In response to civil unrest in 2019, in 2020 Beijing directly applied a new National Security Law to Hong Kong. Part of this law established a new system of rules for the authorisation of communications intercepts and covert surveillance in the context of certain national security offences. Interestingly, this new scheme looks in many ways like a prior system that was deemed unconstitutional by a Hong Kong court in 2006: it centralizes authorization authority in the executive branch and there is little external oversight of the process. This paper argues that the new system of rules regarding covert surveillance of national security suspects and the interception of their communications is more than just a mechanism to ease the detection of national security threats, however. The Central Authorities have recently stated the Chief Executive of Hong Kong holds a ‘transcendent position’ over the rest of the local government. This paper suggests the new scheme shows the purpose of this transcendence – the removal of the judicial branch from the process allows the Central Authorities to more effectively ensure the primacy of core state goals through the office of the Chief Executive.



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