Literal lawlessness in HK for PRC officials

Sometimes people misuse the word “literally”. Not me, at least not here.

Article 48 of the new Law of the People’s Republic of China on Safeguarding National Security in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region [Chinese | English] provides for the establishment within the territory of Hong Kong of a special Office for Safeguarding National Security. This Office is a mainland body like (for example) the Liaison Office, staffed by mainland officials appointed by mainland authorities. It has special investigative powers and can decide the scope of its own jurisdiction. It can send people back to China for processing (it would unduly dignify the proceedings to call them a “trial”) and sentencing in mainland institutions according to the Chinese Criminal Procedure Law.

Now check out Article 60 on the powers of the officials staffing this Office:

The acts performed in the course of duty by the Office for Safeguarding National Security of the Central People’s Government in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region and its staff in accordance with this Law shall not be subject to the jurisdiction of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region.

In the course of performing duty, a holder of an identification document or a document of certification issued by the Office and the articles including vehicles used by the holder shall not be subject to inspection, search or detention by law enforcement officers of the Region.

In other words, they are untouchable under Hong Kong law. This is real Gestapo-level stuff. And here’s the kicker: it would seem they are untouchable under mainland law as well. Suppose one such officer commits a deliberate homicide “in the course of duty”. Not liable under Hong Kong law. Well, what about the Criminal Law of the PRC? Unfortunately, the only PRC laws applicable in Hong Kong are those listed in Annex III to the Basic Law, and the Criminal Law is not listed there. Incredible. It seems that officials of the Office for Safeguarding National Security can move around Hong Kong in their own little lawless bubble.

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