Hong Kong government issues draft of new national security law

Hong Kong government issues draft of new national security law
epa08650472 A police officer holds up a flag warning protesters to disperse during a rally against the postponement of the Legislative Council Elections in Hong Kong, China, 06 September 2020. Activist answered online call to protest on the day the Legislative Council polls were due to be held until the government postponed them for a year, citing Covid-19 and the risk to public health. EPA-EFE/JEROME FAVRE

The Hong Kong government on Friday published its draft of a new national security law, a document being closely scrutinised by some foreign diplomats, lawyers and businesses amid fears it could further dent freedoms in the financial hub.

By Jessie Pang and James Pomfret

The draft, including new laws encompassing treason, espionage, external interference, state secrets and sedition, comes little over a week after a month-long public consultation period for the bill ended.

It includes sentences of up to life imprisonment for treason, 20 years for espionage and 10 years for state secrets offences.

The city’s legislature will start debating the bill at 11 a.m. (0300 GMT) on Friday, according to an earlier government statement.

It will still require several rounds of debate in the Legislative Council, and the convening of a special meeting for first and second readings, with the process possibly taking weeks.

“The geopolitics has become increasingly complex, and national security risks remain imminent,” the government statement said. “The means taken to endanger national security can come in many different forms and the threat can emerge all of a sudden.”



Hong Kong’s Chief Executive John Lee on Thursday called for the bill to be passed at “full speed”.

Lee and other Hong Kong and Chinese officials have defended the bill against criticism from some Western governments, including the U.S., that it risks further curbing freedoms in former British colony if the law is too vague.

The Hong Kong government has pointed out that many Western nations have similar legislation, and that these laws are required to plug “loopholes” in the national security regime, which was bolstered in 2020 by another national security law imposed directly by China.

Hong Kong and Chinese officials said the 2020 law was vital to restoring stability after sometimes violent pro-democracy protests a year earlier.

They have also noted the new package has long been required under Hong Kong’s mini-constitution, known as the Basic Law.

That document guides the city’s relationship with Beijing since its 1997 return to Chinese rule. Article 23 stipulates the city “shall enact laws on its own to prohibit acts and activities that endanger national security”.

(Reporting by James Pomfret, and Jessie Pang; Writing by Greg Torode; Editing by Christian Schmollinger and Lincoln Feast.)


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