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CFHK Foundation Submits Evidence to Hong Kong Article 23 Consultation

Updated: Jun 4

28 February 2024– Today, the Committee for Freedom in Hong Kong Foundation (CFHK) submitted evidence to the Hong Kong government’s public consultation for its planned Article 23 legislation. Article 23 is distinct from the Beijing-imposed National Security Law (NSL) enacted in June 2020, which criminalised secession, subversion, foreign collusion, and terrorism.


The proposed new law will cover offences such as treason, insurrection, espionage, destructive activities endangering national security, and external interference. The consultation document also addresses issues related to the definition of theft of state secrets and the "extraterritorial effect" of the law. On 30 January, Hong Kong Chief Executive John Lee announced the commencement of a brief four-week public consultation period for the planned law, which is expected to intensify political repression.



Submissions on behalf of the CFHK Foundation were made by staffers Frances Hui and Chloe Cheung, and express grave concerns about Article 23 legislation proposed by the Hong Kong Government, including:


  • The Article will further infringe upon Hong Kong's autonomy, undermining the "One Country, Two Systems" principle.

  • The Article’s Definitions of national security, state secrets and offense definitions are overly broad, posing risks to press freedom, speech, and academic and religious liberties.

  • Provisions targeting external interference may deter international engagement and harm Hong Kong's status as a global financial hub.

  • Concerns over the legislation's compatibility with international human rights norms and Hong Kong's Basic Law, potentially inviting constitutional challenges.


The CFHK Foundation’s recommendations included:

  • Urging the government to cease the enactment of Article 23 legislation.

  • Demanding the immediate release of the more than 1000 political prisoners unfairly detained under the National Security Law, including activists, journalists and scholars.

  • Advocating for the repeal of the draconian National Security Law, which has led to the erosion of civil liberties and freedom of expression in Hong Kong.


The CFHK Foundation’s submissions can be viewed in full on our website.


Dozens of pro-democracy activists and organisations in Hong Kong and across the world have also submitted evidence to the consultation.


On 20 February, the Hong Kong government condemned a joint letter signed by the CFHK Foundation and over 85 other civil society organisations, condemning the push for Article 23 legislation. 


Mark Sabah, U.K. & E.U. Director of the CFHK Foundation said: “The CFHK Foundation has submitted its concerns regarding Article 23 directly to the Hong Kong Government, who continue to denigrate civil liberties and rule of law in the city, and inflict transnational repression on Hong Kongers abroad, including our staffer Frances Hui for whom they have issued an arrest warrant and offered a HK$1 million bounty for her so-called crime of pro-democracy activism.


“Our submissions were made public so that the world can view our concerns and recommendations. Although we doubt that the Hong Kong authorities will heed our justified fears, we urge them to acknowledge the devastation that Article 23 will likely further wreak on the city’s human rights record and international reputation.”


*** NOTES FOR MEDIA ***


Under Article 23 of Hong Kong’s Basic Law, the mini-constitution that has governed Hong Kong since its official takeover by China in 1997, the government must enact laws prohibiting acts that "endanger national security." 


In 2003 a three-month consultation period on Article 23 was held, but plans to implement it were withdrawn after some 500,000 people took to the streets of Hong Kong in protest.


The renewed push for homegrown national security legislation comes after the central government of China imposed a separate NSL on Hong Kong in 2020, which Article 23 would work alongside.

While Chief Executive Lee has stated that the new law will respect human rights and freedoms, its vague and expansive provisions could easily be weaponised to further curtail freedoms of the press, assembly, and speech, leading to arbitrary arrests and restrictions on civil liberties. This has already been the case under the NSL.


There are also concerns that defendants would not face free and fair trials under Article 23, given that the existing NSL has a 100% conviction rate, with all defendants being denied trial by jury, being subject to forced confessions, and refused a counsel of their choosing. 


The Hong Kong government’s consultation document does not clearly outline Article 23's penalties nor its approach to tightening bail eligibility and custodial periods.


The law's "extraterritorial effect" also raises concerns about its global jurisdiction, similar to Beijing's NSL. This could lead to the criminalization of acts committed outside Hong Kong's borders, impacting individuals abroad and potentially violating their rights.

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