Hong Kong’s National Security Law & The Conflict Between Chinese version And English Version
China’s parliament unanimously passed a brand new national security law for Hong Kong. The new law faced a lot of criticism from the general media and International community, mainly because of two key elements;
- The first is that the law is a bit too vague
- And secondly, it is extremely broad
- And thirdly the Chinese version of the law would supersede the English version
When a particular law is indefinite and broad, it can be interpreted in almost any way. Hence, making it very dangerous.
Let us discuss some of the impacts of the new security law;
Open To Interpretation
If you study the new law, you will find that the following tenets pose a threat to national security, hence will be punishable by death or life imprisonment;
- Collusion with foreign forces
However, these felonies are so widely explained that they can succumb to any interpretation that might be politically motivated. It can be misused against human rights. Meanwhile, tweaked to discriminate against certain individuals by the opposition.
Misuse of the Law
Right after the National security law was passed, Hong Kong was subjected to unfair treatment of basic civil rights such as peaceful protest.
Anyone who was seen carrying a slogan that contained a particular sentiment or slogan of another political party was immediately arrested. If the officials were asked to explain the reason behind this aggression, they stated that it could jeopardize the national security of the state, as per the new national security regulations.
Restricted Freedom of Speech
The new national security law gives power to the Chinese government over the freedom of media and other private outlets and institutions. This has been considered by many as the ultimate oppression of freedom of expression.
The New York Times shifted its operational office from Hong Kong amid security concerns. Moreover, the media industry believes that their freedom has been constrained, which defies the core principles of press freedom.
If we talk about the restrictions that have been imposed on students, it is quite depressing. The government has banned any student union that might support any anti-state narrative. Students are not allowed to express their disconcert with any government policy. Furthermore, if any student is seen to advocate the sentiments of any political party, he shall have to face a disciplinary charge.
Moreover, University portals or any online website that contains content pertaining to political debates will be removed by law enforcement agencies. Consequently, a lot of the social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter have been suspended as well.
One aspect of the National security law states that any accused individual could be tried under the mainland law. Initially, when this law was introduced, it causes a lot of riots and protests back in 2019.
The reason why the citizens have shown their discontent with this law is due to a lack of transparency. An accused is taken away and kept in secrecy. And he or she does not have the option to contact his family members. Moreover, he is also not given his basic right to get a lawyer that could defend him in court. This measure often leads to reports of illegal torture and mistreatment.
Change of Medium of Communication from English To Chinese
The National security law was available in two languages; English and Chinese. However, after approval from the state, the Chinese version of the law will completely govern and overpower the English translation.
Mistakes And Irregularities
Initially, equal importance was given to both versions. But as per some professionals, mistakes and irregularities were prevalent in both of the versions. Many experts proclaimed the draft to be very badly drafted. For some, it was difficult to even comprehend the text.
English To Be The Reference Document
After the security law was passed, and the decision was made, the official document did not have any English translation available. However, a new agency tried its best to translate the text from Chinese to English but claimed it to be a reference document that lacked any substantial official standing.
Three days post the release of the official document, the English version of the security law was released. This delay made the statement that the Chinese National Security law version will eventually succeed the English version.
Law Does Not Discriminate
If you are curious about which is the official language of Hong Kong, then you would be surprised to know that it is both English and Chinese. Hence, as per law, both of the languages hold the same status.
But the justice department stated that Chinese will be considered the security law’s official language. The major reason behind this decision was to promulgate the notion of linguistic nationalism.
Justice Department Does Not Have The Jurisdiction
On the other hand, many objected to the decision made by the justice department. And stated that it does not have the jurisdiction to decide that Chinese should be preferred over English as the official language. Experts claimed that the discrepancies are prevalent. For instance, in the national security document, the word “universities” is used in the English version, and “school” is used in the Chinese version. Such differences can scale to bigger issues if not handled properly.
Article 29 Of The National Security Act
If you study Article 29 of the National security Act in the English version it will state that any party, whether it be a single individual, an entire organization, or an institution will be subjected to a similar punishment if they colluded with a foreign party to commit a crime that affects the national security of the state.
However, if one studies the same article in the Chinese version, it differentiates the roles of each party in the offense. And each party will be subjected to punishment according to the contribution and role of the entity.
This shows that the Chinese interpretation of the National security law is completely different from the English version. Hence, adequate steps need to be taken so that only one version is applied in every case. When the national security law is read by other lawyers from overseas, it should give one straight message.
Chinese Version Would Succeed The English Version
The decision by the government would eventually supersede. And the Chinese version would become the only official version. Many experts have stated that if there appears to be any discrepancy in understanding the text, the better choice would be to refer to the original Chinese version. However, if the law is to be understood in English, then the Chinese authorities will oversee and approve the English translations.
The National security law has faced a lot of criticism from the general public of Hong Kong, as well as the global community. Some people claim it to be reminiscent of a Draconian law.
The government of South Korea has claimed that it is all subject to interpretation. If the Chinese version is adopted as the official version, it will clear out a lot of ambiguities. Most of the interpretations that are done in the English language are unable to grasp the linguistic intricacies of the Chinese law, hence they are often misunderstood, and then mistranslated.
In this article, we discussed how the Chinese version of the national security law will succeed the English version. Moreover, we also discussed some of the major tenets of the new law. And how it is going to affect the human crisis in Hong Kong, as well as the rest of the world.
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