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Hong Kong Intelligence Report #125 Reviewing 2024 Hong Kong Policy Act Report 

Updated: Apr 16

Open-source intelligence (OSINT)

Hong Kong Intelligence Report #125 Review of 2024 Hong Kong Policy Act Report
FILE PHOTO: Two girls with USA flag © Envato

🔻 IMPORTANT 【重要】2024 Hong Kong Policy Act Report 

 

▪️  Daniel Kritenbrink, the Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs of the Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs (EAP, originally the Office of Chinese Affairs) under The United States Department of State (DOS) published the 2024 Hong Kong Policy Act Report on March 29, 2024. Unfortunately, this valuable report is just routinely mistreated by HKSARG while it contains definitively meaningful content in both information and intelligence regarding the national security of this city. There are many imperative answers in this report even though it’s mostly based on open-source materials that every daily news follower of this city during the covered period between February 2023 and December 2023 is undoubtedly familiar with. Before analyzing some parts of 2024 Hong Kong Policy Act Report , there are several points that must be shown:

 

1.    The report is mostly open-sourced, yet it contains insider information and consciousness of the writer(s) in some categories. The latter is important simply because it’s unreported by the media. 


2.    The question of the U.S. plan of a major political event in Hong Kong is nothingness and void of content, for the U.S. clearly has no intention of launching any political movement here temporarily because of the report itself. Three factors plus one are securing the tranquilities and mutual interests between the U.S. and Hong Kong, which are commercial/trade policy, internet freedom, freedom of religion, cooperation of law enforcement on transnational crimes etc. Hence, in the foreseeable future, there will be no political campaign against Hong Kong. 


3.    The total unmentioned legislation of article 23 is due to the covered period, and it still lacks any individuality to evaluate its actual impact. However, the center of this political report is around law enforcement and court trials of HKNSL against the Hong Kong opposition figures, and it even includes transnational repressions. In entirety, the ratified article 23, Safeguarding National Security Ordinance is less severe than HKNSL and the harshest one is still HKNSL for the U.S. This is explicit in dealing with companies. For HKNSL, it can directly deal with companies under the Companies Ordinance; for SNSO, it can’t directly regulate companies under the Companies Ordinance. Instead, it depends on interpretation by the Secretary for Security Bureau of a targeted company as either the society or the banned group category. They interpreted Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China as a society and removed the company registration after the decision by the Executive Council. Yet it still doesn’t mean that SNSO can directly deal with companies. This is critically different between the two major national security laws that are gravely concerned by capitalists. This compromise created a loophole such as, for instance, Dell hiring NSA staff as its contractors or staff as Snowden once did in Japan. Dell is also operating in Hong Kong; thus, it can equally serve the IC of the U.S. However, under SNSO, it’s rationally hard to interpret Dell into another Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China. Thus, HKSARG deliberately made this room or loophole in the law for companies under the Companies Ordinance.  


4.    It’s basically a political report on the implementation of HKNSL during the covered period. And a significant feature is that it totally lacks any class analysis. Their permanent bureaucracy always sees things from the viewpoint of nationalism and their categories are the same as the Annual Threat Report of the IC. Moreover, it doesn’t mention any grave livelihood issues and the notorious deep-seated contradiction, the housing issue (its nature is the chain reactions between ultra-high land prices, the ultra-high housing prices, the ultra-high rents, and the ultra-high commodity prices). This can be understandable, while the U.S. government has zero responsibility for governing this city. The U.S. is solely responsible for the well-being of its nationals and their businesses in Hong Kong. This is also a critical point if the U.S. takes any political action on Hong Kong. The reporting side is satisfied in key factors, and there is no requirement from the U.S. capitalists to launch any political campaign in this city at present. 


5.    The vast major part of the report is dominated by the HKNSL reports on how it apprehends and treats the opposition figures in the national security category. Its proportion itself also indicates that the U.S. still carefully treats the entire population of this city. The real confrontation and politically the worst situation will come when the U.S. totally abandons the Hong Kong opposition or pro-Democracy people in this city and globally, the democratic potentialities of this city for implementing universal suffrage, and the trust in its population. However, fortunately, there is still a distance from that phase in contrast to the growing amount of Chinese propaganda. From this point of view, the report is the political indicator. 


