The Biden administration warned American companies with operations in Hong Kong of risks induced by Chinese government control of the city.
Last year, the Chinese Communist Party enacted the “Hong Kong National Security Law” which, according to the Biden administration, tightened penalties for “secession” and “subversion.” Despite widespread protests that garnered international attention, the law gutted individual rights for citizens of Hong Kong.
In a joint statement, the Department of the Treasury, Department of Homeland Security, Department of State, and Department of Commerce warned American companies about the “growing risks” of operating in Hong Kong.
The statement reads:
As noted in the Department of State’s 2021 Hong Kong Policy Act Report, the PRC’s imposition of the NSL on Hong Kong in June 2020 led to major structural changes that significantly reduced Hong Kong’s autonomy. As a result, business and rule of law risks that were formerly limited to mainland China are now increasingly a concern in Hong Kong.
Hong Kong authorities have arrested foreign nationals under the NSL, including one U.S. citizen. Those arrested may have travel documents confiscated and may be prevented from departing Hong Kong. Additionally, the Legislative Council passed an amendment to immigration law on April 28, effective August 1, which could potentially allow Hong Kong authorities to place exit bans on individuals seeking to depart the country, including non-residents.
Particular risks surround the issue of data privacy:
The NSL introduced a heightened risk of PRC and Hong Kong authorities using expanded legal authorities to collect data from businesses and individuals in Hong Kong for actions that may violate “national security.” Hong Kong authorities have, to date, interpreted “national security” to include participating in primary elections, calling for political steps specifically protected by the Basic Law, posting opinions on social media, and meeting with members of the diplomatic community.
The NSL empowers Hong Kong law enforcement to conduct searches, including of electronic devices, for evidence in national security cases, and the NSL permits Hong Kong law enforcement to require Internet service providers to provide or delete data and other information relevant to national security cases, both without judicial oversight. Furthermore, businesses and individuals should be aware that the NSL authorizes the Office for Safeguarding National Security, which is staffed by PRC security services, to collect data in Hong Kong.
The Biden administration’s warning comes as China openly heightens its global ambitions.
In a recent speech commemorating the Chinese Communist Party’s 100th anniversary, President Xi Jinping laid out a plan for a “peaceful national reunification” with Taiwan: “We must take resolute action to utterly defeat any attempt toward ‘Taiwan independence,’ and work together to create a bright future for national rejuvenation. No one should underestimate the resolve, the will, and the ability of the Chinese people to defend their national sovereignty and territorial integrity.”
Xi also touted the nation’s plans to bolster its military: “The people’s military has made indelible achievements on behalf of the Party and the people. It is a strong pillar for safeguarding our socialist country and preserving national dignity, and a powerful force for protecting peace in our region and beyond. On the journey ahead, we must fully implement the Party’s thinking on strengthening the military in the new era as well as our military strategy for the new era, maintain the Party’s absolute leadership over the people’s armed forces, and follow a Chinese path to military development.”