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U.S. Congress reintroduces bill to defend press freedom in HK as John Lee vows to enact Article 23

Updated: Oct 26, 2023

25 October 2023 – Today, Senator James Lankford (R-OK) and Senator Tim Kaine (D-VA) reintroduced the Safeguarding Internet Freedom in Hong Kong Act while Hong Kong Chief Executive John Lee vowed to enact Article 23 to further crack down on national security “threats” in Hong Kong.

Article 23 of the Basic Law, Hong Kong’s mini-constitution, says that the city’s government must enact its own security law to ban acts including treason and secession. So far, Article 23 has never been introduced due to public outcry.

It is expected that the Hong Kong authorities will take a hard-line approach when enacting Article 23 and take a lead from the Beijing-imposed National Security Law which has been used to destroy free speech, free press and free expression.

Senator Lankford and Senator Kaine first introduced the Safeguarding Internet Freedom in Hong Kong Act in 2021 to promote internet and press freedom in Hong Kong. The bill would enable the U.S. Department of State to develop firewall circumnavigation tools and distributed denial of services mitigation techniques to preserve an open and secure internet in Hong Kong.

At the same time Congress reintroduced this bill, John Lee delivered his second annual policy address. Lee pledged to introduce Article 23 by the end of 2024 to further control internet freedom, information flow and government disclosure in Hong Kong. This is particularly concerning given Google’s latest transparency report which reveals that the Hong Kong Police Force requested Google to remove five videos featuring The Hong Konger, a documentary about the life of pro-democracy activist Jimmy Lai, from its search engine.

The Committee for Freedom in Hong Kong Foundation (CFHK Foundation) thanks Senator Lankford and Senator Kaine for reintroducing this bill which is crucial to countering Hong Kong’s increasingly repressive measures as well as Beijing’s encroaching firewall.

Senator James Lankford (R-OK) said:

"The U.S. should not turn a blind eye to the people of Hong Kong as Beijing suppresses their access to the outside world. Firewall circumvention technology safeguards the basic freedoms of Hongkongers and affirms our commitment to proudly stand with the people of Hong Kong. China promised Hong Kong autonomy, but they are quickly eroding their freedom. We should stand up for the rights of all free people as they push back against repressive communism."

Senator Tim Kaine (D-VA) said:

"Internet freedom is critical for the people of Hong Kong to access and share information, but the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has censored internet access as a means to crack down on dissent and restrict freedom of expression. This bipartisan bill would boost U.S. resources to advance internet freedom in Hong Kong so that people can access the internet and share information without restrictions or fear of censorship. It also emphasizes the important message that we will continue to stand in solidarity with the people of Hong Kong in the face of the CCP’s efforts to revoke essential freedoms."

Frances Hui, Policy and Advocacy Coordinator of the CFHK Foundation, said:

"I applaud Senator Lankford and Senator Kaine for pushing this bill forward to safeguard internet freedom in Hong Kong. This will send a message to the Hong Kong authorities that the U.S. government will continue to keep a watchful eye on their assault against Hong Kong's most basic civil liberties.

"The free flow of information was one of the pillars that made Hong Kong a desirable place to live and do business. While conditions are likely to deteriorate further under the National Security Law, a deliberate and concerted effort to secure internet freedom is needed. This is the first step."

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