Article 23 pushed for 'orderly, normal' HK

Top News | Staff reporter 21 Jun 2021

Nearly a year after the national security law came into force, authorities are pressing on with legislation in line of Article 23 of the Basic Law to supplement - or even strengthen - that law, Secretary for Security John Lee Ka-chiu says.

Hong Kong has restored order and gained the power to contain national security threats after the law took effect on June 30 last year, Lee said in an interview with The Standard's sister publication Sing Tao Daily.

But authorities are continuing to work on legislation of Article 23, which should cover seven aspects: treason, subversion, secession, inciting unrest, disclosing national secrets, monitoring of local political groups and their connections with foreign forces.

He said the national security law "does not completely cover all seven areas required to be done by Article 23" as it only targets secession, subversion, collusion and terrorism.

"We must enact what has not been covered," Lee said. "Of course we also have to study if we need to strengthen [areas covered by the security law] too."

Lee said when legal research is completed, the government will come up with a bill and conduct consultation.

But he admitted legislation is a long and complex process and believes Article 23 cannot be enacted within the current government term ending next June.

As of early last week, 109 people have been arrested under the national security law, including 62 who were charged in 11 cases. The numbers did not include Thursday's arrest of five Apple Daily executives, two of whom - chief executive Cheung Kim-hung and editor-in-chief Ryan Law Wai-kwong - were charged with conspiracy to collude with a foreign country.

The first national security case - involving protester Tong Ying-kit, 24 - will begin in the High Court on Wednesday.

Tong, who allegedly drove his motorcycle with a "Liberate Hong Kong, the revolution of our times" flag into a group of police officers on July 1 last year, faces one count of inciting session and one count of terrorism.

Lee said Hong Kong has restored order and gained the power to contain security threats after the national security law took effect and returned the city to "normal."

He added: "In the past we could be worried about our personal safety or that we might easily be attacked by someone of a different opinion, chased into dead ends and [hit] with petrol bombs. These have not happened anymore. Traffic has returned to normal. We had seen the airport and tunnels paralyzed [before]. This is a significant change."

Lee said Hong Kong was unable to enact Article 23 for years. With a "weak sense of national security" among people, he said the loopholes in the law were used to breed independence ideas, which planted the seeds for Occupy Central in 2014 and the Mong Kok riots in 2016.

In 2019, independence and external forces stirred up emotions in Hong Kong, triggering a series of protests and unrest jeopardizing national security, he said

He cited crime figures six months before and after the enactment of the security law, with the number of arson cases dropping by over 80 percent, criminal damage by 40 percent and the overall crime count by 4 percent.

"In 2019, the unrest caused crime numbers to go up 9 percent [from 2018] and a further 7 percent last year [from 2019]. But the figure dropped 10 percent in the first quarter of this year, which is a significant outcome brought by the security law," he said.

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