April 28 (UPI) -- An ambiguously worded new immigration bill in Hong Kong is stirring fears that outbound travelers could be apprehended at departure points and prevented from leaving the city.
Local activist Chow Hang-tung of Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China said the law should be of concern to inbound and outbound travelers whose freedom of movement could be restricted, Hong Kong Free Press reported Wednesday.
"For anyone entering or leaving Hong Kong, they will be under great uncertainty," Chow said. "This power is unlimited, not restricted by any purpose."
The activist also said Hong Kong authorities can use the law to target anybody.
"It's not just a political activist who should worry, [but] anyone who may get on the wrong side of the government. You could be targeted wrongly...and, suddenly, you may find that your plans are disrupted because you discovered that you can't leave Hong Kong."
Criticism of the bill, which becomes law on Aug. 1, comes as Hong Kong government officials claim the new rules do not impact outbound travelers.
Hong Kong Security Secretary John Lee Ka-hiu said Wednesday the policy targets "inbound flights to Hong Kong, but not outbound flights departing the city," the South China Morning Post reported.
Lee also said "various individuals and groups" were distorting facts while "spreading rumors and fooling people's hearts."
Hong Kong could be seeking to crack down on applicants seeking asylum.
Elizabeth Quat, a pro-establishment lawmaker, said Hong Kong spent $902 million processing refugee applications over the past eight fiscal years. Other lawmakers said they support the bill because it addresses the issue of "fake refugees" in Hong Kong, reports said.
Mark Daly, a human rights lawyer, said the bill would harm asylum seekers.
"For a system already suffering from systemic unfairness, the bill makes it more difficult for refugees," Daly said, according to the Post.
Hong Kong was home to 128 refugees in 2019, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.