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The Hong Kong National Security Law and the Struggle over Rule of Law and Democracy in Hong Kong

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Surabhi Chopra, Eva Pils

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)292-313
Number of pages22
JournalFederal Law Review
Issue number3
Early online date27 Jun 2022
Accepted/In press18 Oct 2020
E-pub ahead of print27 Jun 2022
PublishedSep 2022

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright: © The Author(s) 2022.

King's Authors


In this article, we examine the controversial national security law enacted by the People’s Republic of China for the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region in June 2020 and consider how this law interacts with two constitutional struggles that Hong Kong has experienced since its return to Chinese sovereignty in 1997. The first of these is a struggle over preserving rule of law principles protected in Hong Kong’s regional constitution, the Hong Kong Basic Law and international treaty obligations. The second is a struggle for democratisation, pursuant to constitutional commitments in the Basic Law. We argue that the national security law severely damages Hong Kong’s much-vaunted rule of law, as well as its ability to govern itself as a (relatively) liberal-democratic enclave within China. It muffles contestation over rule of law and democratic principles through facilitating rule by fear as a key modality of governance. The national security law expands the state’s coercive powers, and has the capacity to intimidate well beyond the letter of its provisions by creating rules and mechanisms to suspend legal protections altogether. Its provisions serve to reinscribe political discourse that has long been mainstream in Hong Kong as deviant. But at least as much as the NSL’s actual provisions, it is the loss of judicial scrutiny and the possibility of being transitioned into the Mainland legal system that operationalise rule by fear

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