Macau national security law threatens free speech

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) on June 2 denounced Macau's decision to expand its national security law, saying the revision "increases the pressure on journalists and further threatens...residents' right to information." The Macau Special Administrative Region's National Security Law, first passed in 2009, defines seven crimes that can result in a maximum sentence of up to 25 years' imprisonment. Under the revised rules, enacted at the end of May, these crimes have been expanded far beyond their previous definitions. For example, "subversion" and "secession" now extend to non-violent acts, while "sedition" includes "acts that incite participation in riots."

Additionally, the law now applies to "any individual" who is suspected of undermining China's national security. This applies regardless of the territory in which the acts occur, and regardless of the individual's nationality—meaning that Macau law enforcement will have authority to pursue suspected violations extraterritorially.

National security suspects may also now be subject to communications surveillance and restricted from leaving Macau for up to five days upon court orders.

Speaking on the changes, Cédric Alviani, RSF East Bureau director, stated:

The original regulation was already dangerously open to interpretation, and the expansion of its scope makes it the perfect tool for the government to intimidate, and possibly detain, the journalists they dislike. We urge the international community to build up pressure on the Chinese regime to restore full press freedom in Macau and Hong Kong, and to release all 113 journalists and press freedom defenders detained in the country.

The Journalists Association of Macau is also critical of the amendments, saying that they increase the risk of journalists being targeted for their work. Similarly, activist and former Macau legislator Au Kam-san stated: "The more flexibility given to law enforcement is obviously damaging to human rights and press freedom." 

From Jurist, June 4. Used with permission.

See our last posts on Macau, the Hong Kong National Security Law, the crackdown on dissent in China, and accusations of Chinese extraterritoriality