The Hong Kong National Security Law: Rule by Fiat and Fear

On 30 June 2020, the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress of the People’s Republic of China enacted the Law of the People's Republic of China on Safeguarding National Security in the Hong Kong S.A.R (“the NSL”). The NSL was a response to political protest that engulfed Hong Kong in 2019. While ostensibly aimed at quelling a crisis, it has prompted disquiet about Hong Kong’s legal-political trajectory, both locally and internationally. We suggest the NSL marks a caesura in Hong Kong’s intertwined constitutional struggles: the struggle for democratic governance and the struggle to sustain rule of law. We argue that the substance of the NSL as well as the manner of its enactment profoundly damage the Hong Kong Basic Law’s already faltering status as a regional constitution. We highlight factors that make rule of law in Hong Kong fundamentally brittle, and problematize the concepts of hybrid constitutionalism and authoritarian legality based on the Hong Kong experience.