National security police in Hong Kong have confiscated the passport of a journalist who livestreamed the stabbing of a police officer outside the Sogo department store on July 1, the Standard news website reported Thursday.
The former journalist with the online Vision Times, identified only as "Nina," was forced to surrender their travel documents by a magistrate's court order under Article 43 of the draconian law, which was imposed on Hong Kong by the ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP) from July 1, 2020.
The law provides for the measure to be applied for anyone who may form part of a national security police investigation, and has sparked concern that it could be widely applied to intimidate and discriminate against journalists who report on sensitive news stories.
The Hong Kong Journalists' Association (HKJA) said she had been merely doing her job by recording a suspected crime, and she had attended a police station on July 2, where she gave a statement aimed at assisted police with their enquiries, it said.
Officers then searched her home under a warrant, seizing various items including a computer and a smartphone.
Nina, 56, is currently under investigation but hasn't been arrested, the report said.
Executive Council member Ronny Tong denied that the move was an abuse of police power.
"This is in line with legal procedures, and naturally the person affected can apply for habeas corpus or lodge an appeal with the court," Tong said.
"When it comes to national security, all rights can be reasonably restricted ... now that there is this law, and it is up to court to decide what is reasonable," he said.
Eric Lai, a Hong Kong law fellow at the Asia Law Center of Georgetown University, said the move is an indirect form of arrest, however, which is inherently unfair.
"There has been no arrest or move towards prosecution by the police," Lai told RFA. "What they're doing is tantamount to an indirect form of arrest, because it restricts the freedom of the individual concerned."
"If they police believe the person has broken the law, or the national security law, then they should go ahead and arrest them, not confiscate their travel documents and restrict their freedom that way," he said.
"It looks as if they may be buying themselves time to gather enough evidence before arresting [her]," Lai said.
Basic Law conflict
He said Article 43 of the national security law was potentially in conflict with Hong Kong's mini-constitution, the Basic Law, and local human rights laws.
"The implementation rules give police very sweeping powers ... but without being subject to the usual restrictions," he said. "Both the Basic Law and the Hong Kong Bill of Rights Ordinance guarantee the freedoms of entry and exit [into Hong Kong]."
On July 1, 50-year-old Leung Kin-fai stabbed himself to death after knifing a policeman outside the Sogo department store.
Officials have warned that anyone visibly mourning or sympathizing with his death could be breaking the national security law, and are treating the incident as a terrorist attack.
A court in Hong Kong on Tuesday convicted the first person to be tried under a draconian national security law imposed on the city by Beijing of "terrorism" and "inciting secession" after he flew a banned protest slogan from his motorbike during protests against the law on July 1, 2020.
Tong Ying-kit, 24, was arrested by a group of police officers as he rode a motorbike at a protest against the law, carrying a flag bearing the words "Free Hong Kong, revolution now!"
A panel of three judges, but no jury, found Tong guilty of having incited secession with his banner reading "Free Hong Kong, Revolution now!"
The judges found that while the slogan of the 2019 protest movement may mean different things to different people, the fact that it can represent resistance to the ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP)'s control over the city was enough to convict Tong.
Prosecutors had argued that the "Free Hong Kong" part of the slogan on Tong's flag implied the city needed to be rescued from an enemy, the CCP, while "Revolution now!" implied a rejection of Chinese rule over the city.
Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.
This content originally appeared on Radio Free Asia and was authored by By Emily Chan and Lau Siu Fung.