Hong Kong (CNN)A year ago, Chinese-Australian dissident artist Badiucao was searching for a place in Hong Kong to display some of his political works, many of which are critical of the Chinese Communist Party.
Now he says he wouldn’t even transfer through Hong Kong airport for fear of being arrested under the city’s new national security law.
That’s because the legislation, which came into effect late Tuesday, doesn’t only clamp down on freedoms at home. It also puts foreign citizens who criticize the Chinese government anywhere in the world at risk of jail if they even set foot in the city — even if they are just transiting through the airport.
“It’s really concerning and terrifying, not just for residents in Hong Kong but anyone who cares about human rights in Hong Kong and human rights in China, in general,” said Badiucao from his home in Melbourne, Australia.
For decades — first under British colonial rule and then after its handover to China — Hong Kong has offered legal protection from the mainland Communist Party. Chinese dissents, Western academics and global non-governmental organizations used Hong Kong as a safe space to meet, organize and criticize Beijing, mostly without consequence.
Whether it can continue to serve that function is now in doubt.
“There are crimes covered by this law which are purely about speech and so there is a chance that your speech outside of the country will then expose you to risk should you enter the jurisdictions,” said Jeremy Daum, senior fellow at the Yale Law Paul Tsai Center.
“Hong Kong used to be a safe space. It’s no longer a safe space.”