Hong Kong police granted sweeping powers under security law

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A 23-year-old man, Tong Ying-kit, arrives at a court in a police van in Hong Kong Monday, July 6, 2020. Tong has become the first person in Hong Kong to be charged under the new national security law, for allegedly driving a motorcycle into a group of policemen while bearing a flag with the "Liberate Hong Kong, revolution of our time" slogan. (AP Photo/Vincent Yu)

HONG KONG – In implementing the national security law for Hong Kong, police will have sweeping authority that allows them to take actions including conducting searches without a warrant, restricting suspects from leaving the city, and intercepting communications.

Hong Kong's government issued the details of Article 43 in the city's national security law on Monday night, which outlines the measures that the police force can take to implement the legislation in the city.

According to the rules, police may be authorized to conduct searches for evidence without a warrant in “exceptional circumstances.” Police may also apply for a warrant that requires a person suspected of violating the national security law to surrender their travel documents, thus restricting them from leaving Hong Kong.

Additionally, under the rules, written notices or restraining orders may be issued to freeze or confiscate property if there are “reasonable grounds” to suspect that the property is related to an offense endangering national security.

Platforms and publishers, as well as internet service providers, may also be ordered to take down electronic messages published that are “likely to constitute an offence endangering national security or is likely to cause the occurrence of an offence endangering national security.”

Service providers who do not comply with such requests could face fines of up to 100,000 Hong Kong dollars ($12,903) and receive jail terms of six months.

Individuals who post such messages may also be asked to remove the message, or face similar fines and a jail term of one year.

Before the release of the implementation rules on Monday, Facebook, WhatsApp and Telegram said that they would deny law enforcement requests for user data in Hong Kong as they assess the effect of the national security law.