Hong Kong to create more national security breaches – official
HONG KONG – Hong Kong will create a slew of new national security breaches, a senior official confirmed on Tuesday, building on a law imposed by Beijing last year that criminalized many dissent and transformed the city.
Chris Tang, a former police chief promoted to security secretary this year, said officials have started working on local legislation that would define new crimes under the Security Act.
“We hope to complete it in the next legislature and will consult with the public,” Tang told pro-Beijing newspaper Ta Kung Pao in a front-page report on Tuesday.
In a separate interview with Sing Tao Daily, another pro-Beijing outlet, Tang said officials were looking at ongoing national security lawsuits to guide their new legislation.
“We haven’t paid much attention to espionage activity in the past and now we are investigating whether we need to regulate this,” Tang told Sing Tao’s EastWeek magazine.
China imposed a sweeping national security law on Hong Kong last year in response to huge and often violent protests for democracy.
The law covers any act considered to be subversion, secession, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces.
It has been massively deployed against people expressing certain political views and has reshaped the once frank and free city into the authoritarian image of China.
The new security law will be governed by Article 23 of Hong Kong’s mini-constitution, Tang confirmed.
Article 23 requires Hong Kong to pass its own national security legislation after the 1997 transfer to China.
An attempt to do so in 2003 sparked huge protests and fears that Hong Kong would lose its unique freedoms. The bill was dropped.
Hong Kong’s inability to pass its own security laws was one of the reasons Beijing lost patience after the democracy protests in 2019 and enacted its own law last year.
Some of the offenses referred to in article 23 are already covered by this law, such as secession and subversion.
But the new crimes would include treason, sedition, the theft of state secrets and measures to prevent “foreign political organizations” from operating in Hong Kong – or Hong Kong people from contacting them.
Tang gave no deadline for the new law, but said it would be passed by the next legislature.
Hong Kong will get a new legislature in December as part of a new political system imposed by Beijing where less than a quarter of the body’s seats will now be directly elected and only those deemed “patriotic” can stand for election.
The legislature usually sits for four years.
National security offenses are treated differently from other offenses.
In Hong Kong, only hand-picked national security judges can rule on trials, those arrested are generally denied bail, and juries are not mandatory, despite offenses that carry life imprisonment.
More than 60 people, most of them prominent democracy supporters, have been charged with security breaches over the past year and more than 140 have been arrested. – France Media Agency