🔻 NEWS / FACTs 【新聞/事實】

 

▪️ Summary

 

There remain key differences between Hong Kong and mainland China in some areas, including commercial and trade policy, internet freedom, and freedom of religion, but PRC and Hong Kong authorities continued to use “national security” as a broad and vague basis to undermine the rule of law and protected rights and freedoms.  Authorities further restricted direct voting. 

 

[…] PRC authorities denied people in Hong Kong a meaningful role in the city’s governance, administering new rules that significantly limited the number of directly elected District Councilors and introducing a new nominating process that effectively barred independent and non-establishment candidates from running for office.

 

In the city of multifaceted compradors, even the pro-establishment clowns are representing both China and the Western capitalist interests. Thus, both the warring camps are exploiting the authoritarian permanent bureaucratic dictatorship run by corporatists who solely depend on political appointments by their small circle of ruling class friends. Therefore, they are representatives of their own class and its executive center, not people. The point is simply the fatal lack of universal suffrage, a lack of democratic legitimacy in the entire establishment.

 

▪️ Impact on Democratic Institutions and Universal Suffrage

 

New election rules in 2023 severely limited the role of voters, the ability of candidates to run for office, and the eventual role of directly elected representatives.  Most notably, the proportion of district councilors elected by the public was reduced from nearly 95 percent to less than 20 percent. 

 

[…] Voter turnout in December 10 District Council elections (27.5 percent) hit a record low, beating the previous record for low turnout in 1988 (30.3 percent) and far below the record high in 2019 (71.2 percent), when pro-democracy candidates won by a landslide.

 

Again, the point is the critical lack of democratic legitimacy in the establishment of this city. Corporatist bureaucratic authoritarianism based on monopolist oligarchy is an accurate political diagnosis for One Country-Two systems can be seen in both Hong Kong and Macao. A permanent bureaucracy without a democratically elected administration is essentially antagonistic towards the people without any effective governing rights. This is also not any kind of Marxist creation, while it totally excludes the working class and the entire proletariat from the power structure.

 

 ▪️ Impact on Police and Security Functions

 

In December 2023, the Hong Kong government amended NSL implementation rules to expand its powers to seize assets. The NSL authorizes the Chief Executive to formulate implementation details without the need for scrutiny by the Legislative Council.  The amendment allowed the Secretary of Security to freeze property of anyone convicted of national security offenses until the conclusion of that individual’s legal proceedings.

 

There is still a mystery about why the U.S. still doesn’t sanction all the legislative council members who are well known to be rubber stamps of all legislative proposals of the HKSARG. Recently, many pro-Democracy netizens expressed their complaints about the range of sanctions. The reason is the ‘patriots’ in the legislative council are representing both China and Western capitalists operating in this city, thus it’s unwise to overtly antagonize them.

 

▪️ Impact on Judicial Independence and the Rule of Law

 

Local authorities implemented an NSL provision requiring that the Hong Kong Chief Executive establish a list of judges to handle any cases concerning national security-related offenses.  Although Hong Kong’s judiciary selects the specific judge(s) from this list to hear any individual case, legal scholars argued this unprecedented involvement of the Chief Executive weakens Hong Kong’s judicial independence.  

 

It’s just confirmation of the lack of separation of powers as there has been no democratically established governing system in this place at all from 1841 until today. A simple answer. The problem is realized when HKSARG and ‘patriots’ pretend to deny the lack of democracy. Non-democracy should be honestly admitted.

 

▪️ Impact on Freedom of Speech or Expression

 

 According to a court document, some of those posts were made before the July 2020 implementation of the NSL, dating back to September 2018.  

 

[…] Hong Kong authorities prosecuted people for possessing books that they claimed included “seditious content.”  In September 2023, police invoked a colonial offense of “importing seditious publications” for the first time to charge a man who received 18 copies of “Sheep Village,” a children’s picture book a Hong Kong court previously ruled was seditious.

