The Hong Kong Bar Association (HKBA), an influential group of barristers in the special administrative region, has expressed its concern over a new government proposal that would give “apparently unfettered power” to the immigration director. This means the director could stop a person from leaving the city, in an eerie echo of life behind the iron curtain and East Berlin during the Cold War.
According to The Guardian, the law would apply to any individual in Hong Kong, whether he or she is a resident or not. It would also apply to all forms of transportation carriers from the Asian financial hub.
In a public statement, the HKBA harshly criticized the new proposal, particularly since there was no reason given for the sudden decision to target immigration activities.
“It is particularly troubling that the grounds on which such an intrusive power may be exercised are not stated in the proposed legislation, and no explanation for why such a power is necessary, or even how it is intended to be used, is set out,” the organization wrote in the submission.
“If a new power to prevent Hong Kong residents and others from leaving the region is to be conferred… It should be for the courts, not the director, to decide when it is necessary and proportionate to impose a travel ban,” it added.
In addition, the HKBA argued that there were already existing laws that could stop a person from leaving the special administrative region, which includes seizing travel documents. The existing rule is one of the many recent reforms that Hong Kong has experienced after mainland China implemented several new security laws in an effort to exert more control over the city.
Meanwhile, critics of the suggested law are calling the move reminiscent of when much of Eastern Europe and Eurasia were under the control of the USSR following World War II. The communist nation had strict restrictions on allowing citizens to travel to the western world from what was referred to as the Iron Curtain.
The new proposal is particularly worrisome since many residents of the city have either fled or plan to leave due to China’s tightening grip. As a result, the United Kingdom has declared that any resident of the former British colony could receive citizenship to the U.K. — adding to the tense relationship between the country and the Middle Kingdom.
As was previously covered by The Inquisitr, another move that has signaled the frosty standing between the two nations is China’s decision to ban BBC World News after the U.K. similarly denied a network tied to the Chinese Communist Party airtime on British television.