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PRESS RELEASE: Hong Kong's Article 23 Passed Today: Trampling Freedom, Ignoring Consultation

March 19, 2024Today, the Hong Kong Government passed Article 23 legislation following a brief four-week public consultation period and just 12 days of readings. The expedited way in which the government seeks to enact this sweeping legislation underscores the disregard for public opinion and will have profound implications for Hong Kong's freedoms and autonomy. 

Passed by a vote of 89-0, Hong Kong Chief Executive, John Lee, entered the LegCo Chamber and announced “Today is a historical moment in Hong Kong, a historical moment we have waited 26 years, eight months and 19 days for… Today, Hong Kong finally completed its constitutional duty of legislating Article 23 of the Basic Law. We live up to the expectations of the central government and our country,” Lee stated in Cantonese. He further mentioned that the law will take effect on March 23rd.   

Article 23 aims to criminalise dissent even more thoroughly than the 2020 National Security Law. The new national security legislation aims to stamp out secession, subversion, foreign collusion, and terrorism. However, under the vague and ambiguous definitions of Article 23, any Hong Konger who voices dissent is at risk of several years, if not life, imprisonment.  

The swift enactment of this bill may have been part of a calculated strategy to avoid international scrutiny by foreign governments and human rights groups. The passage of Article 23 of Hong Kong's Basic Law deals a further blow to civil liberties. We have already witnessed how similar legislation under the National Security Law has been weaponised to suppress dissent, curtail press freedom, and trample on basic rights. Now, Article 23 threatens to further suffocate every single Hong Konger. 

The Committee for Freedom in Hong Kong (CFHK) Foundation was condemned and labelled as “anti-China” on two occasions in the last month for voicing our concerns about Article 23 Legislation and for urging the U.S. Government to impose sanctions on Hong Kong officials responsible for undermining the rule of law in Hong Kong. 

In response to the proposal of Article 23, on February 28th, the UK Foreign Secretary, David Cameron, gave a statement on Hong Kong’s Article 23 national security proposals. Cameron strongly urged the Hong Kong Government to reconsider Article 23 and to engage in genuine and meaningful consultation with the people of Hong Kong.  

On March 14th, the U.S. Congressional-Executive Commission on China and the U.S. House Select Committee on the Chinese Communist Party submitted a letter to the Secretary of State calling for additional steps to be taken in response to Article 23 including the possible imposition of sanctions against Hong Kong officials responsible for undermining the rule of law and human rights, and the revocation of the diplomatic privileges and immunities of the Hong Kong Economic and Trade Offices (HKETO) in the U.S.  

The CFHK Foundation calls on immediate and decisive action from the UK government and the Biden Administration. With the passage of Article 23, Hong Kong has been stripped of its last vestiges of autonomy. The time for half-measures and diplomatic niceties is over. It is imperative that the UK and the U.S. impose severe sanctions and close down HKETOs without delay. Anything less would be a tacit endorsement of Beijing's authoritarian aggression and an abandonment of the principles of democracy and human rights.  

Mark Clifford, President of the CFHK Foundation said:

"This unnecessary and redundant legislation serves as a symbolic death blow to Hong Kong’s former freedoms. Hong Kong’s leaders have repeatedly alleged foreign involvement in the city’s democratic movement. They refuse to acknowledge the truth that two million people repeatedly and largely peacefully protested to demand what was promised to them under the Sino-British Declaration and the Basic Law – the freedom to run their city, including the right to elect their own mayor and city council through universal suffrage. Six out of ten Hong Kongers have consistently voted for pro-democracy candidates from the first Legco elections in 2001 until the District Council elections in 2019. If the pro-democracy results of elections run by the Hong Kong government – and the demonstrations that as a proportion of the population pulled out more people than almost anywhere in the world – were a result of foreign interference, they would be unmatched in history in their size and success. It’s preposterous as anyone who has actually talked to Hong Kongers would know. The city’s poor and inexperienced leaders have been more concerned with pleasing Beijing than reflecting and channelling Hong Kongers’ legitimate aspirations."

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