01/30/2024, 14.48
Send to a friend

National security in Hong Kong: John Lee in a hurry to tighten control under Article 23

Public consultation over a bill scrapped in 2003 following widespread protests will be limited to a single month. Hong Kong’s chief executive wants the bill approved quickly against foreign interference, but a local law (after the one imposed by Beijing in 2020) is likely to be used to further crack down on all forms of dissent.

Hong Kong (AsiaNews/Agencies) – The Hong Kong government plans to adopt its own national security law, provided for in Article 23 of the Basic Law that marked the territory’s transition to Chinese sovereignty in 1997.

In order to rush the process, the period of public consultation as required by the Basic Law, will be limited to four weeks, giving Hongkongers a chance to submit their comments until 28 February.

Hong Kong Chief Executive John Lee made the announcement at a press conference presenting the government’s proposal.

In the former British colony, Article 23 has been a hot topic for more than 20 years. In 2003 massive demonstrations that brought 500,000 people into the streets stopped the first attempt to introduce a national security law by Hong Kong authorities.

Now, despite the draconian National Security Law imposed by Beijing in 2020, Hong Kong “could not afford to wait,” said John Lee.

Many fear that a local law under Article 23 of the Basic Law will provide an opportunity for greater repression against all forms of dissent, in the wake of the crackdown against protests in 2019 and the changes to the electoral law that allowed pro-Beijing forces to take complete control of Hong Kong’s Legislative Council (LegCo).

A 110-page consultation document presented by John Lee emphasises the need for new and updated laws that cover the theft of state secrets, espionage, treason, sedition, and sabotage, including the use of computers and electronic systems, to conduct actions that endanger national security.

It also calls for stricter control of foreign and Taiwanese political organisations with connections to the territory, via a new offence, that of "external interference".

For Chinese and Hong Kong authorities, "External forces" have been using the city "as a bridgehead for anti-China activities...and propagating anti-China ideology through a soft approach to demonise” with the "monitoring of human rights" as one of the “guises”.

The consultation document claims that Hong Kong is increasingly threatened by foreign espionage and intelligence operations, citing the 2019 protests as an example.

Over the past few weeks, Lee announced several times that he intends to get the measure approved this year.

Asked why the consultation period was reduced to just four weeks compared to three months in 2023, he replied saying that it was an “appropriate” amount of time. “This is a law that tells people not to attack us, this is in a way a defensive law,” he said.

Meanwhile, as the government tries to impose even greater restrictions, Jimmy Lai is still on trial. The Catholic businessman is the founder of the pro-democracy newspaper Apple Daily, which was forced to close in 2021.

Just a few days ago, the four UN Special Rapporteurs dealing with issues related to freedom of expression and the administration of justice in Hong Kong called for his release and for charges against him to be dropped.

In a statement, they “reiterate that national security legislation with criminal sanctions should never be misused against those exercising their rights to freedom of expression and association and of peaceful assembly”.

Send to a friend
Printable version
See also
Mong Kok, nearly 300 arrests on cancelled election day
07/09/2020 10:20
47 Democrats charged over primary election still in jail. EU launches attack
09/07/2021 18:37
New indictment for Jimmy Lai who faces life imprisonment
18/05/2022 14:22
Jimmy Lai back in prison, treated like a murderer
31/12/2020 13:31
Pro-democracy Apple Daily English halted
22/06/2021 13:28


Subscribe to Asia News updates or change your preferences

Subscribe now
“L’Asia: ecco il nostro comune compito per il terzo millennio!” - Giovanni Paolo II, da “Alzatevi, andiamo”