 

Any 2019 protest-related symbols themselves – the particular thinghood - became conscious targets of political persecution in this city and even became a custom in the political sphere. Furthermore, HKNSL doesn’t pose any retroactive power, yet it doesn’t exclude supplements from the distant past to support the effective claim even though they themselves are presented as non-evidence.

 

▪️ Impact on Freedom of the Speech

 

More than 150 foreign news outlets received complaint letters from the Hong Kong government during the year, citing articles and editorials about the local government, the NSL, and major events in Hong Kong.  These letters, often under the name of the Chief Executive or other high-level officials, characterized the reporting and editorials as “grossly biased,” “groundless allegations,” or as having “reached new levels of nastiness.”  

 

[…] In May 2023, the Foreign Correspondents’ Club, which suspended its annual Human Right Press Awards in 2022 after hosting it for 25 years, issued a set of guidelines for the club’s and club members’ statements on press freedom issues.  These guidelines include seeking legal advice and contacting the Hong Kong government ahead of publication.

 

The U.S. media norm for handling national security related materials or state secrets is introduced by the FCC here. A similar practice is that the Japanese media is subject to consultation with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs before reporting international news. The FCC’s guidelines do fit the new political situation under SNSO.  

 

▪️ Impact on Internet Freedom

 

Hong Kong authorities did not generally disrupt open access to the internet, but there were numerous reports that Hong Kong authorities, exercising powers granted by the NSL, required private companies to block access to certain websites, provide user information, and remove political content.  For example, in September 2023, lawyer and human rights activist Samuel Bickett’s Substack blog Hong Kong Law and Policy became inaccessible from Hong Kong.

 

It’s still the reality that Hong Kong Law and Policy is unavailable. This is a trivial while the U.S. FISA the surveillance act and global surveillance by the U.S. are still intact in Hong Kong. Both HKNSL and SNSO, especially the latter, only limitedly criminalize global surveillance on the establishment and do not protect any individuality from any foreign intelligence agencies.

 

▪️ Impact on Freedom of Assembly

 

Under Hong Kong law, organizers of public meetings and demonstrations are required to apply for a “letter of no objection” from police, but the police did not issue any such letters to groups not affiliated with the PRC or Hong Kong governments during the covered period, effectively banning all non-government sanctioned protests.  Until COVID-19 restrictions were lifted in March 2023, authorities cited such restrictions to refuse authorization for assemblies, although civil rights organizations said the intent of the denials was aimed at preventing political gatherings rather than promoting public health.

 

In March 2023, police approved the city’s first rally since the lifting of COVID-19 restrictions, allowing a protest of a reclamation plan, but the government required all participants to march without masks (and therefore be more publicly visible) and limited participation to 100 persons, all of whom had to wear a number tag.

 

It’s perfectly true that any demonstrations without pro-China, state-run demonstrations are unimaginable under circumstances in terms of their effectiveness, while the whole establishment is filled with corporatists who are not any kind of people’s representatives but only depend on political appointments from above. Thus, the effectiveness of any independent demonstrations is eroded in this way.  

 

▪️ Impact on Freedom of Assembly

 

In February 2023, the International Trade Union Confederation condemned the significant regression of union rights in Hong Kong, including a wave of union dissolutions and state-run media attacks on the Confederation of Trade Unions and the HKJA.  

 

Oriental Daily reported this tendency superficially, a wave of union dissolutions from the point of view of the 2019 protest. The union is the worker’s union, yet the main difficulties in general are from the loopholes of the labor law and the weak position of the worker’s union, especially the lack of the right to a collective bargain.

 

▪️ Impact on Freedom of Movement

 

There were reports that authorities denied entry to individuals based on their perceived links to the 2019 pro-democracy protests and international human rights organizations.  

 

That’s basically due to the proven links and contributions to the 2019 protest which were recorded and shared by law enforcement authorities. 

 

▪️ Impact on Education and Academic Freedom

 

In accordance with the NSL, the Hong Kong Education Bureau implemented a national security education curriculum at all grade levels in government-funded schools, as well as, to a lesser extent, in international and private schools.  

