Wu Rwei-ren, a researcher at Academia Sinica, said this shows that “the laws promulgated by the CCP are very different from those in democratic countries.”
By Yang Yuan-ting and Kayleigh Madjar / Journalist, with editor-in-chief
Chinese state media accused an Academia Sinica researcher of violating Hong Kong’s national security law, becoming the first Taiwanese scholar to be implicated under the legislation.
Hong Kong-based pro-Beijing Ta Kung Pao on Thursday berated the Hong Kong Foreign Correspondents’ Club (FCC) for allegedly inciting sedition through its Human Rights Press Awards.
The awards – held annually since 1995 by the FCC with the Hong Kong Journalists Association and Amnesty International, which closed its Hong Kong offices last year – recognize journalists for their reporting on human rights in Asia.
Photo: Yang Yuan-ting, Taipei Times
Last year, Wu Rwei-ren (吳 叡 人), associate researcher at the Taiwan Institute of History of Academia Sinica, won a commentary excellence award for a Chinese-language article titled “For an unfinished revolution ”in The Reporter supporting Hong Kong protest movements.
Ta Kung Pao targeted the article, saying it “incites hatred towards the country”.
Quoting a retired legal expert and lawyer, the newspaper accuses Wu, a “Taiwanese independence agent”, of violating the provisions of the Security Act against subversion of state power and secession, punishable by more than 10 years in prison.
He also demanded that the organizers of the prize be investigated for incitement, accusing the FCC of committing six felonies.
When contacted for comment, Wu said on Saturday that the threat followed the usual Chinese Communist Party (CCP) strategy to oust unwanted elements.
“The CCP trilogy begins with the selection of targets through pro-state media, followed by arrests by Hong Kong police and finally convictions,” he said.
The purpose of the charges is to dissolve the Journalists Association and to expel the FCC from Hong Kong following recent media shutdowns, he said.
The CCP wants to use it as a tool to incriminate the organizers of the awards and intimidate international academics, Wu said.
The CCP could have had a chilling effect, “but it would only have the opposite effect, triggering an even greater backlash,” he added.
Since the National Security Law is not retroactive, it technically cannot be used to prosecute Wu for his article, which was published in February 2020, while the law was passed in June of the same year, has Wu said.
However, Hong Kong people have been arrested for previous speeches under the law, he said, showing authorities view it as retroactive.
The law also includes a confusing definition of the basic legal principle that people cannot be prosecuted for something that is not prohibited by law, or nulla poena sine lege, leaving space to prosecute a writer who publishes in a countries where press freedom is respected. Wu said.
“These accusations are absurd and show that the laws promulgated by the CCP are very different from those in democratic countries,” he said.
The implications for jurisdiction are also troubling, as “declaring jurisdiction over me implies that they claim jurisdiction over all foreign academics,” Wu added.
The accusation against Wu reinforces the fear among many Taiwanese that earlier remarks made in favor of the Hong Kong protesters could be used against them if they travel to Hong Kong, he said.
“This shows that the Taiwanese are all targets of the security law, are all in danger,” he added.
Beijing is known to kidnap dissidents outside Chinese borders, Wu said, adding that he would be careful to avoid Chinese spheres of influence when attending international conferences.
Caution is not unwarranted based on experience, Wu said.
When invited to lecture at a Malaysian human rights organization in September 2019, during protests against a proposed extradition law in Hong Kong, he was under constant surveillance by agents sent by the Chinese embassy, Wu said.
“From landing to return, the event organizers sent several people to accompany me to ensure my safety,” he added.
Calling himself unimportant, Wu urged the government to take the Chinese threat seriously and not to take people’s safety lightly.
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