KEY POINTS

  • China imposed its new national security law for Hong Kong on Tuesday
  • Section 38 of the new law allows the arrest and imprisonment of non-residents critical of China
  • Sen. Marco Rubio warned Americans against travel to Hong Kong as they risk arrest

Beijing can arrest foreign critics of China's communist government under the new national security law in Hong Kong if they enter the island, even briefly while traveling to other destinations. A U.S. senator has now warned Americans planning to travel to Hong Kong of the dangers of the new law.

Under Section 38 of the law, which was imposed Tuesday (June 30) , anyone who makes negative statements about the Chinese government may be subjected to legal penalties, including life imprisonment, once they are in Hong Kong as their anti-China sentiments are considered a crime in the region, effective July 1, 2020.

"This law shall apply to offenses under this law committed against the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region from outside the region by a person who is not a permanent resident of the region," a line under Section 38 stated, according to the government news agency Xinhua.

The new national security law covers crimes like terrorist activities, collusion with a foreign country, subversion and secession. However, its scope is so wide-ranging that a speech or statement against China could put critics, both residents and non-residents, at risk.

CNN reported that the law was set in place because Beijing believes that "foreign forces" are behind the protests and street demonstrations in Hong Kong against the China government since November last year. The law has mad ethe tiny island in the south of China is no longer a safe space for dissidents.

Global legal eagles said this new security law will change the legal system of Hong Kong, allowing mainland operatives to make arrests in the region with impunity.

PRC_and_Hong_Kong_flags China imposes a new national security law in Hong Kong effective July 1, 2020. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

"Its criminal provisions are worded in such a broad manner as to encompass a swath of what has so far been considered protected speech," said NPC Observer, a group of legal experts based in the U.S. and Hong Kong.

On Wednesday (July 1), Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., posted a tweet with a video to warn Americans planning to travel to Hong Kong.

"What this basically says now, that law now says that whether you’re a Chinese citizen or resident in Hong Kong or not, if you have said things or done things critical of the Chinese government and you step foot in Hong Kong, they now reserve the right to arrest you," Rubio said in his statement. "Being arrested by Chinese authorities is not like being arrested by American authorities — you can be put in indefinite detention, obviously it's not going to be a real trial.”

Hong Kong's Chief Executive Carrie Lam has defended the new national security law and said that the region needs it to end the chaos and violence of the protests. She regards the legislation as a turning point that will align Hong Kong with the practices of the mainland.