 

This was further consolidated on April 8, 2024, as the HKSARG announced, a patriotic education body established. Nationalism under corporatist bureaucratic authoritarianism will only promote class collaboration in the growing huge rich and poor wealth gaps of this city. Indeed, it’ll be suppressive for the working class.


▪️ Impact on Freedom of Religion or Belief

 

Hong Kong authorities generally respected freedom of religion or belief.  During the covered period, most religious leaders and advocates stated the NSL did not negatively impact religious practitioners’ ability to worship without government interference.  However, religious leaders reported that they increasingly practice self-censorship, including by avoiding political topics in their sermons and not appointing clergy deemed to be critical of the government. 

 

Unfortunately, the so-called pro-establishment media, including the state media, are now antagonizing Judaism due to the ongoing Israeli-Hamas conflict as China growingly stands with the Hamas terrorist side against Israel. Yet, there is still unheard of any political suppression by HKSARG directly against any religion.  

 

▪️ Impact on U.S.-Hong Kong Exchanges

 

U.S. institutions conducted a wide range of nongovernmental academic, cultural, educational, and scientific exchanges with Hong Kong counterparts.  Public and private universities in Hong Kong offer opportunities for students to study in the United States, including semester-long reciprocal exchanges with U.S. universities as well as joint degree and group exchanges organized through academic departments. U.S. Department of State professional-level exchanges are returning to pre-pandemic levels, with the exception of the U.S.-Hong Kong/Macau Fulbright exchange program, which remains suspended by E.O. 13936.

 

So academic, cultural, educational, scientific exchanges between the U.S. and Hong Kong are still intact under HKNSL and SNSO. Any decoupling or blockage is in no place. 

 

▪️ Impact on U.S. Citizens

 

In 2023, an estimated 84,000 U.S. citizens lived in Hong Kong.  That number has rebounded to approximately the same number as before the COVID-19 pandemic.

 

[…] Some U.S. citizens with ties to people or organizations that have been critical of the Hong Kong or PRC central governments were held and questioned by immigration authorities upon entering Hong Kong regarding their local contacts and refused entry into Hong Kong. 

 

On the entry ban, the point is obviously the identity of their local contacts from the point of view of the law enforcement. Another U.S. ally also experienced a population rebound in comparison to the pre-HKNSL or COVID phase. Thus, it's not limited in the U.S. case. 

 

▪️ U.S.-Hong Kong Cooperation and Agreements

 

The United States and Hong Kong continue to maintain several bilateral agreements regarding issues such as taxation, parcel delivery, and air transportation services.  In 2020, Hong Kong authorities notified the U.S. government of their purported suspension of an agreement concerning mutual legal assistance in criminal affairs.

 

During the covered period, the Hong Kong government ignored or denied pending official requests the U.S. government had made for mutual legal assistance under the UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime and UN Convention against Corruption, and the U.S. government made no new requests under these conventions.  U.S. law enforcement had very limited official engagement with the HKPF National Security Department during the covered period.  U.S. law enforcement agencies made efforts to liaise with Hong Kong law enforcement counterparts and had limited cooperation in the fields of counter trafficking in persons, trade fraud, wildlife trafficking, child exploitation, drug trafficking, intellectual property rights theft, financial crimes, and money laundering.

 

It’s one of the critical ties between the two. The joint law enforcement is basically maintained against TCOs because this is the category in which any political decoupling or blockade is fatal for both people, as the biggest benefactor / beneficiary of the U.S.-China contradiction is the TCOs.

 

▪️ Sanctions Engagement

 

The United States communicated with Hong Kong authorities through demarches and notifications on issues involving sanctions implementation, including with respect to actions taken by the Department of the Treasury against several Hong Kong-registered entities under sanctions authorities related to China, Russia, and Iran.  While the Hong Kong government maintained during the covered period that it would only implement UN sanctions, not “unilateral” sanctions such as U.S. designations, the Hong Kong Monetary Authority has clarified for banks that while they are under no legal obligation to observe foreign government unilateral sanctions, banks need to establish and implement policies for their Hong Kong businesses that are informed by a thorough assessment of any legal, business, and commercial risks involved.

