Taiwan, post-HK

The imposition of a sweeping Chinese legislation in Hong Kong has unnerved Taiwan, deepening fears that Beijing will focus on capturing the island. Like Hong Kong, Taiwan has morphed from a brutal autocracy into one of Asia’s most progressive democracies. Younger Taiwanese tend to be especially wary of its huge authoritarian neighbour. Therefore, Taiwanese support for the movement for democracy in Hong Kong is understandable. If China makes Taiwan its next target, it would not be surprising. However, if Beijing takes recourse to similar measures in Taiwan, it would have serious geopolitical consequences and the implications would be far-reaching.

The Statesman
Date: July 11, 2020
By: Rajaram Panda

Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen speaks during a press conference at the presidential office in Taipei on January 22, 2020. (Photo by Sam Yeh / AFP)

China’s belligerence is evident yet again. This time it was Hong Kong that found itself in the receiving end of Chinese wrath. The world has witnessed the aggressive Chinese posture in South China Sea, on Taiwan, threats to Japan over Senkaku Islands, stand-off with India over the border, trade disputes with the United States and now the sweeping new National Security Law for Hong Kong that it passed on 30 June in haste.

In 116-pages of guidelines released on 6 July, China has expanded police surveillance and enforcement powers in Hong Kong. These form part of the new law targeting subversion, secession, terrorism and foreign collusion. This single legislative measure negates all the terms and conditions agreed upon during the 1997 handover agreement by Britain to China. What are the key powers granted to the authorities when conducting national security investigations? Police can now raid premises without a courtgranted warrant in “exceptional circumstances”.

The guidelines specifically states this would apply if it “would not be practicable to obtain” a warrant. The rules also apply to searches of vehicles or electronic devices. Police now have the power to remove online content, a move that accords unprecedented control over the Internet. If users or providers do not follow the police order, officers can apply to a magistrate for a warrant to seize the relevant electronic devices and take action to remove the message. Individuals who do not obey the order are liable to be fined up to $12,900 or jailed for up to a year.

Jail terms for service providers are capped at six months. The guidelines also spelt out provisions for asset seizures and travel restrictions. If someone is suspected of endangering national security, police can apply to a magistrate for a warrant ordering them to surrender their passport. The city’s security chief can also freeze any assets deemed to be related to an offence against national security, and the justice chief can apply to the courts to order the confiscation of property. There are conditions for foreign political organisations as well.

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