism” and “inciting secession” after he flew a banned protest slogan from his motorcycle during protests against the law on July 1, 2020.
Tong Ying-kit, 24, was arrested by a group of police officers while riding his motorcycle in a protest against the law, carrying a flag that read “Free Hong Kong, revolution now!”
Tong was found guilty of inciting secession by a panel of three judges, but no jury, with his banner reading “Free Hong Kong, Revolution now!”
While the slogan of the 2019 protest movement may mean different things to different people, the fact that it can represent opposition to the ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCPcontrol) over the city was enough for the judges to convict Tong.
Prosecutors argued that the slogan “Free Hong Kong” implied that the city needed to be rescued from an enemy, the CCP, whereas “Revolution now!” implied a rejection of Chinese rule over the city.