 

In fact, banks in Hong Kong execute U.S. sanctions against designated targets in this city.  

 

▪️ Actions Taken by the U.S. Government

 

Since the imposition of the NSL in June 2020, the U.S. government has imposed financial sanctions on 42 PRC and Hong Kong officials under E.O. 13936, 39 of whom were identified pursuant to section 5(a) of the Hong Kong Autonomy Act, in connection with actions or policies that threaten the peace, security, stability, or autonomy of Hong Kong. Under Section 7 of the E.O., those designated for financial sanctions and their immediate family members are also subject to visa restrictions. 

 

While their immediate family members are known to be Western passport holders, the visa restrictions are only symbolic. The point is that the U.S. still doesn’t sanction all legislative council members and Executive Council members who are rubber stamps for the responsible bureaucrats in any way.

 

▪️ Areas of Remaining Autonomy

 

Even though the PRC continued its efforts to erode the rights and freedoms it promised for Hong Kong under the Basic Law and the Sino-British Joint Declaration, key policy differences remained between Hong Kong and mainland China, including in the areas of commercial and trade policy, internet access, and freedom of religion.

 

Hong Kong continued to exercise authority in the implementation of commercial agreements and practiced free and open trade, with negligible tariff or non-tariff barriers.  Commercial and civil aspects of the Hong Kong legal system continued to be based on common-law traditions, though the continued enforcement of the NSL, as well as the NPCSC’s December 2022 interpretation of the NSL, raised serious concerns about the judicial system’s continued independence.  Hong Kong’s extensive body of commercial and company law generally follows that of the United Kingdom, including the common law and rules of equity.  Most statutory law is made locally.  The local court system provides for effective enforcement of contracts, dispute settlement, and protection of rights.  Foreign and domestic companies register under the same rules and are subject to the same set of business regulations.  Property rights were well-protected in law and practice.  Hong Kong maintained its own currency, pegged to the U.S. dollar.  The Hong Kong Monetary Authority set monetary policy autonomously from the People’s Bank of China, and Hong Kong’s financial regulators continued to act independently from their mainland China counterparts.

 

Hong Kong sets its own data regulations and does not have any broad data localization requirements.  Under mainland China’s cross-border data transfer requirements, Hong Kong is considered outside of China and is treated the same as foreign jurisdictions.

 

The Hong Kong government appears to have wide latitude in setting policies on climate and green finance, and the city has set climate disclosure requirements that are stricter than mainland China’s and aligned with international best practices.

 

It’s the best compliment to the Financial Secretary of Hong Kong, Paul Chan Mo-po, without mentioning his name here. Of course, Paul is not antagonizing the West and even defending the U.S. interest in this city in the economic field. However, his popularity was and still is in jeopardy after the political exchange between the smooth legislation of article 23 and the withdrawal of the anti-speculation tax. In general, the U.S. is not in any way standing against the real estate oligarchy of Hong Kong with no stance on it.  

 

▪️ Export Controls

 

Between February 1, 2023, and December 31, 2023, BIS identified and designated 39 entities located in Hong Kong that provided support for a foreign military acting contrary to U.S. foreign policy and national security.  As a result, a BIS license is required for certain exports, reexports, and in-country transfers when a party has knowledge that a military end user is a party to the transaction (e.g., as purchaser, intermediate consignee, ultimate consignee, or end user).

 

This is occasionally reported, as we know.  It’s nothing unusual to designate and sanction any entities engaging in transactions with both state and non-state actors who are endangering the national security of the country.

 

🔻 COMMENT 【評語】

 

In short, the 2024 Hong Kong Policy Act Report proved that the U.S. has no plan to launch any political campaign in this city in the foreseeable future and strategic ties between the U.S. and Hong Kong are generally maintained in contrast to the official political rhetoric. Therefore, there is still a distance from the full-fledged conflict with the U.S. at least from this city.


 

Hong Kong Intelligence Report #125 Reviewing 2024 Hong Kong Policy Act Report 

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