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PRESS RELEASE: Hong Kong Govt Smears NGOs as ‘Anti-China’ for Criticising Article 23 Plans

March 6 2024 – Today, the Hong Kong Government released a statement in which it smeared several civil society organisations, including the Committee for Freedom in Hong Kong (CFHK) Foundation, as “anti-China” for urging it to revoke planned Article 23 Legislation, which is expected to intensify political repression.

Pro-democracy rally in Hong Kong, November 2019. Such a gathering would likely be illegal under Article 23 legislation (Image Credit: Studio Incendo via Flickr)


The proposed security law, which is set to come into effect on 15 April 2024, will make it easier for the Hong Kong Government to arrest and prosecute people who express dissent. 


On 30 January 2024, the Hong Kong Government launched a brief, four-week public consultation on the legislation. In today’s statement, the S.A.R Government said 13,489 opinions had been received by the consultation, of which 13,297 “supported and expressed positive opinion”.


The statement also said that 12 of the “dissenting” voices who submitted evidence to the consultation were from “anti-China” organisations, among which it listed the CFHK Foundation and a slew of other civil society groups, including Hong Kong Watch, Amnesty International, Front Line Defenders, Hong Kong Rule of Law Monitor, the Rights Practice, Hong Kong Centre for Human Rights, Assembly of Citizens’ Representatives Hong Kong and Hong Kong Democracy Council.


The Hong Kong Government also said that some critical submissions were sent by individuals who shared their names with so-called “fugitives” abroad, including pro-democracy activists Ted Hui, Finn Lau, and Sunny Cheng, who have been subject to HK$1 million bounties from the Hong Kong police since July 2023.


Mark Sabah, U.K. & E.U. Director of the CFHK Foundation said: “Once again, the Hong Kong authorities feel the need to attack anyone who expresses opposition or dissent to their attempts to rubber stamp policies which will further clamp down on Hong Kong’s freedoms and civil liberties. 


"The CFHK Foundation is not anti-China. Neither are the hundreds of political prisoners sitting in Hong Kong jails who have given up their liberty because they love Hong Kong and China too much. We and the other groups the Hong Kong Government smeared in today's statement are pro-freedom of assembly, pro-freedom of the press and are against an international financial centre holding political prisoners.


"We are against CCP interference in Hong Kong and we demand that it stands up for its citizens rather than attacking them."


*** 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 China's central government imposed a separate National Security Law (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 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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